CHICAGO —The stuff of “Star Wars” —and there is unfortunately no better way to adequately describe the Death Star-sized planet of stuff that has been created in response to “Star Wars” since 1977 —filled McCormick Place earlier this month. Since many of you weren’t able to make it to Lucasfilm’s extravagant Star Wars Celebration there, I wanted tell you about some of that stuff, because there is so much of it, there should be an official metric for measuring the gross weight of “Star Wars”-inspired objects that exist.
A metric Wookiee?
A cubic Wampa?
Walking around McCormick Place during Celebration, the mind reels at the human ingenuity spent on crafting stuff because George Lucas shot a space movie during the Carter Administration. I wondered if we could cover every square inch of Alaska in licensed, homemade and bootleg “Star Wars” stuff —how many geologic layers-deep would such a coating be? I can’t say. Lucasfilm was too busy to answer.
Anyway, all this stuff.
It’s the lightsaber-happy family sticker that goes in the minivan’s rear window, and the pink bowling ball decorated with Natalie Portman’s resplendent Queen Amidala, and the Wilson “Star Wars” footballs, and the clever T-shirts that say, “May the Mass Times Acceleration Be With You.”
It’s 42 years of Marvel “Star Wars” comic books you can find here, and American Tourister “Star Wars” luggage, and R2-D2 dresses, and Christmas ornaments. It’s Stormtrooper toasters and the R2-D2 popcorn makers and Death Star waffle irons and pizza cutters and oven mitts and frozen-Han Solo ice-cube trays. It’s the $100 Tiki-inspired scorpion bowl shaped like the Millennium Falcon.
And of course, it’s also stuff that isn’t mass produced.
It’s that full-scale German-made Tie Fighter in the corner, and the Belgian-made re-creation of the interiors of the Millennium Falcon —ready for selfies. It’s the work of Trey and Nancy Laymon of Oskaloosa, Iowa, who outfitted the truck bed of their Ford Christopher Borrelli with a frozen Han Solo —also ready for selfies. It’s the custom “Star Wars” doll clothes by a Chicago-area picture framer; and it’s the faux WWII-esque propaganda posters painted by Cat Staggs of Burbank, Calif., that warn you “The Empire is Listening.”
Let’s not even discuss the collector’s market, the old stuff that competes with new stuff for attention —we’d be here all day. (And why bring up the “Star Wars” trinkets created solely to be traded for other “Star Wars” trinkets, generating more stuff? Why make more stuff when there are Darth Vader-as-Jesus and Yoda-as-Buddha statues?)
Should you wonder where you can find the most “Star Wars” stuff after Celebration ends, there is a display from Rancho Obi-Wan, an archive in Northern California founded by Steve Sansweet, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and Lucasfilm employee. Rancho Obi-Wan is a repository of more than 400,000 “Star Wars”-related items, from bad bootlegs to officially licensed housewares to fan-made paintings. For a taste of their stuff, Sansweet brought to Chicago an exhibit of artist-created Stormtrooper helmet —think Stormtrooper heads as jagged disco balls and Stormtrooper heads as Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”
I don’t know if Rancho Obi-Wan includes the stuff of Okitsugu Kado, a mainstay of Star Wars Celebrations (which are held in a different city about every two years). But I hope they do. Kado carves food into “Star Wars” characters. He turns yams into BB8s and yucca into R2-D2s. He told me that he gets together about twice a month with his “Star Wars” friends in Osaka and, to pass the time while they are talking, he practices on root vegetables.
He never sells his work, thereby not completely contributing to the crush of stuff of “Star Wars.”
However, should you require something permanent, I noticed a carved wooden Darth Vader, ideal for anyone with a rumpus-room basement and a time machine set on 1978.
There are also a lot of toys; you assumed that.
But did you know, should you stumble into the right panel here, you may have been fascinated by a lecture on the taxonomy of all this stuff? Did you know, for example, that when the now-defunct Cincinnati toymaker Kenner created large action figures of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian, they used Hardy Boy dolls as a template ? (An image of a 1980 Lando prototype —a Hardy Boy in blackface —drew groans from the audience; indeed, the toy was never made.)
Actually, there is so much attention here to learning about the stuff of “Star Wars,” there was a panel dedicated to the photography that went on the packaging of Kenner’s “Star Wars” line. The subtext being, the stuff that contains the stuff of “Star Wars” also becomes the stuff of childhoods.
And the stuff of landfills and yard sales and milk cartons gathering dust in your parent’s attic. It’s the stuff of right now, and the stuff of back then, and the stuff of the future.
Someday, it will be the stuff of your children’s children’s children. It always be. And if we removed all the stuff of “Star Wars” from Earth tomorrow? Is it true the weight of the stuff of “Star Wars” is holding our continental plates in place? Is it possible that I just made that up? I’ve been at Celebration for days.
I don’t know anymore.
But I do know the stuff of “Star Wars” is the subtle texture of our world. Which may sound hyperbolic, but the next time you leave home, look for the stuff of “Star Wars” in the wild. You will see it everywhere. And if you have trouble? There’s always a pair of “Star Wars” eyeglass frames to help.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS