star wars

#989: Moving In Stereo

RECORD STORE TALES #989: Moving In Stereo

It was May 2002 and I was a first-time homeowner.  My dad taught me, “Never rent!  Only buy.  Put your money towards something.”  So I trusted his advice and lived at home as long as could I possibly milk it!

Moving in to my new place took a day.  I had a lot of help from family and friends.  We probably had 10 or 12 people total.  I packed up all my CDs and insisted that only I handle them.  It caused me more than a little anxiety.  I figured a few jewel cases would crack, but there were some special ones I took extra precautions with.  Coloured jewel cases are hard to replace.  The most precious CD case to me is the 1996 Deep Purple In Rock anniversary edition.  The case comes etched with signatures and other text.  Breaking one of those means either living with it, or trying to find another copy with case intact.  I desired to do neither.  In Rock survived the move intact.  I would not be lying to you if I told you that this one little item was of more concern to me than anything else I moved that day.  My stereo equipment came in second.

Some people say they have a hard time sleeping, their first night in a new home.  I did not have that problem.  After a full day of moving, I was wiped.  But also eager to get going the next day and set up my new place.  Against the better judgement of everyone who helped me move, the very first thing I did was set up my CD towers.  Having those discs sitting in boxes really bothered me.  I wanted them out, so I could inspect them and ensure they all survived intact, and I wanted them accessible.  A long day of painting was ahead!

I cannot remember the first album I played in my new home.  Strange, because normally I’d commit that sort of thing to memory.  It was probably Kiss.  I like to use Kiss for firsts.  I do remember the first movie I watched.  It was The Phantom Menace.  I wanted my first movie to be a DVD, and I wanted it to be a Star Wars.  The older Star Wars films would not exist on that format until 2004.

I set up the CD towers, put the discs back in their alphabetical homes, and was relieved that only a couple cases broke.  I then painted around them.  Priorities.

The funny thing about these memories is how much space I thought I had back then.  I had so many empty closets.  I didn’t have enough stuff to put on my shelves.  To say things have changed would be an understatement.  Due to lack of storage, there are CDs everywhere in random order.  We need to hire a carpenter and get some proper CD shelving made for this place!

After a solid weekend of working, painting and assembling, I was settled into my new place.  I had my first guests over that Monday.  I loved my new place, but I did not have long to enjoy it.  The following week, I was on my way to Prince Edward Island, determined to find the home of Stompin’ Tom Connors, and eat lobster at least once a day.  Success on both counts.  But I couldn’t wait to get home again.  I had a new Deep Purple box set of official bootlegs waiting for me to finish listening.  12 CDs.  I only had time to hear the first three discs before departure.  And you can bet your last dollar that I picked up where I left off, with disc four.

Jen moved here in 2008.  It’s cramped but we make due.  Her illness set us back in the sense that we haven’t been able to move somewhere bigger.  But it’s home.  It’s our home.  It has 20 years of memories.  I’m proud to say that many of them are musical in nature.

Revenge of the Lists: All 11 Star Wars films discussed in detail!

Did Harrison really cause Erik and Rob to walk off the show?  Did Rob drop two “F-bombs”?  Did Harrison actually smile in the featured image?  Was this one of our best shows ever?

“It’s true.  All of it.”

Our esteemed panel of Jedi masters tonight were:

  • Erik Woods – movie and soundtrack expert
  • Robert Daniels – movie and soundtrack expert
  • Harrison Kopp – young fella who grew up on prequels and Clone Wars
  • LeBrain – old fart

Opinions veered wildly on the 11 Star Wars films we examined in great detail tonight.  While you may never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy, I also will contend you will not find a more passionate Star Wars discussion than the one we had this week.

Truly one of our best shows, and we barely scratched the surface of these films.  Perhaps a deeper dive is in order for the future.

 

Tonight! May the Rankings Be With Us: All 11 Star Wars films rated by our panel of experts!

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano and Friends

Episode 108 – All the Star Wars films, ranked!

 

This is a show that has been in the works a long time.  A long time.  I understand you’re Star Wars fans yourselves!  Then you will love this show we have lined up for you tonight.

The Nigel Tugnel Top Ten list format — a top 11 — is perfect for cases like this.  Tonight our panel of experts (top men!) will rank all 11 films (9 Saga movies plus 2 spinoffs).  This is sure to get hairy (Wookiee style) due to the diversity of the panel:

  • Erik Woods – movie and soundtrack expert
  • Robert Daniels – movie and soundtrack expert
  • Harrison Kopp – young fella who grew up on prequels and Clone Wars
  • LeBrain – old fart

Note:  We are only counting the 11 live action theatrical films, not any made-for-video films, or the animated Clone Wars (which did have a brief theatrical run).  Oh sure, Harrison might try to throw a curve ball but the rules are clear.

At the end of the night, will we have consensus?  I sure hope not!  What I do expect is plenty of lively conversation with maybe a little trash-talk.

Friday May 13, 7:00 PM E.S.T.  on YouTubeFacebook and also Facebook!

#965: The Collector’s Disease

RECORD STORE TALES #965: The Collector’s Disease

There’s no question I have the disease of a collector.  It’s undisputed and quite obvious.  I like to have not just one of a thing, but many.  I couldn’t just start with one Kiss album, I had to get more.  The goal was to get them all.  Having one GI Joe figure wasn’t enough.  You had to have as many as you could afford.  It’s marketing genius that this common psychological flaw was exploited guilt-free for so long.  Where did it start with me?

Perhaps my collector’s nerve was first tickled by Lego.  The more you get, the better stuff you can make.  Every year, new pieces were introduced.  In 1978 they launched the “Space” theme of Lego.  Prior to that came the new “Technic” pieces.  Right as I was hitting the perfect age for creating things made of Lego, they upped their game in a way that completely meshed.  I remember getting quite a few Space sets and several Technic too, including one where you build an 8-cylinder engine.  All you needed were more pieces to fully realize your creative visions.

At the same time, Star Wars had hit theatres and we were starting to collect the action figures.  This planted a seed.  Cleverly, Kenner included pictures on the back of every figure package:  Each Star Wars figure, numbered in a checklist style.  This was cribbed from trading cards, like Topps — another Star Wars merchandising brand we tried to collect.  Something about a checklist is an itch that begs to be scratched by certain personality types.  Hasbro recycled the checklist gimmick with their in-pack Transformers catalogues in 1984.

As I’m happy to recount the tale, I discovered Kiss in 1985.  Their new album Asylum was out.  The next door neighbour George had a bunch of rock magazines, and one of them (perhaps Faces) had a big full page Kiss ad.  The famed “Accept No Imitations” Asylum ad.  Simple branding, like Coke or Pepsi.  The “real thing”.  They were really promoting the new Kiss in North America as the 20th in a series of records, including the four solo albums, two live albums, and Double Platinum.  Laid out in two rows at the bottom, checklist style, were all 19 of the previous album covers, including their release dates.

Like bells going off in my head, the collector’s itch needed to be scratched.

Gene Simmons is a lifelong comics reader, and he knew as well as anyone that Marvel had a monthly checklist near the back of each book.  He would have had many trading cards in his youth and was surely familiar with the concept of a checklist.  Whether that’s a connection or not, that Kiss ad really set off the fireworks in my brain.  I stared at it, studying each individual album cover, and the frequency of release.

I’ve detailed, many times, my process in first recording all the Kiss records from George or Bob.  The desire to have a complete set, buying as many as I could find while recording the rest.  The need to include the “forgotten” Kiss Killers album in the count.  I displayed all my tapes, either recorded or originals, in order by release date, just like the ad I had seen, except my taped collection numbered 22, including Killers and Animalize Live Uncensored.  Eventually in highschool (1987 precisely) I discarded the recorded copies and acquired a complete set on tape.  In the Record Store years, the process would repeat on remastered CD.

But wait….

While all of the above is the truth, and nothing but the truth, it is not the whole truth.  Kiss were not the first rock band I sought to “collect”.

Before I had that Kiss epiphany with the checklist, I can remember having a specific earlier conversation.  It would have been Easter of ’85, several months before the September release of Kiss Asylum.  My mom asked me what I wanted for Easter, and I told her “the new Quiet Riot” because “I want to have all their albums.”  I thought they only had two, and it would be an easy collection to complete.  But there it was:  the desire to have “all” of something.

Strange how the concept of collecting only latched onto me in some ways.  Atari games looked pretty on display in their coloured boxes, but we had no desire to get all the games.  Just the “good” ones.  Even with comic books.  I would buy issues of current books off the newstands, but did not go back to buy older issues, because they could get insanely expensive, and numbered in the hundreds.  Since comics always referred back to previous and concurrent issues, they really made you want to buy them all to get all the backstory.  But I didn’t — couldn’t.  This is exactly why Bob preferred only to buy limited series, like movie adaptations.  I guess my collector’s desires only extended as far as I could reach, in a monetary sense.

Today, musical artists exploit this common need to collect at lengths never before seen.  We’re still out there, trying to make it through an adult world, but now we have disposable income.  It used to be you’d want all the albums, and if you discovered single B-sides, you wanted those too.  Then it became the bonus tracks, the deluxe editions, the super deluxe editions, and all the different colours of vinyl you get for just about every release these days!  That’s how they get us.  Next thing you know, you just dropped a grand or two on a Gene Simmons Vault, or $800 on a Judas Priest box set.

And we go along with it, time and time again.  Once the itch has been scratched, and the soothing radiation of a complete collection rolls over you like waves…the itch inevitably returns.

And so it ends?  It never ends.

 

#960: Spoilers? [Spoiler-free]

RECORD STORE TALES #960:  Spoilers?

How do you like to enjoy a movie?  Do you prefer to go in stone cold with no spoilers?  Or do you like to be hot with anticipation, awaiting every mega-moment that you have seen leaked on Reddit?

Spoiler alert:  I like spoilers.

Gimme them spoilers!  Movies today are so predictable anyway.  But I have zero tolerance for jagoffs who post this stuff in public.  It’s inconsiderate.  Therefore, this will be a spoiler-free chapter about spoilers.

We’ve all seen the classic Simpsons episode, am I right?  Homer walks out of The Empire Strikes Back, saying aloud, “Who’d have thought Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father!”  Everyone in line was furious at him for revealing the big one.  More recently came a douchebag who spoiled a Harry Potter book for all the faithful waiting in line to buy it.  “Snape kills Dumbledore!” he yelled from the safety of his car as he drove by like a true coward.

I think it’s safe to say that whether you are pro or anti spoiler in your personal lives, nobody likes an asshole like that who goes out of their way to ruin an experience for everybody.  Go back home to mommy’s basement, spoiler-troll.

When we were kids, we never went to see movies in their first weeks.  Our family waited until things had died down a bit.  By then we’d already bought the Marvel Comics adaptations.  The Empire Strikes Back was the last Star Wars movie I saw that wasn’t spoiled.  My dad bought the Marvel comic adaptation while we waited in the lobby.  It was just the two of us.  The big reveal had less an affect on me — I simply assumed Vader was lying, as did most of us kids.  We’d already seen him lie to Lando.   Then, starting with Return of the Jedi, pretty much every Star Wars movie I saw was spoiled in some way.  I discovered this didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the films at all.  In fact it made me want to see them even more, and savour the moments when they came.

Phantom MenaceSpoiled by Lucasfilm themselves, on the soundtrack CD to the movie.  Attack of the Clones?  By this time, Ain’t It Cool News was getting regular clicks.  I just can’t resist the allure of spoilers!  The internet has made it hard to keep a movie secret in any way.

Look at Spiderman: No Way Home.  The film’s not even out yet.  Pretty much everything has already been up on YouTube before Sony could take them down.  (And taking them down, they are!)  So I’ve seen everything.  I’ve seen all the villains.  I’ve seen the end credit scenes (both).  The heroes, the cameos, the big moments.  All filmed on some shitty, shaking cell phone where you can barely hear the dialogue.

My sister has rules about spoilers.  She doesn’t want to know anything that isn’t in the official trailers.  I think that’s a sensible policy.  For her.

These glimpses don’t spoil movies for me.  I still got the shakes, watching the terrible YouTube videos.  My tear ducts got a little wet when I saw…nevermind.  And based on past experience, it’ll happen again when I finally see No Way Home in theaters.  Whenever that will be.

See, that’s currently the problem.  With the latest Covid variants, who knows when I’ll be back in the theaters.  Originally I planned to see Spiderman during Christmas holidays.  Now I’m not so sure.  I have to play it by ear.  My grandmother (age 97) is in the hospital right now, and seeing her is more important than seeing Tom Holland and his new friends on the big screen.

So, yeah, spoil me!  Spoil me rotten — but ask me first.

#957: Star Wars at the Mall 1981

RECORD STORE TALES #957: Star Wars at the Mall 1981

Cast your minds back to a time before the internet.  Before DVD players.  Before we all had VCRs.  Prior to the advent of on-demand TV.  If you wanted to watch Star Wars…you couldn’t!

There isn’t much more to be said than that.  We had our records, to listen to the soundtracks, and “The Story Of…” discs.  We had novels and comic books.  We had our action figures.  If we wanted to watch Star Wars, we had to use the ol’ imagination and memories.

Given that lots of kids would love to watch Star Wars at any given moment, there was a demand.  And nature decrees that a vacuum must be filled.  I remember that there was a Star Wars play at the mall.  A few actors, maybe six or seven total, wearing budget costumes, and doing the best job they could.  I remember it being really bad, but I found a photograph that indicates it might not have been as terrible as I thought.

We can only guess who the actors were.  Students?  A travelling troupe, adventuring from mall to mall?  All to sell toys!  Kenner was king!  Kids flocked to the toy sections, begging mom for a Bossk figure.  Why not have a Star Wars play to promote it?  Perhaps kids can be the harshest critics and this play wasn’t as terrible as I recall….

We only snapped the one picture; film was expensive.  But the costumes don’t appear all that bad.  Sure, it looks like Chewbacca is wearing a sweater.  I don’t remember Princess Leia having gold trim on her gown.  Is that Old Ben Kenobi on the far left?  It’s a shame we didn’t get a picture of Luke or Han, but Vader’s helmet does not look bad, nor Chewie’s head.  At least not from this angle.  Could we have taken a worse picture?  You have to give Leia some credit for the nailing the hairstyle, and a killer pair of boots!

The wall behind looks like the barriers that go up when a store is being renovated.  You can also see some litter on the ground.  Consensus seems to be that this was Stanley Park Mall, due to the familiar flooring.  

VIDEO: Star Wars – Escape From Death Star reissue board game / Tarkin figure unboxing

For the first Star Wars video game unboxing video, click here.

VIDEO: Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back reissue board game / figure unboxing

#909.5: Visual Supplemental – It Was Back in the Summer of ’83, There’s a Reason I Remember It Well

RECORD STORE TALES #909.5:
Visual Supplemental
It Was Back in the Summer of ’83, There’s a Reason I Remember It Well

AUTHOR’S NOTE: To enjoy this supplemental chapter, please be sure to have first finished reading Record Store Tales #909: It Was Back in the Summer of ’83, There’s a Reason I Remember It Well!


We both loved and feared when cousin Geoff came to visit.  So full of energy.  Much more than me.  We had great times, but usually tinged with a hint of destruction.  This is a kid who gave himself the nickname ‘Alligator’.

Geoff’s visit in the summer of ’83 launched with a trip to the lake.  My Aunt Lynda loves the cottage and so it was a special place for her too.  The photos tell the stories.  As a kid (and adult) I was obsessed with lighthouses, and my Grandfather made this amazing example.  It had lights inside and opening doors.  But you can see, we kids just treated it as another toy!  It appears that Geoff knocked out one of the windows, which is hanging from the edge.

You can see us playing Star Wars at the lighthouse.  I can identify my Bossk figure dangling from the top.  Kathryn and Geoff were right there with me, with their figures.  I look like I’m just immersed in that world.  A galaxy far, far away yet in our back yard.  You couldn’t have found three happier kids.

After returning from the lake, the main part of our adventure began.

Geoff’s grandparents on his dad’s side owned a huge piece of property in the country with a swimming pool, and the most amazing landscape to explore.  Grassy fields gave way to trees, and I don’t think we ever hit the end of the property when we went walking.  It simply went on forever.  Any time we went there, it was a treat.  We spent a few days at the property that summer, swimming and running pretending we were Jedi or superheroes.

I’m glad that we have some pics of that place.  Not a lot.  Mostly the pool.  None of the sprawling real estate and endless fields behind.  None of that cool organ they had in the living room.  None of the steep cliff, with stairway and landings, that that went from the house down to the pool.  But we have lots of the pool.  Imagine “Sister Christian” playing behind as you swim.

It always came back to Star Wars.  Return of the Jedi was brand new.  When Geoff was visiting, we wanted to see it again in the theatre, but as explained in the story, we were vetoed by the adults.  We saw Superman III instead.  (Be sure to read the full story.)   And, as described in many previous chapters, you couldn’t just watch a Star Wars at home like today.  So we had to use our imaginations.  I can easily see what we are reading in this picture.

The lightning from the Emperor’s fingers gives it away.  That is the read-along record/book set for Return of the Jedi.  It was the best way to enjoy the story at home.  Look at the three of us reading along, lost in that world, oblivious to the camera.

The record itself is spinning on my parents’ system behind us, the very system that I later made my own.  It seemed so huge then; not so big in the pictures.  All of our records — mine and my parents too — would have been in that cabinet behind us!  Also barely visible just behind me is my beige Fisher-Price mono tape recorder.  That thing was indestructible.

The three of us sat there, listening and reading as Darth Vader turned back to the light.  In a few short years, everything would have changed.  The decor, the media we listened to, and the entertainment we consumed.  Star Wars was on its last legs and the next record to enter that cabinet was not Star Wars.  It was not from a movie at all, although it certainly tried to be.  A band called Styx would soon be replacing John Williams on the platter.  Who could have guessed that this picture of us enjoying a Star Wars record together would the last time?

#909: It Was Back in the Summer of ’83, There’s a Reason I Remember It Well

RECORD STORE TALES #909:
It Was Back in the Summer of ’83, There’s a Reason I Remember It Well

Part 1.

Put yourself in my 10 year old (going on 11) shoes.  Imagine the summer of 1983.  We were surrounded with nothing but the coolest stuff.  The A-Team was huge.  Michael Knight was riding high.  There was a new Star Wars coming.  There were even two new varieties of Coke:  Caffeine Free Coke, and Caffeine Free Diet Coke.  I didn’t know what caffeine was, I just wanted to try them all.

The first sign that we had a cool year ahead of us was when my mom came home with a new box of cereal one day.  It was probably Cheerios; regular or Honey-Nut.  On the front:  “STAR WARS BOOKLET INSIDE!”  This must be in advance of the new Star Wars movie, Revenge of the…what?  The title had been changed to Return of the Jedi.  Less edgy to be sure.  We learned that George Lucas changed it because Jedi do not take revenge.*

These cereal box booklets were our first look at some of the iconic new images from Episode VI.  Speeder bike troopers, Jabba the Hutt, and the unfinished new Death Star.  This image surprised me the most, even more than Jabba’s ghastly physique.  It didn’t make sense that the Empire would build a brand new Death Star, when the first was destroyed so easily.  But that was our first glimpse of what was to come.  We couldn’t wait to get the new toys.  I had dreams of anticipation building towards the release of the movie.

Next into our lives came the official Marvel Comics adaptation, which of course told the entire story before we saw the movie.  We waited for crowds to die down before going to see a new movie.  I had the single issue “Marvel Super Special”, my best friend Bob Schipper had the four-issue limited series.  About half way through reading the comic, I stopped myself in shock.

“Teddy bears?” I gasped.  “There is no way George Lucas would put teddy bears in Star Wars.”

But he did.  He put teddy bears in Star Wars.  Fortunately, the Ewoks were cooler on screen — fierce but funny warriors that I could accept if not embrace.  It just seemed so…sudden.  Calculated.  Even as children, we sensed this.  Jedi was the most “kiddie” of all the films, with the cutesy bears and burp jokes.

Then came the day we finally saw the movie in theaters.  I think we went with my schoolmate Ian Johnson, although my sister remembers that as our second time.  I know we joked around with him before the film — what if the whole thing was a big tease and they never found Han Solo?  We laughed at the idea of the Millenium Falcon flying around for the whole film, and never finding Solo.  Making you have to wait ’til the next movie…or the next…before Han finally came back.  Of course, we knew that wasn’t going to really happen.  We knew this was the final movie in the trilogy.  (We didn’t foresee we’d have to wait 16 years to get another Star Wars, or 32 years to get to the “what happens next” part.)

I can’t remember exactly how I felt through the film.  Awe at Luke’s cool new Jedi look.  Confusion as to how I was supposed to take Vader — the villain I hated — as redeemed.  I legitimately hated Darth Vader.  Could I forgive him?  Not at first.  “Look at his eyes,” said my dad.  “He was good again.”

We universally loved the speeder bike chase through the woods.  The busy space battle that eventually goes into the very superstructure of the Death Star.  And yes, Han Solo’s return.  Finally, we had use for our Han action figures again!

Oh yes, the action figures.  The Return of the Jedi wave was the best of the series yet.  We started getting our first new figures from the series around the same time my cousin Geoffrey rolled into town.


Part 2.

We both loved and feared when cousin Geoff came to visit.  So full of energy.  Much more than me.  We had great times, but usually tinged with a hint of destruction.  This is a kid who gave himself the nickname “Alligator”.  1983 was one of those wild summers.  We had the best times with Geoff, but I still came home with an injury.

It began with new toys.  My mom took Geoff, my sister and I to Stanley Park Mall.  We each got to pick one new Star Wars figure.  It was unanimous who we thought was best.   We each decided on the new Luke.  What a figure!  A cloth cloak, a laser pistol, and a lightsaber were packed inside the plastic bubble.  Three accessories!  Unprecedented.  Then, as told in Record Store Tales #653:

We waited on a bench while my mom did her banking.

“Come on let’s open these,” said Geoffrey.  My sister and I always waited until we got home.

Geoffrey ripped open his Luke.

“Why are you opening that now?  You’re going to lose the gun.  Just wait until we get home.  This is our last stop.”  I attempted to reason with my cousin but he had Luke out of the package.

Within the first five minutes, he lost the gun.  Before we made it home, he lost the lightsaber too.

“I told you so,” was something I relished saying to him.  My Luke, by the way, still has all his accessories 35 years later.

Geoff’s grandparents on his dad’s side owned a huge piece of property in the country with a swimming pool, and the most amazing landscape to explore.  Grassy fields gave way to trees, and I don’t think we ever hit the end of the property when we went walking.  It simply went on forever.  Any time we went there, it was a treat.  We spent a few days at the prorperty that summer, swimming and running pretending we were Jedi or superheroes.

The house had an amazing “back yard”.  There was a steep downwards incline, which you traversed via a series of stairs and landings.  To us it was huge!   It seemed like you were climbing down a mountain.  At the bottom: the swimming pool and all the land you could run through for hours.

There was a radio and a barbecue.  I remember hearing “Sister Christian” on the radio for the second or third time ever.  I didn’t know the name of the song, or the band, but I heard neighbours playing it on their stereos.  I assumed the song was called “Motorhead” by Motorhead because on a fuzzy radio, that’s sure what it sounded like.  “Motorhead!  What’s your price for flight?”

We had a great time swimming whenever we felt like it, and playing Star Wars the rest of the day.  Our figure collections were growing.  By the end of the summer, I had an Imperial Guard and Kathryn had her first Ewok, Logray the “medicine man” of the tribe.  Lando in his new disguise had also landed in our collection.  The figures really were outstanding this time, with more attention to detail and accessories.

But you can’t play Star Wars forever (especially when one of us has a Luke with no weapons) and so we explored the countryside.  As described earlier, my cousin Geoff had a lot more energy than me, and physics tells us that energy cannot be destroyed, merely transformed.  He transformed his into force.  We were playing some sort of game in the grass, involving running and hiding.  At one point Geoff spotted me and came barrelling my way.  I dove out of his path into a bush.  I thought I had escaped the pain, but the pain was only beginning.

The skin on my hand was starting to sting and bump, for I sought shelter amongst the stinging nettles.

It was bad!  My aunt got some creams and bandaged up my arm.  My hand was numb for hours.  And we were going to see a movie that night!


Part 3.

There were no cineplexes.  Our family movie tradition was going downtown for dinner and a flick.  My mom remembers the restaurant well:   “It was owned by Tommy Chaggaris, who owned the Fairway restaurant at Fairview Mall.  The restaurant was called The Chaggaris’.”

They made really good chicken.  Cousin Geoff used to simply call it “Tommy’s Chicken” when we would take him.  My mom continues: “Dad knew Tommy Chaggaris quite well, and he always treated us like royalty. He was very wealthy and owned restaurants and strip malls all over the city.  His wife lives across the street from friends of ours. He is long gone. A really nice guy.”  This is where it gets funny.  Sometimes Geoff would simplify the name and tell people “We went to Tommy’s place for chicken!”  I guess there was a strip club in town also called Tommy’s, so that story often needed extra clarification.

The plan was to see Return of the Jedi again, this time with Geoff.  However, we were told by the adults that the sound in the theater where Jedi was showing was really bad.  I didn’t care, neither did Kathryn or Geoff, but the adults didn’t want to spend money on a movie and not understand the dialogue because of dodgy speakers.  Fair enough, so we chose Superman III instead.  I had the novelisation, but now we were going to see the latest chapter of Superman.  One of our other favourite franchises of the 80s.

We knew it was getting poor reviews, but what else was playing in 1983?  War Games, Octopussy and Trading Places were a little more mature than we were.  And nobody wanted to see Jaws 3 in 3D!  So Superman III it was, partly by default and partly because how bad could a Superman movie really be?

Kind of bad.  But I liked Richard Pryor**, and he made me laugh in Superman III.  Kathryn and I both liked the part where he got drunk wearing the gigantic foam cowboy hat.  We did not like the real villains.  We preferred Lois Lane to Lana Lang.  We would rather have not seen Superman turn evil due to a synthetic form of kryptonite.  We didn’t get the scene where Clark Kent fought Evil Supes.  Was it real or was it metaphorical?  It was weird, is what it was to us.

We came back to the beautiful house in the woods and discussed the movie.  We never accepted that a computer could challenge Superman, but that was the big climax.  Superman vs a computer built by Richard Pryor.  A computer that seemed to be able to improvise and turn people into computer zombies at will.  And had weird video game-like displays with sound effects taken from the Atari Pac-Man game.

“The worst Superman,” was our unanimous vote.  But we got to see it — always a treat in itself.  Even if a movie was bad, going there was still a treat.

It wouldn’t have been a proper summer without an injury, so I’m glad Geoff helped me check off all the boxes in 1983 (and a few other years!).  We had a blast.  Spending all day with Star Wars action figures or in a big swimming pool with the sun on our backs and Caffeine Free Coke in our hands.  It was the last summer of the Star Wars era.  Toys changed, and when Geoff returned in 1984, we were onto something new.  Something that was More Than Meets The Eye.  But there was a definite shift.  1983 closed a chapter.  With Star Wars having drawn to a close, the vacuum had to be filled.  At the same time, I was getting older and discovering new interests.  In 1984, the favourite contender was an American rock and roll band out of Los Angeles called Quiet Riot.

I still cannot really let go of the fact that Geoff lost Luke’s gun and lightsaber within minutes of opening him.  Those things are going for like $80 now!


 

*Revenge of the Jedi caused a problem for the folks over at Paramount, working on Star Trek II: The Vengeance of Khan.  In order to avoid problems, they changed the title of their film to The Wrath of Khan.  

** At that point, Pryor’s career was shifting to younger age groups.  He had a revelation in 1979 after a trip to Africa, after which he ceased using the “n” word in his routines.  1982’s The Toy exposed kids our age to Pryor.  Ironically, The Toy was directed by Richard Donner who also directed Superman: The Movie.  Yet Superman II and III were credited to Richard Lester, who geared them in a slapstick comedic direction.  This is one of Superman III‘s defining traits.