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Star Wars Clusterfuck III

April 26th, 2005

Saturday morning, I braved the wilds of Indiana to bring you this report from the Star Wars Celebration III convention. This was the latest, and presumably last, of a series of sanctioned-by-Lucasfilm megafests.

One of my favorite costumes was this stylish R2-D2 minidress.

I felt that I was almost obliged to attend, as it was conveniently located about two hours away in downtown Indianapolis, and because it may be something of a last hurrah for Star Wars fans. While I had gone to several days of Celebration II back in 2002, I had decided that one day was enough for me this time. I was primarily interested in the dealers’ room and the Lucasfilm prop exhibit.

So, I got my ass up at 5:00 am and drove to Indy, assuming that I’d be there in plenty of time for the start of the registration line. And indeed I was, except for one thing:

A sign which said that sales of Saturday tickets were temporarily suspended.

Bounty hunters did the universe a favor by trapping Jar Jar Binks in carbonite.

You see, there might have only been the usual level of insanity that comes from thousands of raging of Star Wars fans descending upon one location, if it weren’t for the announcement only a few weeks before that George Lucas himself would be attending…but only on Saturday. And apparently, there are still plenty of fans who have not been put off by Lord Lucas over the past few years and wanted to see the Bearded One in person.

In short, it was fucking nuts. A special “Lucas Line” had been set up the night before, and I heard that many people stood outside overnight. Keep in mind that despite this being late April, a cold snap had sent temperatures (which had reached highs in the 80s only a few days before) plunging below the freezing point.

A line. I saw lots of these.

When I arrived, it was in the high 30s/low 40s, and raining. And I was being told that because of the crowds, the fire marshal had ordered that ticket sales be suspended. More tickets might be sold after noon (when Lucas would be safely on a plane to Neverland Ranch), so I was advised to come back in a few hours rather than freeze.

I chose to stay. I stood in line next to a really nice, middle-aged couple from Ohio. She was a fan, he wasn’t (he was quite pleasant about it, however), and she was debating bailing on the whole thing, though she admitted that she would’ve probably stuck it out if he hadn’t been there.

It was fortunate that she waited, because the line inexplicably began moving, and–long story short–we managed to get Saturday tickets after all! (I believe that they later found the fire marshal bound and gagged in a closet.) Geek badge proudly displayed, nothing else could faze me at that point. I didn’t even care if I got in; knowing that I could get in was enough.

Han who?

After a relaxing breakfast at Steak and Shake (no was I was gonna wait another 90 minutes in that cold waiting for the exhibit doors to open), I got into the longest line I’ve ever seen. (The second-longest line I’ve ever seen was three years ago at Celebration II.) Things weren’t too bad for me as I had my winter coat, but the women dressed as Padme and the morons who came in shirt sleeves were suffering. At least the Stormtroopers looked warm, as did the Jedi with the guitar serenading the line with his rendition of Weird Al’s “The Saga Begins.”

I managed to get into the building before 11:00 am, feeling proud of the accomplishment, and sorry for the saps who walked up at 10:30 am looking for the ticket line.

One of several nifty custom cars.

Inside was even more crazy than outside, and much warmer. A bit too warm. Suddenly, the folks in costume had gone from the smartest people in the room to the sweatiest. Off came the coat and sweatshirt, and because of the scarcity of lockers, I had to lug them around all day.

Lines were everywhere. If there was something worth seeing, chances were good that there’d be a line stretching all the way to Tatooine. I saw a sign next to the line for the official Celebration III store which said that the wait from that point was seven hours.

Apparently, the Gen Con folks (who also run the Celebrations) learned nothing from last time. Once again there was an exclusive action figure–a Darth Vader with a James Earl Jones voice chip–available only at the official store. And once again, they failed to do something sensible like have a cash-only line for those who wanted to buy only their daily allotment of Vaders. Thanks to this arrangement, I never even saw the official store; I went down at 5:00 pm, thinking that the line would have abated once the Vaders had been sold, only to discover that it had been shut down for the day. There were so many people still inside that they wouldn’t be able to process any more until the store closed two hours later.

That was okay, I really don’t need a Vader which welcomes me to Celebration III. I think that a lot of others must’ve felt the same way, considering how many of the Vaders that were purchased that weekend found their way to the dealer booths. Dealers were offering thirty to forty bucks per figure, and there were lots of takers.

Now, all of this may sound like a perfectly miserable experience, but I actually had a pretty good time, aside from having to lug my crap around all day. Most people were friendly enough, despite the overcrowding. And the ambiance was truly intoxicating for a dyed-in-the-wool Star Wars geek like me.

One of the highlights for me was the six-foot-long Republic Cruiser made out of Lego bricks. Lego had a large booth, and were running a “build a Star Destroyer” tournament, in which teams competed to complete the 3,000+ piece model in the shortest time. Cable channels such as G4 and Game Show Network covered the event, and the winning team paraded their warship around the hall before smashing it to pieces.

Many of the costumes were terrific, and I got the biggest kick out of the teeny kids dressed as Princess Leia. There were tons of Stormtroopers, most of which were providing actual security for the event. (A bit ominous, if you think about it. But all in good fun.) Some of the better/more interesting ones included an Elvis Stormtrooper, a Slave Leia with the body to pull it off, and an awesome General Grievous made out of PVC pipe.

While I did buy some Star Wars paraphenalia, I found myself with money left over at the end. It was hard to see everything in the crowded booths, and many of the prices were absurdly high, even for a convention. Furthermore, there didn’t seem to be as much variety as I expected. Virtually all of the independent dealers brought toys, and nothing but toys. Nothing wrong with that, except that trade paperbacks or other ephemera were hard to find.

I finally bought a Jawa Sandcrawler for my collection, as well as an art print of said Sandcrawler from the DK booth. DK is the company that prints those snazzy books with cut-away drawings of Star Wars vehicles and locations, and I got one signed by two of the artists. They even took the time to doodle a couple of vehicles!

All in all, it was fun, if exhausting.

And yes, I’ve already bought my tickets for Revenge of the Sith!

The end.

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