Though entirely speculative, sometime in early 1978 a high-riding George Lucas parked his BWM at a 7-11 somewhere in the San Fernando Valley during a break in early pre-production of The Empire Strikes Back.
While walking out of the store, a magenta van with black-tinted windows pulled up fast and halted. Two men then bolted out and wrapped Lucas’ head in a plastic Albertson’s bag, clubbed him with a foot-long rubber sap, then shoved him inside and sped off. The only witness was the bored clerk inside who never bothered to call the police. After all, this was The Valley.
Six hours later the van re-appeared and calmly deposited a nonplussed Lucas and rumbled away.
Nine months later, in November, CBS crop-dusted eager primetime television viewers with the backwater midi-chlorian shit-mist that was the Star Wars Holiday Special, a program so bad author David Hofstede listed it as the Number One worst idea in television history in his 2004 work What Were They Thinking: The 100 Dumbest Events in Television History, calling it “the worst two hours of television ever.”
The plot was basic. Han Solo, at the helm of the Millennium Falcon, rushes Chewbacca home in time for Life Day, the Wookie equivalent of Festivus, all the while hunted by evil troops of the Galactic Empire.
On Chewie’s home world his wife Malla, his son Lumpy, and his father Itchy all struggle to dupe the local Imperial troopers to keep the coast clear for Han and Chewie’s impending arrival.
The bulk of the main cast came right from the ’77 film—Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, and James Earl Jones were all in attendance. A few cameo newcomers also made appearances, namely Bea Arthur, whose character Ackmena runs the Mos Eisley Cantina. The band Jefferson Starship also made an appearance, plastering the Chewbacca family with one of its pre- “We Built This City” hits.
It’s believed that the two kidnappers were one Gary Smith and Dwight Hermion, who also became executive producers of the special. The pair were television producers known for concocting such programming as Chevrolet Presents Burt Bacharach and the 1976 hit The Bell Telephone Jubilee starring Bing Crosby and Liza Minnelli.
There was also believed to be a woman in the van. A source speaking on deep background suggests the third kidnapper was in fact Mitzi Welch, a composer for The Carol Burnett Show. Welch was bumped up to producer as well as credited writer of the holiday special, working alongside fellow The Carol Burnett Show alumni Pat Proft, who would go on to pen Police Academy, Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad, Hot Shots, and even some of the Scary Movie franchise.
Lucas, who was an uncredited writer but rumored to have supplied the basic plot for the show, turned his back on this window-licking lovechild almost immediately. At one point he reportedly stated, “If I had the time and a hammer, I would track down every copy of that program and smash it.”
At no point has there ever been an official release of the special aside from its first run… instead it has survived solely as bootlegs cut from tape recorded copies. He has stated at no point will he release the special in any form; that it will remain in the Lucasfilm vaults indefinitely. Carrie Fisher stated in an interview she asked Lucas for a copy in order to scare off late-hangers whenever she hosted parties.
No one knows where they went, or what may have happened while Lucas was in the van, but one can certainly speculate as to the reasons behind his reluctance to accept one of his own Star Wars flock. Maybe it’s a reminder of the experience, of being kidnapped and forced into a television contract, broken down by the siren of The Carol Burnett Show and the soothsayers of Burt Bacharach and Alexander Graham Bell, and locked into Stockholm Syndrome in the back of a 70’s GMC conversion van.
But maybe Lucas wasn’t forced at all. It is rumored Lucas supplied the plot for the special. Maybe the show reminds him of the shame at his willingness to commit. Maybe it reminds of the shame of his retched handiwork… despite the fact the special came with at least some merit—it officially introduced crack bounty hunter Boba Fett to the Star Wars universe for the first time.
Whatever the reason, Lucas refuses to own what is fundamentally his. According to someone who identified himself as nightshift clerk, George Lucas supposedly walked back into the 7-11 after being dropped off. Lucas purchased a bottle of RC Cola and a hotdog, and when he paid the clerk said he peeled bills from a large stack pulled from inside a monogrammed leather hygiene bag.
As he took his change, Lucas looked at the clerk and said, “Whatever happens this fall, remember… Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul.” The clerk couldn’t be sure, be he thought Lucas limped a little as he walked away.