Revolutionary `Star Wars': Fan recalls opening day

McClatchy NewspapersMay 11, 2007 

On May 25, 1977, "Star Wars" opened at a theater in Washington, D.C., and my life changed.

I had just finished my freshman year at New York's Pratt Institute and had heard of the film. A veteran reader of science fiction, I'd picked up the book, read it and become an enthusiast.

When I returned home, I teamed up with my high school science fiction club and we decamped to the Uptown Theater to see the show.

Touching base with them now, I find we all have fuzzy memories of that day. I remember us being first in line. One friend thinks we were farther down the line but close enough to get the promotional "May the Force Be With You" buttons. Another remembers us sitting in the upper gallery of the old theater.

But even 30 years later, everyone remembers the opening crawl and the first sight of a Star Destroyer going across the screen. It was stunning.

That was the summer of "Star Wars," a film that our group went to more than once. We watched from the front row of the lower level, and final row of the balcony and in as many rows as teenagers could afford.

Escapism at its finest.

We traveled to science fiction conventions, dressed in the costumes and played with fake lightsabers. My only attempt at Leia's (now notorious) hairstyle didn't work well. Long straight hair makes a pathetic cinnamon bun.

In the fall, most of my friends went off to colleges like Cornell University and Swarthmore. I returned to New York where I drove my roommates wild by constantly playing the soundtrack. I'm sure there was not-so-silent rejoicing the day I left the vinyl record in the sun, and it warped. A week's worth of cash from a part-time job bought a new copy. Even now, when I hear the 20th Century Fox fanfare, I expect the John Williams score to follow.

Thirty years later, "Star Wars" is mainstream. References show up everywhere - Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show," "Friends," "Dancing with the Stars." It's become part of the common culture worldwide. The simple story has gained complexity with prequel movies, television specials, novels, cartoons, comic books and Internet Web specials.

But a long time ago on a late spring evening, an uncomplicated myth of good versus evil came to town and swept us away. I'm glad I was there.

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