Halloween is perhaps my favourite American holiday. Some of my earliest happy impressions of America were in seeing the cities of New York and San Francisco throwing themselves into this tradition with gusto. The spectacle of Werewolves, Popes, and Cowgirls… Zombies, Witches and Animals of all ages, shapes and sizes, out en masse, walking the streets, or riding buses and trains, was new to me and I liked it. Although Halloween has been become popular over the past decade or so in Australia, I don't remember ever celebrating it in my childhood. The closest equivalent was "Black Friday" parties, which were SOMETIMES held when a Friday fell on the 13th. But, to me, the eclectic costumes of Halloween make for much more fun. Unfortunately, as much as I enjoy an entire nation being silly for a day (and my part in that group therapy) I was a no-show at Halloween this year, due to the recurrence of an illness that had stalked me off-and-on all throughout the month of October.
Thankfully, I had my chance to act the clown exactly one weekend later, when JEFF and ANITA hosted a viewing of STAR WARS (the un-updated version that I grew up with) over dinner at their house. JULIA had the genius idea that two of us might surprise the others by attending in Star Wars themed outfits and I liked this suggestion so much that I didn't need to hear it twice. It turns out that the week AFTER Halloween isn't a bad time to buy costumes, for although the stocks are severely depleted by the buying-frenzy of the week before, the prices on what remains are dramatically slashed. Thus, a child-sized Darth Vader helmet and cape were acquired at a bargain price, not to mention the cheapest, shittiest Light Sabre that money could buy. So, with the addition of hastily made cardboard boots, cardboard chest plate, cardboard shoulder pads and cardboard codpiece, the mighty CARD VADER was born. And standing by his side, wearing discounted plastic go-go boots and too-small wig, was PRINCESS LAY-AWAY.
In order NOT to change into these splendid ensembles AT JEFF and ANITA's place (which would have ruined the pageantry of our "entrance") we got into costume in the bathrooms of a nearby mall, necessitating a stroll through the mall in full geeky regalia, past the stares of Joe and Jane public, and back to the parking garage. After a short drive, we found the correct address and the PRINCESS had to ring the door bell as The DORK LORD couldn't see well enough out of his eye-holes to push the button himself. Standing on the doorstep in all our splendid idiotic finery, we had time to ask ourselves if we were doing the right thing? Or were we about to make prize-arses of ourselves? ELAINE's reaction, when she opened the door made it clear that we were doing BOTH. When someone tells you that you have just made them laugh so hard that they almost peed themselves, then making an idiot of yourself has been worth the effort… Well, that the philosophy that I live MY life by, anyway…
No sooner had CARD VADER gained entry into JEFF and ANITA's Rebel-Base, than he made the mistake of brandishing his cheap TARGET Light Sabre… In response, JEFF unsheathed his pricey SPECIAL EDITION version; you know, the FANCY one that looks "real", powers up all sexy-like and makes the proper noises and everything. The DORK LORD forgot who he was messing with there for a moment, but was soon shown the error of his judgement in a clash of sabres (one of them glowing and making movie-quality sound effects, the other doing nothing impressive at all) that subsequently played out in JEFF and ANITA's dining room.. TED and ANITA were on hand to document this epic struggle with a series of photos that records the intensity that JEFF brought to the defence of his domain from an invading, pin-headed Sith. And no wonder: JEFF and ANITA's place is a veritable Guggenheim Museum of tasty pop culture riches; beautiful original artwork and gorgeous collectible toys are on display everywhere that you look. JEFF was right to defend all this hard won bounty with such passion… and verily, the FORCE was with him that night.
Once the laughter had died down and the sabres were sheathed, we all dined on super-tasty SLOPPY JOES, which was a first for me (where I'm from, the term "sloppy Joe" is a type of sweatshirt) plus a mighty fine Macaroni and Cheese, with a secret ingredient that pushed it to the next level. The tastiness of the food proved that the FORCE was clearly with ANITA in her kitchen that night, every bit as much as it had earlier been with JEFF at his threshold. Dessert was a stack of rice crispy balls, provided by ELAINE, that were immediately named "CRISPY DEATH STARS". The similarity in appearance between her home-made dessert and the famous Star Wars Battle Station was an absolute coincidence, as ELAINE is one of those rare people of my generation who has somehow managed to avoid seeing STAR WARS her entire life. In fact, remedying that omission was the reason the whole STAR WARS NIGHT was held at all. And so, after the eating was done with, we trooped upstairs to the TV room to watch the movie. Though firstly, JEFF had us watch an episode from a 1940s FLASH GORDON serial, by way of setting context for the pulp serial tradition that begat Star Wars in the first place.
It has been years since I watched this version of Star Wars, rather than the new-fangled version, with all the CG shots jammed in there, and re-edited to change "who shot first" and all of that…. and it really was a lot of fun to see it again… Despite being more aware now of its filmic shortcomings than I ever was as a child, I still felt that this movie held up rather well as a piece of ground-breaking yet timeless, pure-fun entertainment, with perhaps only the HAIR dating it as being from the mid 1970s. Seeing the film again has had me in mind, over the past few days, of the first time that I saw it when I was 13 years old and had my tiny mind thoroughly blown… and the subsequent the expansion of my imagination which came as a result; the days of staring out the window and dreaming, afternoons of doodling space ships and looking at sci-fi books. Given this sort of reaction, it is always hard to know just how much of the positive response in re-visiting old childhood favourites is due to the merits of the pieces themselves and how much is merely nostalgia, and attachment to the effect that certain films (or books, record albums or whatever) once had upon us…
However, on this occasion, something of an empirical test-case was provided by the fact that we had one amongst us who had never seen the movie before and was now watching the film entirely through the eyes of an adult rather than eyes squinting through lenses fogged by childhood memory. Not only was she able to spot the legacy of influence on films that have come along since, but she also stated that watching Star Wars was entertaining for her as well. While it was gratifying, on that evening, to hear that ELAINE liked this childhood favourite too, it occurs to me now that perhaps she only gave it a THUMBS UP to keep a room full of nerds from bursting into tears if she had said otherwise.
After all, when a middle aged man in a home-made, cardboard Darth Vader suit leans forward eagerly to ask if you have just enjoyed seeing Star Wars for the first time… well, what ELSE is a girl supposed to say?