What Star Wars means to me, aged 47 & 3/4

I often get asked why does a 47 year-old-man (almost 48) still like Star Wars.

Well, there are a number of different reasons. Here they are….warning, long read!

(If I’ve tagged you on Twitter then your section is at the end)

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Star Wars was released on Monday December 26th 1977. I was 5, almost 6 and my dad took me to the Leicester Square Theatre, which became Odeon West End, the Saturday morning after opening- December 30th.

 

 

I remember standing in a line just like the above photo, in the cold for what seems an eternity. We were eventually let in, my dad bought the tickets and it was then I spotted ‘The Force Beam’ lightsaber (see my previous post about it here). At the time most cinemas sold memorabilia as well as confectionery. These bootleg toys went in minutes. At the time, none of us knew what they were, so we switched them on and waved them around. The cinema ushers eventually took them off us and put our names on for collection afterwards as they couldn’t show the film until we stopped!

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My earliest memory of the film is actually the first scene. In space, above Tatooine where the Tantive IV blockade runner is being chased by an Imperial Star Destroyer. I think the main reason for this sticking in my head is that the cinema was quite old and the sound of the Star Destroyer caused the seats to shake. I was hooked!

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To me, the film was non-stop! It had everything that a little geek (not that I knew it aged 5!) wanted. Robots, laser guns and swords, spaceships, aliens, a young boy hero and a pretty princess.

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My geeky TV diet up to then had been a mixture of Gerry Anderson shows, King of the Rocketmen, The Six Million Dollar Man and Star Trek. Star Wars was about to blow them all out of the water, except Trek that is. Now, if I want something ordered, logical and scientific then its Trek. For pure adventure and escapism its Star Wars- that’s why I love both. At the time though it was about shiny spaceships and laser guns!

I watched the film 4 times over the course of January to April 1978. I returned to the Leicester Square Theatre with my dad a couple of times. My Nan took me to the Dominion on Tottenham Court Road and my Granddad took me to the Odeon Marble Arch.

 

Then the merchandise began to arrive. Books, toys, clothes, candy, breakfast cereal and more! This is where my collection bug began. Luckily, I had an amazing toy shop near me on Portobello Road Market. Barnett’s Novelty House had everything for every age child. I began with the action figures that were released very slowly. As the production of toys picked up, so did my collection.

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Every now and then there would be a figure that they had trouble getting. My dad, whose job involved driving all over London, would often surprise me with a missing figure he found. Christmases always involved lots of Star Wars toys, both for me and my brother when he was old enough.

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Me, my little brother and my dad with Star Wars toys in front of us. Christmas circa 1980.

I had the books, posters and tee shirts. The shirt designs were simple and there were only one or two different designs. They did come in a variety of colours and I had to have them all!

 

In May 1979, at the same time as ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ was having its UK Premiere, an event took place called ‘Empire Day’. It was a promotional event across the country and a big department store, Barkers of Kensington, were taking part.

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My parents took me along to the toy department, dressed in my best Star Wars tee-shirt. I remember seeing one of the jeeps (pictured above) outside the store. Being so little I got to the front. Then the Star Wars music played and a gap in the crowd appeared. I saw some Imperial Storm Troopers walking toward us followed by Darth Vader. After lots of talking by someone it came to photo time for the press. The next thing I knew Darth Vader picked me up (not by the throat) and held me for a photo op for the papers. I sh*t myself!! I was just 7 and it scared the life out of me. The photo did appear in a couple of newspapers and I’m still looking today.

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Darth Vader signed some autographs and we left.

My memories for the remainder of my childhood are of great times being had both in my garden, and outside my grandparents houses playing with my action figures, vehicles and occasionally blasters and lightsabers. My little brother was always there with me! We would play for hours on end, with the long grass being Endor, the sand in the play area as Tatooine and so on. It was the best of times….

We saw ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ a few times. Most notably at the ABC (or Odeon?) Shepherds Bush, where we sat through 2 showings- you could do that back then!

In fact, one funny story (to me anyway) took place in 1981. I had to go into hospital for surgery. Today the procedure will be done and you will be home the next day but back then it was a two-week stay. One day before coming up to visit me, my Nan Daisy and my brother who was almost 5, went to Barnett’s Toy Shop. Whilst there my Nan asked my brother which Star Wars toy he liked. He pointed to a snowspeeder which she promptly bought. When they arrived at the hospital, my nan gave the snowspeeder to me. This obviously upset my little brother, who to this day teases me about it and whenever it comes to birthdays, christmas etc. he always says he wants a snowspeeder!

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‘Return of the Jedi’ came out in 1983 and I saw that with my brother and some friends from church and their parents. Once again it was at The Leicester Square Theatre.

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We all thought that it was all over after Jedi, so we had to make do with comics and books etc. The books of the mid-90s, especially the Timothy Zahn series, were excellent.

Then came the news that a prequel trilogy was being developed and would look at the early years of Anakin Skywalker. Ecstatic didn’t come close. Three films followed, and though there are many fans who don’t like them, on the whole I did. For one thing it meant more Star Wars and that was a good thing!

I had already been attending sci-fi cons for a while in the US but they were starting to take place in the UK as well. Over the years I met many of the cast members. Not just the lead roles but lots of the minor roles and background actors too. It gives me great pleasure to be able to meet them and let them know what their work means to me.

I’ve also attended a number of press events, product launches, special gallery events and midnight openings and all of these have been great fun! I went to two ‘An Evening With’ events, the first at BAFTA with Gareth Edwards, the director of Rogue One and the second with Anthony ‘C3PO’ Daniels- both enjoyable and enlightening!

 

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In 2007 my niece Jessica was born. This was the same year as the first ever official Star Wars Celebration con to be in the UK. We took my niece who was only months old. My nephews Charlie (2009) and Lewis (2012) are both huge Star Wars fans. They have all been to cons with me and in 2016 another official event was held. Charlie came with me but then I took Jess and Lewis in for a bit when they came to pick him up. We had a great time and Charlie dressed as Kylo Ren.

 

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By this time we already knew that a sequel trilogy was in the works. These were also accompanied by Rogue One and Solo, both standalone Star Wars films. This became the perfect chance for the three of them to really enjoy the Star Wars universe, and they do (even Jess who denies it but secretly does).

My brother and I are still very close. We talk Star Wars all of the time and the kids enjoy playing with Star Wars toys…..many of which I have either bought or won for them. We try and see the films together where possible as well. I’ve taken the kids to a couple of exclusive Disney Star Wars events too. I want them to have Star Wars mean the same to them as it does to me and my brother.

 

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It may sound cheesy but Star Wars means family. It means sharing, looking out for each other and having fun together. It teaches lessons such as standing up for what is right, making hard choices, trying hard, tolerance for all, fighting evil and seeing others opinions from a certain point of view. Its a shared experience which gives children (and us grown-up children) the chance to use their imagination to take their first steps into a larger world…..

In recent months it has been an escape. I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety for most of my life but recently it has been very severe. Star Wars, along with the MCU has been my escape, my distraction when times are dark. Without both if these I don’t know where I would be! I’ve had trouble leaving my flat due to the depression but have bought tickets for ‘The Rise of Skywalker’. I really hope I can make it!

I’ve been lucky to meet lots of cast members as I said before. Here are a few photos.

 

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I would like to say thank you to all those involved in Star Wars, both behind the scenes and in front of the cameras. I know for many of you its just a job but for me and many like me it is so much more. I’ve tried to get across just a bit of what it means to me and may add more as time goes on.

George Lucas began it all and with the help of people such as Gary Kurtz, Richard Marquand, Gareth Edwards, Rian Johnson and JJ Abrams the story will go on.

So thanks to you all but special thanks to John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaacs, Joonas Suotamo, and Billy Lourd for continuing the legacy. To Hayden Christensen, Samuel L Jackson, Natalie Portman, Ahmed Best, Christopher Lee, and Liam Neeson for telling us how it all began and adding so much to the lore. I know I’ve missed many people out, including the cast of Rogue One and Solo (oops, sorry Emilia Clarke, you are still my favourite!) and both films were awesome.

To Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher (RIP), Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew (RIP), Kenny Baker (RIP), Dennis Lawson and Mark Hamill THANK YOU.

Thank you for my childhood memories, for family times with my brother and parents, for making new friends and for being able to pass the torch down to my niece and nephews and hoping they learn lots about life as I and my brother did.

If I haven’t met you yet, I really hope I get to one day so I can say thank you in person.

May the Force be with you…..always!

 

 

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