So, thirty years ago, tomorrow, I can recall my first memory, one that has stuck with me all my life and unbeknownst to me at that time planted the seeds for my geekdom, nerditry, whatever you wish to call it. That memory, as I’ve mentioned from time to time, as well as the very title of this blog entry, is seeing Return of the Jedi on opening day, May 25, 1983.
I recall the lines, wrapped around the block, and possibly the surrounding blocks of the theater, outside (as this was still the pre-multiplex days), it was a warm day in late May, in San Diego, California. My parents had seen the first two Star Wars films, and while I speculate that I may have been there for The Empire Strikes Back, I was only born a few months prior to that, and as such do not recall that one in the slightest. But that matters not, for I was there on this day.
To keep me occupied during the long wait, and cause it was probably really hot, it was San Diego, after all, my mom stood in line, while my Dad took me over to the nearby department store, where he’d bought me a yellow Admiral Ackbar t-shirt, and an Admiral Ackbar action figure, whom I knew somehow that he was a ‘good guy’, despite the odd appearance. And we went back to the line, with my first (to my knowledge), but definitely not the last bit of Star Wars merchandise I’d ever have in my life.
Even vaguer of a memory I remember going into the theater, and the movie started. I imagine the crowd cheered and clapped triumphantly as the 20th Century Fox fanfare played, and the familiar blue letters appeared on the screen ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…’ I don’t recall that bit exactly but I’m putting myself in these fans footsteps, they’ve waited three years to see this conclusion to the epic trilogy, with no internet to keep their fandom going for three years I can imagine it must be a lot like being in the Sherlock fandom from the beginning, but worse cause, you know, no internet.
I do recall being scared and fascinated by the same time of the Rancor, as I saw Luke Skywalker thrillingly take on that monster without the benefit of a shrubbery…I mean lightsaber. And of course getting my first glimpse at Darth Vader also was equally impressive. But of course, the highlight of the film for me, at the time, was a toss up between seeing my new favorite guy Admiral Ackbar, in action (well sort of, he just kind of stood on the bridge of one of the cruisers and said ‘It’s a trap!) and of course the Ewoks. They were like a less cutesy version of the Care Bears minus the cult trappings that those other walking teddy bear things had going on…seriously think about it) And they took down a legion of Stormtroopers. Impressive, most impressive.
It wouldn’t be for a few years more that I actually watched the movies in order, and started piecing together the larger story of the saga, (I remember the Wampa in Empire Strikes Back kind of freaked me out too, but what 80’s kid wasn’t first time they saw that) But from that day forward, and while there were other key moments and other things that put my geek status firmly in place, the seeds for my nerddom were forever planted on that day, May 25, 1983.