A biographical tale about world-renowned bass clarinetist Kathryn Ladano, a champion of improvised music…and my sister.
GETTING MORE TALE #542: Guy Zemmiton
My sister had a favourite Star Wars figure when we were small. There were so many to choose from. I had plenty of my own favourites. Droids such as IG-88 and 2-1B were cool and different. Yoda was special because he came with a record four accessories: his belt, cloak, walking stick and snake. But my sister’s favourite was Luke, in his X-Wing pilot outfit. It was released in 1978 and went beautifully with the X-Wing toy I got for Christmas that year. My sister Kathryn called him “Luke, the guy with the helmet on”. When she said “guy with the helmet on,” it came out as “Guy Zemmiton”. She was three.
We spent hours setting up massive wars on our living room floor. Guy Zemmiton would heroically defend the Rebellion from Darth Vader and the Empire. [See Record Store Tales Part 0: A Few Words for Days Gone By] Star Wars and its action figures were our universe back then.
We knew there was a second Star Wars movie coming. The Empire Strikes Back was finally released right around the time Kathryn got incredibly sick.
One night she was complaining about a “sore tongue”. I remember my parents frantically running around the house in the middle of the night. “I want some juice,” I heard her croak from another room. My dad said they had to take her to the hospital. They got a babysitter. I was incredibly upset and Kathryn remembered me looking down from the top of the stairs as they carried her away. It was a rare condition called epiglottitis that can affect children and causes their airways to close. Bill Bixby, star of The Incredible Hulk as David Banner, had a son who died of epiglottitis. She was in that hospital in an air tent with a tube down her throat before she started getting better and visitors were allowed.
This whole time I was very worried and my dad decided to take me to see The Empire Strikes Back just the two of us, while my mom stayed with Kathryn in the hospital as she did every day. In the movie theater lobby, they were selling oversized Marvel Empire Strikes Back comics and my dad bought one for me! The movie was amazing. I didn’t like seeing “Guy Zemmiton” being hurt, but the snow walker scene was an instant hit. We left the theater to go and see my sister at the hospital. I wasn’t to tell her that we had seen “Guy Zemmiton”, as we didn’t want to upset her. That made it hard to explain where the comic came from, but I was so excited to see her.
A couple weeks later she came home, and dad took the whole family out to see Empire. Kathryn was elated to get to see “Guy Zemmiton”, especially since there were so many scenes of Luke in that very outfit! But my dad was a tease. The whole time before the movie started he was claiming we were in the wrong theater. “No Guy Zemmiton here,” he said. “This theater is showing Captain Peachfuzz and the Penguins!” He may have actually convinced her that we were about to see Captain Peachfuzz and the Penguins, and I was beginning to wonder myself! It was with great relief that we saw “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” on the screen in big blue letters. “I thought this was Captain Peachfuzz and the Penguins,” whispered my dad.
“Guy Zemmiton” was thrilling and my sister was in her glory finally having seen his latest adventure. It was great for everything to finally be back to normal.
I read that comic book over and over again the whole summer, and later on we even got to go see Empire again. It was at a drive-in and Empire was the second feature. I think we both fell asleep long before the movie was over.
A lot of people say Empire is their favourite Star Wars, but for Kathryn, she really means it. Empire was central to a scary time (that she still remembers clearly) when she almost died. Not every three year old kid can claim that.