The dry spell ended with a trip to the Miami Planetarium in February 1980. It was President’s Day weekend, and my mom was out of town. My dad was also off from work so he took the three of us to the Planetarium on a rainy day. The planetarium’s show kind of scared me a little but the cool part was seeing the teaser poster for The Empire Strikes Back in the lobby. It was Darth Vader’s helmet in a starfield, which told you the one thing you needed to know…Vader was going to be back!
Since I didn’t go to the movies much in 1979, I missed the first teaser trailer for The Empire Strikes Back, so this poster really was my first exposure to the movie. I was so excited about it, I wasn’t even worried about the streets flooding as we drove home.
Then there was the May issue of Glamour magazine. My mom had bought it at the store and because I was 10 and suddenly interested in clothes, I read through the mag while we were driving home. What should catch my eye but a beautiful full page ad for Empire, featuring the classic poster art. I saw icicles, a guy riding some odd two-legged creature, Chewie with the droids, X-Wings, Vader looming in the background, and Leia–oh my gosh, the buns were gone!–in a romantic pose with some other guy who was not Luke.
Who was this dude? Like most of humanity, I’d assumed Leia would end up with Luke. That’s how the movies worked. The hero gets the girl. I don’t know what was more shocking, that Leia had replaced her buns with a coronet of braids or that Leia was obviously going to fall in love with some other fella, not Luke. Geez, I even thought at one point that Vader had a thing for Leia and maybe he was going to fight Luke for her hand!
Still, I couldn’t stop looking at the poster art. To this day, it remains my favorite of the Star Wars posters. I’d have cut it out, only I didn’t want to ruin my mom’s mag.
I didn’t figure out who Leia’s mysterious suitor was until the first ad for Empire appeared in the local newspaper about three weeks before it opened. The ad was the same as the one in Glamour, only in black and white. My mom saw the ad and said, “It looks like Leia (she pronounced it “Lee-ah” for a long time) is monkeying around with Han Solo.”
Oh, so THAT’s who it was! Leia with Han? No way! She was always arguing with him and he was like way older than her! This was before I’d learned that the other way the movies worked was thus: if you argue a lot, it means you like each other.
The first time I saw a t.v. ad, with any footage whatsoever from Empire, was during an episode of “Mork & Mindy.” I was amazed but I think what jumped out at me was how everyone was dressed differently. Odd, but true. Luke got a haircut. Leia had not only deep-sixed the hair buns, she seemed to be into braids now. Han got a jacket with sleeves. Darth Vader though looked the same.
One of those syndicated t.v. magazine shows had an Empire special a week or two before the film came out. My little eyes bugged out at the footage of those giant AT-ATs marching across Hoth’s snowy fields and Luke dueling Darth Vader. No WAY! They were gonna fight! Then there was Leia and Han, who were now an item. When can I see this movie already??
I saw the novelization by Donald J. Glut sitting in a book dump at the Waldenbooks located inside Dadeland Mall and I just had to take a few peeks. There was no photo section this time, which was a bummer. Fortunately, I didn’t read anything of importance–luckily not THE big spoiler–and quickly put the book back.
But since this was Miami in 1980, Darth Real Life almost shut down the show. Miami was an odd place to live at that time. Cocaine cowboys had a shootout at Dadeland Mall, where my family and I went all of the time, some months beforehand and while money was literally changing Miami’s skyline overnight, the streets got a lot more dangerous as rival gangs fought for control of the drug trade. Scores of refugees turned up on local beaches from Cuba and Haiti; so many came they were temporarily housed in tent cities and even in the Orange Bowl. Then came the Liberty City riots a couple of weeks before Empire opened.
What precipitated the riots was an acquittal of police officers in the death of a black motorcyclist. Thugs took to the streets in Miami’s Liberty City neighborhood and began looting, burning, and beating anyone who crossed them. Local authorities told everyone to stay home since riots initially spread to other neighborhoods. The public school district shut down for five days, keeping me and my brother at home.
When things settled down again, we could look forward again to the long-awaited sequel to the greatest movie ever.