Memorial Day weekend 1987, Starlog Magazine held the first-ever Star Wars Convention for it’s 10th Anniversary. The official title was, “Starlog Salutes Star Wars–A 10th Anniversary Tribute to George Lucas and the Galaxy Far, Far Away Which He Created!” Personally, I prefer my title – Star Wars Celebration 0.
The convention was going to take place in that far, far away land known as Los Angeles. As a teenager living in Boston, MA at the time it was going to be difficult to get myself all the way across the country. I had missed weddings, family reunions and court dates but I was not going to miss this!
Starlog Magazine began to list confirmed Celebrity guests. The closest I ever got to meet anyone associated with a Star Wars film was when I met Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz’s wife at Bos-Con in 1985. Now here was an opportunity to see in-person Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Billy Dee Williams, Ralph McQuarrie and George Lucas himself!
What made this event even more perfect was that it was held on Memorial Day weekend 1987, 10 years to the date Star Wars opened. Everything was falling into place. I got a second job, saved up every cent I could and two days before the con I was leaving my Tatooine and was now Skywalking to meet my childhood heroes.
I arrived at the Stouffer Concourse Hotel by the LAX airport to see literally hundreds of eager fans already waiting to get in. They were all wearing Star Wars T-shirts, some were in costume (the word cosplaying was decades in the future) and everyone got along like old friends.
Once we were let in there were many decisions to make. Do I see the many slide shows like the behind-the-scenes of the brand new Star Tours ride at Disneyland. Or the ones that showed fans how the special effects were done by the masters who actually made them happen. I could always spend everything I just worked two jobs to earn in the giant dealer room.
I could see the Lucasfilm archive room where I can stand in close proximity to actual props like the screen-used R2-D2, Rancor puppet and Ark of the Covenant from Raiders Of The Lost Ark? HEAD EXPLODING!
Who was I kidding? I wanted to see these Star Wars stars that I knew better than most of my close relatives. You want to know Anthony Daniels’ birthday? Where Billy Dee Williams was born? Who Ralph McQuarrie is married to? Then come to me for the answers. (These days you call that stalking. Different times.)
Anthony Daniels was HILARIOUS! He got the crowd into a laughing frenzy with his spin on the bloopers of the trilogy. I asked him to re-enact C-3PO’s scream when a tentacle reached out from behind a cell door and grabbed him in Jabba’s dungeon. I got a blank stare.
Running on this same ‘scream’ theme, I asked Billy Dee Williams if he could re-enact Lando’s scream when the Sarlacc reached up and twisted it’s tentacle around his leg. Like Anthony Daniels, he gave me a blank stare followed with a low-key guttural sound. (I asked Billy Dee this same question twenty years later at Celebration IV. He had no idea what I was talking about. I think I’ll put an end to this theme.)
As world-shattering as it was to actually speak with these stars, a life-stopping moment happened when I met the man who could see inside of George Lucas’ head, concept artist Ralph McQuarrie. A few years back, I wrote him a couple of fan letters which he had been gracious enough to actually respond. With no expectations I asked if he remembered my letters. “You’re the one who asked me about a painting of the Millennium Falcon that George didn’t use, aren’t you?” he asked me. I was. I blacked out.
As exciting as all this was, there was still the main event on the horizon. George Lucas was coming. What would he announce? Will there be another Star Wars film? Or are we seeing the end of an era? I needed to know. I needed to find the line so I could wait for hours to know which way my life will be heading. Check back in a couple weeks for the answers to these questions and how many Howard The Ducks George had in store!
Richard Woloski is a first generation Star Wars fan. He directed and produced the fan film TPZ and is now hosting the Star Wars/Disney podcast, Skywalking Through Neverland with his sweetie wife, Sarah.
For tips on how to survive Star Wars Celebration Anaheim, check out Skywalking Through Neverland’s Celebration Anaheim Survival Guide.