30 years ago today, I was in the best line ever!!!
Published at: May 21, 2010, 4:01 p.m. CST by headgeek
Hey folks, Harry here with a place to remember. 30 years ago, today, a pretty seminal film event took place. I was 8 years old - and I remember it like it was yesterday.
In fact, 30 years ago YESTERDAY was when I got in line. The theater was the AMERICANA - the largest screen that was ever projected upon here in Austin. Through the glass windows of the lobby you could see standees of Vader, C3PO, BOBA FETT (pretty much a myth to all of us at this stage), R2D2 and that was it.
I had stayed pretty spoiler free. On Siskel & Ebert's show - I'd seen some asteroids tumbling in space as the Falcon soared ahead of a bunch of TIE fighters. I knew there was snow. But I didn't know much else. Everyone I knew was in that line. Mom & Dad. Walter S Falk, Wizard, Alamon, Bob Magnusson, my friends like Josh O'Quinn, Rylan Bosher, Roland DeNoie Sr & Jr and a host of others. We spent all night in line talking about what we thought was gonna happen. And none of us really had a clue. It wa a chilly night - the grownups were drinking beer, smoking pot - and us kids? We were hopped up on sodas and candy - excited beyond all belief.
In the years since STAR WARS - we had played infinite hours with our STAR WARS toys. Our adventures were always slight permutations of what we saw in the original STAR WARS or from the STAR WARS comics that we were reading monthly. I knew we were getting SNOWTROOPERS - as my Uncle had sent me a box of SNOWTROOPERS from Germany, in Austin - these were not yet available. I pretty much ruled for having them.
When the sun came up, floods of people showed up. We were against the wall - and the floods of people just wrapped around the building... 4 or 5 times. This represented thousands. Nerves started to get frayed. People were pushing. There was a fear of a riot - of people pushing ahead and cutting. Some folks that were "saving" places got a royal chewing out from some of the Grown-ups. There were a lot of nerves frayed, worrying that it was going to be a huge disappointment. Discussions about the great sequels and the terrible ones ensued. Then - about 30 minutes before the box office opened - a friend that had read the novelization... HOW DARE HE... upon listening to my grown up friend Alamon speculating about Vader's significance burst out with a "DARTH VADER IS..... " you can imagine the rest, but I will not spoil it, even at this late date.
Alamon picked said friend up by the scruff of his neck. Shook him like a rag doll while screaming, "I DID NOT WANT TO FUCKING KNOW THAT!!! WHO DO YOU FUCKING THINK YOU ARE!" Said friend began crying - and depending on who tells the story, he pissed himself. Though - how he attended the first showing with urine soaked pants is beyond any of us - and we don't actually remember any smells - but that's how we all remember it.
I remember holding my ticket. KNOWING I had a seat for the first showing. At the time, this was the ONLY THEATER in Austin playing EMPIRE STRIKES BACK - it was an exclusive engagement. I had a seat for the first showing in Austin. I was going to see the new STAR WARS movie first! This was better than Christmas. As I filed through the lobby - past the standees - stopping at Boba Fett - which we had seen in the animated section of the STAR WARS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL which wasn't that good - even to us kids at the time. But we knew about Boba Fett. He was a Bounty Hunter. Who he was hunting? We hadn't a clue - but he looked so fucking cool in that lobby. (That following Christmas - my father bought all of these standees and had them standing by the Christmas tree all wearing Santa hats. My fragile grip of reality slipped and I actually thought they were really in my christmas tree lit living room) My kid friends and I ran to sit FRONT ROW CENTER.
Nothing was coming between us and the screen. Someone from the management came out and greeted us and congratulated us for getting tickets for the very first showing. The audience cheered. The curtains parted on that enormous screen, which was never as giant as this... ever again. They didn't play any trailers. It just began.
It was perhaps my very best film screening experience in my life, up to that time. It was so much bigger, richer and enormouser than the first one. I remember my brain trying to comprehend the WALKER sequence. It seriously blew my mind. The asteroid sequence... Williams' music... I wanted to soar through space. I wanted a blaster. The horrors of CLOUD CITY made me hate Vader more than ever - and then VADER blew my mind. Sure- my friend had just spoilt it outside, but the movie erased everything that I had ever known. When that bomb was unleashed - fragments of my skull were embedded into the cloth of the seat behind my head. MIND BLOWN.
The film was so fucking great - it made me want to know how they did everything. After the film - my father drove me to Austin Books - and we got every issue of STARLOG & CINEFANTASTIQUE that they had. And I began reading. I had been reading old issues of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND - but there was something different about these mags. They were not punny, they had the facts - the names - everything. I soaked it up. From that point on, I read every issue. Everything that I could get my hands on. I wanted to know how the asteroids tumbled. I wanted to know everything about YODA. I learned and evolved from a little boy that grew up on 50's sci fi and Universal horrors and King Kong and Busby Berkeley and I started to read GENRE MAGAZINES - and although I was already a pretty big geek (unavoidable in my household) I became my own geek. After that day, I began to tell my parents what was coming up, what we were going to see, how it was made and what I wanted to be when I grew up. Which was a makeup visual effects artist.
Life presented other options of course, but here I am... 30 years later - still drunk in love with EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Wondering where the 30th Anniversary Blu Ray is?
So as I leave you to discuss EMPIRE STRIKES BACK - For many of you - you were not around that day in 1980. You're likely excuse was not being born yet. That's a pretty good excuse. But for those of us that were in those lines 30 years ago today. This space is for you. Tell your experiences - this was mine.