Truly Alien

It’s difficult to communicate just how strange Star Wars was when it first broke into popular consciousness at the end of the 1970s. Even for nerds like myself, who felt a kinship with the strange & alien and sought it out, Star Wars expanded our imaginations far beyond what we’d thought possible by watching Silent Running and the Fourth Doctor Who. But those hapless, sportsball-watching normals? They just didn’t have a clue…

I was in Lexington, KY, in May of 1977 with my 2 younger brothers, David & Steve (we were 10, 8, and 5 years old), visiting our grandparents without Mom & Dad. Grandpa (whose study shelves were full of Thurber, Sturgeon, & Asimov) took us, with a neighbor girl about David’s age to go see what he told us (and Grandma) was a “Winnie-the-Pooh” movie. He dropped us off at the theater to see the movie by ourselves – this was the Seventies, after all, and while Grandpa had a trickster streak a mile wide, I could never have imagined him ever sitting through a kids’ movie.

Aliens, right?Anyway, when we got there, & Grandpa drove off in his immense beige car, we realized that the ticket booth people were all wearing makeup from the glam-rock band Kiss!! And there didn’t seem to be any Pooh-bear movie option. Instead, there were these crazy posters with fire-swords, space ships, and this black robot face.

At this point, I got very excited – I’d seen that robot face weeks ago on a Saturday morning TV commercial that had got cut off halfway through, as if it had been released by mistake. I’d rushed into the kitchen shouting, “MOMMOM!! WEHAVETOSEETHISMOVIE!!” …but I had no idea what it was called.

Ten year old me gave the same persuasive argument to the other kids, but the neighbor girl was unconvinced. This movie was PG — we couldn’t possibly go see that! And they’re wearing Kiss makeup!! We found a payphone, she called her mom to come get her – and we boys went in past the scary ticket-takers, alone & completely unprepared, to see Star Wars for the first time.

(And when Grandpa showed up to drive us home, he wore the biggest smirk…)

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