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.
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…)