I don’t remember how I first learned about Star Wars, but I do recall my being desperate to see it. Lucky for me, the movie was going to premiere at a theater in Philadelphia – just a quick train ride from my home town in NJ. Then, I got even luckier. A local radio station was giving away tickets, not to the premiere, but to a special, private screening. The winners also got a Star Wars prize pack with a pin and the movie soundtrack. All you had to do to win was be the correct caller and answer which of two musical groups had “the force”.
For days on end, I sat in my room with the phone in my lap dialing and dialing in hopes of being the right caller. For days on end, I got nothing but busy signals. Once or twice a voice would answer and my heart would leap. “You’re caller number 6. Try again.” Click. So close and yet so far.
This was back in the days when we only had one phone, which means I had to keep my family off the line so I could keep dialing for Darth. It was a difficult time for all of us, but I was on a mission and like Princess Leia, I wasn’t about to let anyone get in my way.
Then it happened. A voice answered and this time it said I was the correct caller. What was my name? Where was I from? Hold the line, you’ll be live after this song. I held my breath and prayed that no one in the house would pick up the phone or that the radio station would disconnect the call. This was my one chance to win . . . . but not so fast. Even though I’d made it through, I still had to choose the group with The Force. What if I got it wrong? That would be worse than never making it through at all. To be so close and lose the prize?
The song ended and I was on the air. I was almost too stunned to talk! The DJ asked me my name and where I was from. Then he gave me the two choices. I don’t remember what they were. The Beach Boys, maybe and The Mama’s and Papa’s? What I do remember is that I really liked one of the two groups and I was tempted to let that be my guide. At the last second, I decided to let intuition override my musical taste. I made my choice. The DJ hit a button and the sound of a spinning wheel filled my ears. Then a mechanical voice said “The Force is With. . . . ”
I won the prize pack and the tickets. I was so excited, I almost hung up before giving the producer my address. Then I hung up and jumped for joy. I was going to see Star Wars before anyone else at school. Yeah! Oh no! I was doing data processing for an automotive parts company (horrible job) after school and the screening was on a weeknight. To make it to Philadelphia in time, I’d have to leave work at least two hours early. I was sure my boss would understand.
He didn’t understand. He said that he and his family were going on vacation that week, so I was the only one who could process all of the orders that came in that day. Sorry, you’ll have to pass on the movie.
What? No. This wasn’t any movie. This was a special screening of Star Wars!
So I did a terrible thing. I told him I’d handle it, then I rushed to get the work done early. I didn’t finish, but I left work anyway and went to the movie. Hey, I was a teenager. . . and I was fired. I guess a few of the customers complained when their orders didn’t show up the next day. Yikes.
Was Star Wars worth it? Oh yes! Seeing that movie on the big screen was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. You could feel the movie in your chest when those ships zoomed across the screen. It was big and wondrous and even though I knew a lot about how movies were made, I couldn’t figure out how they did half of what I saw up there.
After the screening, I played the soundtrack album over and over again until I had every note memorized. I cherished that “May the Force Be With You” button (which I still have) and the VIP ticket (which I’ve sadly lost). Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of the franchise as a whole but that first movie will always hold a special place in my heart.
Now it’s your turn. Tell me about your favorite Star Wars memory and ‘May the 4th Be With You!”