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Slapped in the face by the generation gap

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 12:20 p.m. CDT

The announcement a few weeks ago that Disney would be producing three new movies to extend the Star Wars franchise beyond George Lucas’ original six films has been a frequent topic of discussion in our newsroom, particularly for staff writers Matthew Shepard and Ty Rushing.

Somehow, last Friday, the topic became a point of discussion once again with Matthew explaining how the Star Wars Holiday Special, which aired during the Christmas season of 1978 was the worst chapter of the franchise’s storied history. That’s really saying something, since he thinks the “prequel” movies were so bad they shouldn’t even be considered Star Wars canon.

But I couldn’t let that one stand, even as bad — even by George Lucas’ standards – as the Holiday Special was. Growing up when Star Wars was the culture, not just a component of it, I knew there were far worse chapters lurking out there to be discovered.

So, I explained to my young padawan the finer details of the Star Wars themed episode — the 1977 season premiere — of Donny & Marie. That’s perhaps overextending the definition of “finer points,” but I digress.

If anything, the late-’70s could be summed up with single word: campy.

Of course, Donny & Marie was the epitome of campy, year in and year out. So, when I speak of the show’s “highlights,” what I’m really referencing is Kris Kristofferson singing his way through as a stand-in for Harrison Ford’s Han Solo character and Red Foxx jiving his way through a stand-in for Sir Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi character.

[ADHD Moment: Can you imagine what it would have been like if Ford had actually taken part in the show and sang? No, I can’t either.]

And dancing stormtroopers, thanks to the antics of the Osmond Brothers. And, Thurl Ravencroft — the long-time voice of Tony the Tiger — standing in for James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader. 

Oh, and there was Paul Lynde. If you were a child of the ’70s, you cannot possibly forget Paul Lynde.

The discussion soon evolved into a greater explanation of how Star Wars, for about 18 months, completely dominated every aspect of American life. And, it eventually led to a secondary discussion about some of my favorite toys from that time frame.

So Monday morning, I came into the office, my arms laden with a few of the more obscure pieces of my Star Wars collection. One is the 1977 Star Wars Electronic Laser Battle Game, which currently goes for upward of $70 on eBay these days.

The other is a remote-controlled R2D2, which goes for $65 right now online. It’s currently not functioning, and I’m trying to figure out how to get it fixed, because I’d love to share some of my own childhood joys with my own children.

Or, it could be like the generational “slap in the face” I got when I tried to share my love for G.I. Joe.

If you’re reading this, thank a teacher. If you’re reading this in English, thank a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.

Editor Bob Eschliman may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 423, or at beschliman@newtondailynews.com via email.

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