Follow eastcountytimes on Twitter

Become a Friend of The East County Times


Click on the paper above to visit our
Digital Edition



Article by Teddy Durgin

It's hard to know where to begin to write about the Star Wars Celebration event that I attended this past weekend in Anaheim, Calif., because it's all a jumble of emotions, images, memories, hopes, dreams and even a few fears. Overall, though, I'm still buzzing. I have attended six of the seven Celebrations held in the United States since 1999, and this was by far the biggest, most star-studded and all around best. You really felt you were rubbing elbows with both "Star Wars" royalty and with the princes and princesses who will be ascending to the throne in the months and years to come. This wasn't about batons being passed or the times a-changin'. This was everyone in "Star Wars" culture from 1977 to the present coming together to celebrate together and to look ahead to an absolutely jam-packed future. As a fan since I was 7 in '77, I never thought I'd see my beloved franchise re-energized to THIS degree. Yes, I was one of the 7,000-plus fans who stood in line to get into the Anaheim Convention Center's arena for the Opening Ceremonies last Thursday. No, I did NOT camp out overnight as about three-quarters of those folks did (God, the smell!) Twenty years ago, I would have. Ten years ago, I might have. At 44... with the event being simulcast across the planet on the Internet? I took my chances, got my sleep, woke up at 5 a.m., stood in the line for about five hours, and still got into the arena to see the thing live. Sure, I was in the upper deck. But I was perfectly centered with the massive stage and video screen. Simply put, those opening ceremonies will probably go down as one of the top five "Star Wars" memories of my lifetime, right up there with seeing "Star Wars" for the first time (it was the first film I EVER saw in a theater) and that first showing of "Return of the Jedi" in 1983 after waiting from age 9 to 12 to find out what would happen to my heroes. The feeling in the arena was charged and absolutely electric. And it kept building from director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy appearing to them surprising the crowd by bringing out new "Episode VII" cast members Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega to new droid BB-8 (the soccer ball droid seen in the first teaser last November) rolling out and sparring with R2-D2. Then, nearly the entire classic cast was introduced (minus Harrison Ford, who is still recovering from his plane crash injuries). And, finally, there was the worldwide reveal of the second teaser trailer. I am sure most of you reading this have seen it already. What was worth the price of the trip for me was being there and experiencing the crowd reaction to the footage shown. We're talking 7,500 people together in "Star Wars" nerd nirvana. And when at the end Han Solo and Chewbacca appeared and Han says "Chewie... we're home," the crowd reaction pretty much blew the roof off the venue. I don't think I've ever been at a live event - whether it's sports or entertainment - where I have heard a crowd get THAT loud! The organizers, of course, ran the trailer a second time immediately so we could actually hear what Han's line was. The rest of Celebration is a blur. There were a lot of merchandise reveals and teases. I wasn't there for the "Rogue One" panel with Kennedy and director Gareth Edwards, but was delighted at seeing online the brief new teaser for that standalone film coming in December 2016. had a great live simulcast of the event going throughout the four-day event, too, complete with an awesome recreation of the cantina from the original film where various major and minor celebs would drop in to be interviewed by the hosts. As fans, you could watch from just a few feet away. There were also panel discussions galore on every aspect of the films and fandom. But my absolute favorite memory of Celebration is the story behind this article's photo. Yup! I met Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher! I couldn't resist. As great as the Celebrations are... eh, I've now indeed done six of 'em. This very likely is going to be my last. I'm just too old for standing in hours upon hours of lines. Never say never. But if this was it, I wanted to go out with a memory that I couldn't top. So, I sprang for a photo with Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. They're as iconic to me as Rhett and Scarlett, Laurel and Hardy, Butch and Sundance, etc. Some say you should never meet your heroes, because you are bound to be disappointed. Those two didn't disappoint. Mark Hamill immediately asked me my name upon entering the makeshift photo studio and incorporated it into the ensuing conversation. Small talk really. But when it came time to snap the pic, Carrie Fisher said, "Well, get in the middle here and let's straighten your shirt out so all of the characters are showing." She then realized that all of the classic characters from "A New Hope" were on the shirt... except her. And she just lost it. She said, "Wait! Teddy, where am I?!" The photographer then said, "Ready everyone?" And she grabbed my shirt, started poking my belly, and turned to the camera and said, "Where the [bleep] am I?!" SNAP! Mark Hamill then cracks up, and Carrie says to me, "If you ever take a picture with me again, I want you wearing a Princess Leia ONLY shirt, OK?!" I, of course, said in my best Han voice, "Yes, your worship." I now have a most prized possession. I never really had one before. Not something I would run back into my burning house to retrieve after getting my wife and daughter out. And I am now more than ready for "The Force Awakens!" Eight months and counting...

Photo caption: Durgin (center) poses with Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill


@2008 East County Times. All Rights Reserved

Phone 410-780-3303 Email Reporting Staff [email protected] Email Art Dept. [email protected] Advertising [email protected]