So it's thirty years ago today -- May 26, 1977 EV -- and a twenty-two year old Jonathan returns to his sunny, airy Pacific Palisades apartment with the new TIME Magazine, glances at the cover, and is just snarking at its banner referring to the alleged "Year's Best Movie" (what, in May?, gimme a break) when the phone rings, so he answers it. Uh-oh: it's Dad: and Jonathan loves his dad beyond measure, but Dad is also really high-maintenance, especially in person, and he's calling to suggest they go to a movie. Like, you know, Right Now.
"I played hooky from work yesterday to see it myself" -- (Dad is a sole practitioner criminal defense attorney, and hooky from work comes even easier to him now that Jonathan no longer works in his office) -- "and it's just a hell of a lot of fun." He sounds almost defensive about it, and explains why: "It's a sort of a kid film, harking back to the Saturday matinees of my youth, but they did such a good job -- Star Wars, it's called."
Surprisingly enough, Jonathan has known about Star Wars for months now: was floored by its trailer at the Avco Westwood last Christmas (and embarrassed himself by trying to suggest to one of his UCLA professors that judging from said trailer, said upcoming film would be heavy with archetypal and mythical material -- "'Star Wars'?" the prof countered, wrinkling his nose), and even bought the novelization when it came out, thanks to the spooky Ralph McQuarrie helmeted guy on the cover (but didn't read it, of course, so as not to spoil the film). Then again, if Dad's up for a movie -- quick flip to TIME's "Year's Best Movie," and sonofagun -- it's Star Wars!
Automatically suppresses having known about the film, since that would ruin Dad's fun at having discovered it. "What the hell," Jonathan says. "Sounds cool. Let's go."
Jonathan's dad will live another seventeen years, and given the three hothouse years they worked together nonstop (1973-76) they already had plenty of fine memories, whatever their differences and the distance your parents divorcing when you were eight can make. There were happier, funnier, and more triumphant days -- but 26 May 1977 might be the sweetest day they ever share: particularly with Jonathan now on his "spiritual path," having started same only two months before....
I am in awe of the Star Wars phenomenon (he types, as always, whilst sitting under the "STAR WARS: THE FIRST TEN YEARS" poster* he bought at Disneyland in 1987): three films of extraordinary joy, beauty and, yes, inspiration, when we needed them most; then three more warning us what was coming next, always pointing through the darkness to the "New Hope" ahead. Lucas taught a generation or more of us to plot, just as Stephen King taught us (mutating Harlan Ellison) a vivid, personal prose style. And finally, Lucas and company -- and what company! -- pulled off the miracle of telling stories that can reach nearly everybody, with very little compromise.
Sure enough, it really was the Best Movie of 1977...and they're all among the best of succeeding years. This stuff changed not only the face of culture; like TV's Star Trek and a handful of others, it actually helped change the world.
And mostly it gave me and my dad perhaps our sweetest day ever, which is why I posted this.
May the Force be with you, gang. :D
93 93/93 -- AJ
P.S. I kept no notes at the time, and can't absolutely swear that I had that "30 May" TIME mag in hand when Dad called, but that is my recollection, so thass what I said here. In Canada it came out a week before the film's release: see the reminiscence here: http://www.exn.ca/starwars/culture.cfm , which links the Menachem Begin cover itself.
* Other cool SW swag in storage: many of the original Kenner toys, the little filmstrip set, the original, pulled "Revenge of the Jedi" poster, and on and on. Cheryl, my first wife, and I were fanatics, and early members of the Fan Club...as, come to that, is the Jedi I married after her death. Btw, if you find this mawkish, be aware that it could have been a lot more so: to pick just one of my Star Wars memories, there's taking a nearly-translucent Cheryl to the 1997 rerelease (with changes), she shuffling very carefully on the Westwood sidewalk to get there, having very nearly died three months before from the cancer that would take her four years later. I am no objective judge of Star Wars, I'm sure: too much of my life blood is in it. On a happier note, there's Cheryl's and my waiting up all night with the quiet but buzzing crowd on Wilshire Boulevard in May 1983 for Return of the Jedi's 9am first screening. However tortuous it can also be, memory is (as I have written) "our sole persistent treasure."