Welcome Fantha Trackers to our third and final instalment from Kurt Vonn Gutzman’s wonderful book ‘Collect Them All! Confessions of a Recovering Action Figure Thief’.
Fantha Tracks would like to thank Kurt for generously allowing us to share his book with our readers.
This final chapter charts the authors continued challenges from childhood and beyond with his one constant companion, Star Wars.
Please enjoy this final chapter and remember, you can support the author and enable future projects by purchasing his book in either paperback or kindle formats from Amazon.
One last time, Punch it Chewie!
May of 1983, the grand finale of the Star Wars Saga, “Return of the Jedi” had the world abuzz with excitement for what promised to be a spectacular conclusion to the fantastic “space opera” we had come to know, love & live. Jay and I were allowed to go to school late in order to watch the “Return of the Jedi” segments on Good Morning America or Today or whatever. The media knew the drill: a Star Wars movie was coming out, time to blow up American tv’s with clips, guests and hype. What a magical time to be alive!
We didn’t get to see Jedi right away, either. I don’t recall when we did, but it was likely during Jedi’s extended run which lasted from May through at least August. We did get the Marvel comics adaptation which spelled everything out, plus, as always, there was all the stuff you’d see in the magazines or clips on tv.
One funny thing about the ROTJ comic, there’s a typo when Leia is exposed as Han’s rescuer and Jabba tells his guards, “Bring her me!”.
And of course, the toy commercials began…and we hungered. At ages 13 and 14. For toys. Or as Jay likes to call them, “Fine Collectables”. That’s what he calls his Transformers too.
Before I had my chance to see the movie, I went to Aunt Florence’s for the summer again, this time without Jay for some reason? She was hospitable as always, providing the nice meals at restaurants, buying me nice school clothes, taking me to the nice church and most importantly, she bought me some freakin nice Star Wars figures for my self-centered, greedy 13-year old ass. Refused to take me to see Jedi, though. That was “the line”, I guess. She probably had some religious reason for it.
Oh, my Stars. So many figures. Bib Fortuna, Ree-Yees, Klaatu, Emperor’s Royal Guard, Squid Head, General Madine, Biker Scout, Rebel Commando. Chief Chirpa and Logray the Ewok Medicine Man too? I think she got me a Speeder Bike as well.
I recall practically attacking the Target associate as they opened a fresh box of new Jedi figures. Scored Gamorean Guard, whose figure is one of those that didn’t turn out so well. I liked these guys in the movie but the figure looked like crap. The Helmet’s forehead armor point wasn’t pronounced and his eyes weren’t deep-set enough. It’s like they gave up on it or something.
Interesting marketing thing took place during this time. On the back of the figure card would be a photo showing all the available figures and sometimes a couple of playsets or accessories. For Return of the Jedi, the Ewoks were blacked out as to not give away what they looked like. The same thing appeared in Kenner SW catalogs that would come with the purchase of a toy that came in a box. Jabba the Hutt was also kept secret. Very clever way to titillate the consumer. Check and mate, kids. I have you now.
It’s been said that by the time Return of the Jedi was made, George Lucas was motivated to create a film designed to spawn more toys. To that end, I submit to you; the first wave Jedi figure roster contained almost as many characters as the first movie’s entire 2-wave, 20-figure line-up.
Speaking of the ancillary toys of Star Wars, Jay reminded me that it was around this time that I stole a Mini-Rig vehicle known as an AST-5, a weird little orange 1-man fighter used by Jabba the Hutt’s men to patrol the palace grounds I guess. Jay says I grabbed it and stuffed it in my jacket. I really don’t remember doing this. Sounds about right, though.
I came back home to Aberdeen from Aunt Florence’s to find Jay had a growth spurt and was like 3 inches taller. I ran upstairs and put out a display of all the figures and the Speeder Bike to present in grand fashion to Jay. He says that was one of his great Star Wars figure collecting moments. The sudden addition of 11 figures and a vehicle.
Another little funny memory was Dad getting mad about something and threatening to melt down our new “11 Little Jedis” into an ashtray. Jay and I envisioned the swirling, multi-colored plastic ashtray featuring the un-melted head of Squid-Head mounted prominently upon the ashtray’s “bow”. To us, Squid Head would always be “The 11th Little Jedi.”
A messed-up thing happened while I was gone thanks to our parents’ gross swingin activities. This loser “Jack”, ultra-tan, 50’s, gold chain, bleach-blonde hair, was over one night and sauntered into Jay’s room after a hard evening of swingin & drinkin, thinkin he was gonna molest my brother before he called it a day. Jay was now a tall 14 year old who wasn’t about to take any crap from some spaz like Jack. “Sorry, wrong sex!” Jay growled as he went to my room to crash, closing the door behind him. Jay told Dad and Bobbie about it the next day and Jack was never seen again. I think there was less swingin’ altogether after that. Photo album was full. Grotesque.
One funny thing arose from the earlier days of Jack, strange to say. The family was sitting around the dining room table and Dad asked Bobbie, “I look younger than Jack, don’t I?” and Jay quickly interrupted, “I think you look like a big baby.” Shock and awe around the table. And stifled laughter on my part. “Matter of fact,” Jay continued, “if you were in the Army, you’d be in INFANT-ry! Ha ha ha ha!”
Although Jay got some harsh stares and was likely sent to his room, there were no two ways about it: our Dad did kinda look like a big baby with thick-framed glasses.
On with the countdown! I remember we got Lando Calrissian Skiff Guard Disguise (line from the commercial: “Surprise, surprise! It’s Lando in disguise!”) from a Ben Franklin store in the mall. With his removable helmet, Lando was a stunningly-sculpted figure. Funds came from cutting grass, I think. Or working for this potato farmer who let us drive his car to the job while he slept. I pretended I was a 13-year old TIE Fighter Pilot.
After a 2-3 day ordeal of working for this dummy, we get paid like $12.00 each. Then Dad borrows the money right away saying he needs it for “something important”. Canadian LTD. Dad’s drug of choice. He paid us back shortly thereafter, we got Lando and candy.
I think WeeQuay came from Ben Franklin’s as well. As did Luke in his Jedi Outfit (green saber). Another “leaning” figure. Oh yeah, Princess Leia’s Boushh Disguise too. Let’s just say we also got R2-D2 with Sensorscope there as well just to get him out of the way. We might’ve got him years prior, actually. He would’ve been a prime target for being stolen as he didn’t have a separate accessory. His accessory was inside of him. That sounds gross.
We managed to buy a messed-up X-Wing from the local Salvation Army for like $3.00. It was missing the cockpit window and maybe a wing? Jay had the brilliant idea to send it back to Kenner and kindly ask for a new one. Well, it worked. They sent us a brand new Battle Damaged X-Wing, which was the newest model X-Wing out there. I guess I should’ve felt guilty, but I was actually more proud of Jay for pulling it off. Ah! So the seeds of evil blossom once more!
Odd aside; we also procured the “seat” half of “Mork From Ork’s” Egg Ship at that Salvation Army. We used it for a little ship or escape pod for a while. At one point, it had a balloon attached to it and was piloted by a little plastic Garfield the Cat figure. We had a couple of weird figures we’d use like that.
Yet another free mail-in figure offer popped up, this time for Nein Numb. The guy who piloted the Falcon with Lando for the attack on the Death Star 2. We mailed off our Proofs of Purchase without delay.
Jay and I went through our youth without a lot of friends. We’d only had a couple of sleep-overs with disastrous results. Once Jay and I began attending the Jr. High across the street, I made friends with a couple of kids but made the mistake of showing them the infamous photo album our parents kept hid in their bedroom closet. These two kids pretty much betrayed me and told everyone that my stepmom was a whore. I think that was the end of having friends over. I mean, aside from that whole ordeal, Bobbie’s shitty personality was pretty embarrassing to subject our friends to. We tended to go to our friends’ houses instead. Path of least resistance.
For a time, our parents hung around with the Audiss’s. I probably spelled that wrong. They were a young couple, Ron and Debbie I think, maybe in their early 30’s with a newborn baby and a 3-4 year old little boy named Ricky. We called him “Ricky Reah” because of his speech impediment. When he said “Yeah,” it sounded like, “Reah.” We didn’t call him Ricky Reah to his face. We weren’t monsters. We were thieves.
I hope Dad and Bobbie weren’t “swingin” with Ron and Deb. They were weird. Plus gross.
Little Ricky came to our house once and retardedly turned the side turret on the Scout Walker rapidly back and forth, seemingly mesmerized by the clicking sounds it made. Jay promptly took action to…correct the child.
“Reah!” Ricky yelped with innocent glee!
“No!” Jay snarled, “Never!” as he snatched the toy from the child’s grubby grasp! Ricky, mouth agape, then peed his pants.
I’m kidding. He just cried the cry of a mildly retarded little boy. That’s all.
Ron and Debbie had us over for dinner one time and served Goulash. Debbie perks up and says, “Guess what kind of meat it is!” Jay and I sat in stark horror, clueless as to what kind of dreadful backwoods creature we were eating. The world’s most horrid guessing game had begun. Music from “The Omen” started playing. The final, long-sought-after answer came: Deer. Venison. It might’ve been yummy if my appetite had not been ruined by the hillbilly guessing game. But now, I feel ill. I mean as I write this. Back then too, though. Yuck, Debbie. You’re a bad hostess.
One time when I babysat Ricky at his house, we went down the block to this 8-year old kid’s house to play. We were up in his room when I saw he had the Turret and Probot Playset and sure enough, lying on the floor next to it was the delightful Probe Droid. I always wanted it but never wanted to get the playset. We made our own playsets, thank you, good day. This child has no idea how close he was to losing his Probe Droid that day to a seasoned Star Wars figure thief. I hope he cherished that thing. I hope he’s reading this now and knowing that I’m glaring at him from the other side of the page. Give me that Probe Droid, kid.
In late 1983 I think, we moved back to Watertown, South Dakota and lived in the country, despite no longer having the horses. Maybe renting was cheaper in the country? At first, Jay and I were expected to sleep in this freezing upstairs bedroom that had no heat. We shivered under blankets as the mist of our breath drifted up from our covered forms. Sorry, folks: that there was neglectful treatment of children. Call 911.
Christmas came in the form of checks from Aunt Florence. We pooled our money and bought the Jabba the Hutt Playset, which was Jabba, his throne, water bong and his little buddy Salacious Crumb. Oh yeah, and there was at least one “leash” attached to his throne with a collar you could snap onto a figures neck. That’s something kids should play with, right? Slave collars? A hookah? Let’s not even discuss the Mos Eisley Cantina Playset. “Here, kids. Play with a Bar.” Jabba was cool, though.
Bobbie remarked how selfish we were to buy Jabba for ourselves and nothing for them for Christmas. Such terrible stepchildren.
I think this was also the time we got Nikto. I’m not sure where. Maybe Shopko. Nikto, Shopko.
A very weird thing happened while we resided in the “cold room”. There was an old Super 8 projector which had been used a couple times over the years to screen old home movies of when Jay and I were toddlers and Mom was still alive. After watching a couple of those, we found a couple black and white films. To our horror, we found ourselves watching a 1960’s softcore fake snuff film. Then one where a topless girl makes out with like 2 guys and some heavy petting goes on. The freak-out triple feature was capped off by a softcore bestiality flick. It was more like “Naked Lady Meets Dog and Becomes Friends with Him.” Not that I wanted to see some hardcore doggy-on-woman action or anything but it was weird that there was a softcore version of these types of things.
In other news, “C3-PO’s” breakfast cereal, a thing that actually existed at this point in time, was delicious. The milk ended up with a delightful hint of orange crème. They always cancel my favorite cereals. C3-PO’s, Waffle-O’s, Hawaii 5-O’s…
We got to move into a heated room after a while, thank God. I would often build a little version of Jabba’s Palace out of encyclopedias and these thick cardboard tubes for the columns. The whole Jabba segment was always one of my favorite parts of the trilogy. It was dark and dangerous, in a way that was different from other Star Wars environments. Plus, thanks to having the Slave I, I had Han Solo in carbonite to display in the Palace. Put the Jedi-era aliens in there, then add old school Greedo, Hammerhead, the Bounty Hunters, Jawas…it gets nice and crowded real fast.
We once went outside in the snow and did photo shoots with the Scout Walker and Snow Troopers. One shot of the Scout Walker at ground level with the sun behind it looked like a photo of a real, full-size AT-ST on Hoth.
We made friends with a boy down the road named Brian Killion, with whom we schemed to film our own re-creation of Return of the Jedi using an old Super 8 camera, our barn and a proposed Paper Mache Jabba the Hutt. Needless to say, it never got past pre-production talks.
Summer of 1984 brought another move, just farther out of town to another old farm house. South Shore. Things would be different this time, however, as Bobbie was now a live-in LPN for a lady in a wheelchair. It was just Dad, Jay and I now. Hallelujah!
Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” hit #1 that summer.
We didn’t live at the new place long, though. The old house had a huge wood-burning stove in the middle of the living room. Dad bought coal for it and filled the house with carbon monoxide gas or something.
We found a mobile home by Lake Kampeska to move into soon after. The landlord was a little person who rode a bitchin Harley trike and was a martial arts instructor. His wife was normal sized and his little baby was a little person too. Its head was huge.
This move was about to open a dark new chapter in the “Stolen Star Wars Figures and Accessories” saga. The horrors of the “Single Parent Home” combined with the dreaded “Latch-Key Kid” funky-fresh style of livin made for a recipe for disaster.
Jay started driving around this time as well. With the help of his car, 2 push lawnmowers and an ad in the local free flyer, we had a few repeat clients around the lake. We’d probably clear about $60.00 a month between the two of us. It was a good teenage experience.
I was stealing Ewoks from K-Mart. I would pretend I was shuffling through a row of hanging figures to see which ones lay further back but in reality I was opening a package and working the figure and hopefully his weapon into the 3” wide elasticized sleeve cuffs of my winter coat. Coveted backer cards be damned. Ewoks were a ripoff and I’d like to be all cocky and say that stealing them was a form of protest against the Lucasfilm & Kenner empires. In reality, they were just easier to steal.
I think we bought Wicket W. Warrick at some point, but I definitely stole Paploo, Teebo, Lumat, Romba and Warok for sure.
While I don’t know the details of the story, Jay was 15 when he got busted trying to swipe an 8D8 (one of the droids working in Jabba’s Droid Dungeon) figure from, you guessed it, Osco Drug. Maybe it was Shopko but that’s less ironic. From what I understand, this was another tick on his juvie record. He was done with stealing after that.
We got 8D8 later, but I don’t recall if it was by legitimate means. I have the sneaking suspicion I nicked it later. No accessories to worry about.
Prior to the premiere of the newest, and last, wave of Jedi figures came the mail-in offer for the free Emperor Palpatine figure. We were all over it. That dude was one seriously thick piece of plastic with his molded robe. He was like a fat, gray Gumby.
But anyways, the last wave of 17 Jedi figures and their corresponding coins had come out in May and were met with lukewarm enthusiasm. There was a sudden decline in demand for some reason and stores started discounting the Kenner Star Wars line. There were strange “two-packs” of unrelated figures. Bargain bins. We were swooping in like vultures to pick at a carcass.
In 1985, a magical escape scooped Jay and I up for a summertime visit our Aunt and Uncle in St. Louis, Missouri for a couple of weeks. We hadn’t seen them since Mom’s funeral. Well, no, once we saw them in Des Moines. Mom’s side of the family pretty much cut off contact with us after Mom died. They’re all rich goody-goodies, but when it comes down to it, that’s shitty to write us off like that. They could have bought us so many Star Wars figures over the years. Tsk. A waste.
Uncle Cecil and Aunt Dot were really cool to us and showed us a good time. We went up in the St. Louis Arch, went to see the Budweiser Clydesdales and saw The Goonies & Rambo 2 in the theater. And oh yeah, they took us to a frozen yogurt stand. I didn’t like it but played along like I did.
At the Mall, Jay and I eyed Kay Bee Toy’s wounded Star Wars section hungrily, our Velcro wallets bursting with hard-earned lawn-mowing cash.
Uncle Cecil saw our enthusiasm and remarked, “Looks like you guys are gettin’ ready to blow your wads!” Jay and I looked at each other trying so hard not to laugh. “I mean spend all your cash,” he clarified.
Why yes, Uncle. We are about to, how you say, “Blow our wads.”
Observe, old man.
2 more Biker Scouts, the Rancor Keeper and a duplicate Gamorrean Guard, the Mutha-Truckin Millennium Falcon, 2 Speeder Bikes, TIE Interceptor and Jay also grabbed the Transformer’s Autobot Fire Engine “Inferno”.
We had to have the Falcon shipped to us as we didn’t have enough room to bring it with our luggage. So SCORE.
Dad and Bobbie asked our Aunt & Uncle to “Help the guys out with getting some school clothes, ‘kay?” If they intended for Cecil & Dot to pony up the cash, that didn’t happen. Jay and I weren’t about to spend a penny on clothes, either. No, we were perfectly happy wearing last year’s clothes. Thanks. We needed to handle that clearance sale.
Upon our return home, Bobbie got all bitchy about something as we walked to the car in the airport parking lot when suddenly a low-hanging branch snatched the wig right off her head! Huh. God is real.
The Falcon finally came in the mail a few days later. The huge ship was always the crowning vessel of the Star Wars fleet and after yearning for it for years, it was finally ours. When I was home alone, even being 15 years old, I flew the behemoth craft up and down the length of the mobile home. It was a tight fit going down the hallway. Beautiful.
Also around this time we had Lando Calrissian in his General outfit, B-Wing Pilot, Han Solo in Trenchcoat, Princess Leia in Combat Poncho and Luke in Battle Poncho. Two of these figures were stolen but I’m not going to tell you which. Some things need to remain secret.
Returning to normal life back at home, I continued my journey to the Dark Side. I constantly stole money from Dad’s wallet as he snored in drunken slumber. Stealing from the very man who made sure he got me the right Star Wars figures from 1978-1983. The guy who got me Han Solo Hoth Battle Gear when we had no money. I was an awful child.
“Henceforth, you shall be known as Darth Hideous.”
Sigh. I purchased several Marvel “Secret Wars” figures and 3 Duran Duran Albums, some fingerless, studded leather gloves, but one item in particular rose above all else as the ultimate trophy of my sinister calling:
The Imperial Shuttle. $30.00. The largest ship in the Star Wars fleet. So important, I made an icon for it. Huge wings, tall dorsal fin. Sticks out like a sore thumb. I don’t know how the Rebels ever got away with stealing one. I really, really don’t.
To acquire the ship, I had to forge a note from my Dad to excuse me early from class for a Dentist appointment. I then walked from Jr. High to K-Mart in the mall, under threat of being caught “truant”, bought the Imperial Shuttle, walked from the mall with this 3’ x 3’ square box (wrapped in plain brown paper) a mile or so to my friend Ira’s house. Dad picked us up at Ira’s on his way home from work. The box? Oh, the box just had…some old clothes Ira was getting rid of. That’s all.
I hid the giant vessel in our little bedroom closet, with Jay’s help making sure it stayed out of sight. Once I started spending money on Parachute Pants, Boom Boxes, the gig was totally up. Dad found a little cassette player and I told him I traded our Scout Walker for it to some made-up kid. He demanded to know the kid’s name in order to call the school and get the toy back. He went to look for the Scout Walker to see if I was lying. Found the magnificent Imperial Shuttle in the closet.
It’s a good thing he didn’t look in there over the summer when a friend loaned us a drum set. I was the drummer for our garage band but I had no drums. We were called “Mr.E.” “Mystery”. Get it? I supplied an electric guitar which I couldn’t play but acquired in a trade of a purple punk wig and those leather gloves I told you about.
Anyway, I was so busted by Dad. Along with poor grades, drinking, running off with friends and being a rowdy teenager, my thieving behavior resulted in me having to go live with Aunt Florence in St. Paul. Or be given up for adoption at 14. That’s what Dad said he was going to do.
Star Wars figure collecting was now the furthest thing from my mind. I also had to leave behind my first girlfriend, Kathy. I left Watertown in October of 1985.
My stealing became worse when I lived in the big city. I stole jeans, jean jackets and hi-top sneakers. I was in High School now as opposed to being in Jr. High back in SD. I had to tighten up my style. But yeah, I was now a full-fledged criminal in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Fell in with the “wrong crowd”, I know that’s a cop-out but when you’re a shy kid, you take what you can get. Then again, all things considered, maybe I’m the “wrong crowd” all by my damn self. I started stealing from Aunt Florence’s giant change jar. Then I moved up to stealing cash from the little lock box in her dresser. At this point, I wasn’t buying Star Wars stuff. I was buying weed. If I drank coffee back then, my cup would’ve said, “World’s Worst Nephew”.
I must not have been too heartbroken about losing my girlfriend as I managed to lose my virginity at a party the night before Thanksgiving, November 1985. To Mike Rodriguez’s cousin Dimaya. I passed out on top of her. We bought a joint from a guy on the street using $3.00 in quarters I stole from Aunt Florence. Gay Native American guy from Poltergeist 2 hit on me.
I also bought a 2nd Generation Transformer: Decepticon Ramjet. The one odd toy among my teenage things in my knotty-pine finished attic bedroom. From which I once escaped in the middle of the night thanks to a well-placed ladder outside the window. Snuck off the weed dealer’s house. Hung out there till dawn waiting for his guy to show up. He never came, so then I walked home and climbed back up the ladder. Ended up pretending to go to school on the bus the next morning but instead ditched and went back to the dealer’s awaiting my purchase. Dreadful! That man had a gun and received trash bags full of weed. This place was a wretched hive of scum and villainy…and I was right in the middle of it.
I was Han.
In 1986 Jay and I we re-united in Owatonna, Minnesota where Dad’s newest job was. He and Bobbie moved there early in the year, I came in April and finished up my freshman year in Owatonna High after Aunt Florence kicked me out for stealing. With Algebra Summer School on the near horizon. Jay came in June when he finished Jr. year in Watertown. Bobbie was back at home after Jay and I had enjoyed the last couple of years living without her. Dad worked, she didn’t now. Not at first.
To keep my skills sharp, I shoplifted a cassette tape of Prince & The Revolution’s “Parade: Music from the Motion Picture ‘Under the Cherry Moon’” from a tiny music store shortly after I got to town. The store was in the next town, actually. Dad took me along on a Saturday morning job he had to do at a bank. Since he didn’t want me anywhere near a bank, he set me loose on the city. The poor, unwitting city of Waseca.
Owatonna was what Jay and I consider our “home town” as our decent final High School years and the friends & experiences were all there. I fell in with a bad crowd, again. I bet if we lived in the country, I wouldn’t have gotten in trouble.
It’s the city’s fault.
It was time once more to steal. Prune Face, Klaatu in Skiff Guard Outfit and Imperial Gunner. All from Woolworth’s department store downtown. Either it was small-town naïveté, poor layout or understaffing, the toy section was a wonderland of un-monitored shoplifting goodness. I wish we’d moved there sooner.
I was 16, had a distant, alcoholic Dad and a bitch for a Stepmother, I wasn’t popular at school, blah, blah, blah. I’d been shoplifting for most of my life by this point. I don’t need any excuses. I was doing what came naturally.
For a time, I fancied myself a vampire, a la The Lost Boys, my favorite vampire film of all time. I…I had detention sometimes. I was a quiet outcast back then too. Wore a black trenchcoat, smoked by the watertower, drew a Satanic Goat’s Head & Pentagram for an art assignment, rigged a fire alarm to go off when a door was opened, smoked pot in the abandoned gym’s locker room and a couple other things I can’t mention. (No one was hurt)
Jay fit in a little better than I did. He worked on the school newspaper and yearbook, said “Hi” to popular kids, got on well with our classmates in Art Class. I was kinda just the grim spectre of doom gliding silently through the halls. Silent except for when I’d sharpen my long Vampire claws along the wall as I skulked into the shadows. Jay was the friendly New-Wave kid who sometimes put red Kool-Aid in his hair to look punky. Always smiling, that Jay! Kurt is “Jay’s Little Brother”.
Jay worked at McDonalds and we would go for road trips to Faribault, Mankato, Rochester and Albert Lea to collect his new passion: Transformers. They were awesome toys, with a vibrant, exciting cartoon to back them up. We even saw the animated movie in the theater. I still recall examining quite a few of them, dazzled by their detail.
I stole Astrotrain from a little kid and Hot Rod from a garage sale for Jay. I think I bought a Scourge at a garage sale too. Or I stole it.
I was working as a dishwasher and bus boy at a local supper club. Stole beer from there. Probably tips too. A can of Real Bacon Bits. God those 30-40 year old waitresses were delightful in those tight outfits. One of Jay’s classmate’s Moms was a waitress there. She knew everyone was staring at her and she loved it.
Jay and I spent a little money on a couple of decent electronic keyboards. We couldn’t play but we were interested in trying. We also bought our own clothes. We were tired of sporting the latest Salvation Army gear bought by Dad and Bobbie; buying our own new stuff was a refreshing change.
Now that we were working, they tried to charge us rent and make us pay for laundry. We started going to the Laundromat. One time, we discovered a gumball vending machine wasn’t closed properly and we emptied all the gumballs and change into our laundry bag.
The shame! Oh Darth Hideous, will you ever learn?
The Star Wars collection now sat in the attic, collecting dust as we two brothers carried on with our teenage lives of school, crushes on girls, work, masturbation and drama. There wasn’t a fourth movie on the horizon. It was over. A phenomenon that spanned years of our lives was finished. That final set of 17 figures was the whimper. It was the end.
So it wasn’t just us, damn it! It’s not just that we grew up, it’s that the movies stopped. So like if another one came out in 1986, it might have changed my entire life direction and saved the product line. Y’know?
Now it’s Star Wars’ fault.
The final two figures I stole were a pair of At-ST Drivers from good ‘ol Woolworth’s in 1986.
It was the end of collecting Kenner’s Star Wars Action Figures.
The following are “the ones that got away”:
Artoo-D2 with Pop-Up Lightsaber, Eve- 9D9, Han Solo in Carbonite Chamber, Imperial Dignitary, Old Anakin Skywalker in Jedi Robes (which was the 3rd free mail-in offer item we passed on), Luke Skywalker Imperial Stormtrooper Outfit (wanted that but it looked terrible), A-Wing Pilot and a trio who would’ve made my Jabba’s palace feel more complete: Barada, Amanaman and Yak Face.
I would have loved to have Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band with Droopy McCool to complete Jabba’s Palace as well. They were part of a set, not regular “carded” figures, so I was reluctant to include them.
I read somewhere that Yak Face wasn’t even available in America until he arrived in bargain bin discounted returned foreign merchandise. Carded with a triplicate Star Wars logo in 3 languages.
After 8 years of working to complete the collection, it then began to slowly disintegrate. In 1987 or 88, I traded the Millennium Falcon to my friend Mike Wilson for a case of beer. Gave him the Imperial Gunner, Boushh and maybe even the TIE Fighter Pilot too, for other favors like cheeseburgers and horror movie rentals.
While Mike no longer has these items, he has built vast armies of Clone Troopers. Really impressive. Dozens upon dozens of them, all lined up on his shelves. Mike may well still be a virgin.
Jay eventually gave the rest of our collection to a friend of his in the early 1990’s. Alan. That was a bummer to hear about. Never liked Alan. He needed a good punch, not a free, almost-complete Star Wars figure collection. He said “basically” a lot. We called him “Alan Basically”. I want to knock Jay and Alan’s heads together and steal back the collection while they watch the little stars and birdies circle their heads.
And so, the beloved collection falls away, now just a distant memory of childhood fading in the sands of time. Long lost relics from days gone by.
Dad and Bobbie moved back to Iowa, drifted apart, separated in 1993 and divorced in 2005. Dad passed on in 2008. We don’t know what’s going on with Bobbie now and we’re actually just fine with that.
She probably doesn’t mind either, to be honest. I didn’t talk to her from 1993 until Christmas 2005 when Dad got us all together in Minnesota to divvy up some cash he inherited from his cousin’s passing. Bobbie was served with the divorce papers shortly afterwards.
The Sith-tastic Adventures of Darth Hideous continued, unfortunately, outside the realm of stealing Star Wars figures. I stole, wow, quite a bit now that I think about it. I finally got in trouble when I was 18, serious trouble, but still ended up stealing again and again. I eventually quit stealing in my early twenties. No good reason, really. Maybe I finally figured out it was wrong. Maybe there was just a delay in getting scared straight. Maybe I stopped working at places with cool stuff to steal.
Since the end of the vintage Kenner line, the re-emergence and growth of Star Wars figures has been immense. From “Power of the Force” to “Clone Wars”, there is practically a figure of everybody in the entire saga except maybe the actual crew that shot the movies. Seriously. Characters who were on the screen for like 3-4 seconds get a figure. There are 2 Imperial officer figures with their hands on their throats getting “Sith Choked”. There’s figures based on rejected concept art, not to mention a couple of artists themselves. Lucas and his 3 kids who made miniscule appearances in the prequels have figures as well; in a nice family 4-pack.
In a way, it’s cool but in another, it seems greedy. I’ll choose to believe it’s cool starting now. Join me.
The other day, I saw a Clone Pilot figure at Walgreens. Smaller than the 3.75” figures of my day. It was like at least $12.00! That’s just criminal! Why aren’t all the different figure lines the same scale now? Answer me that! What the hell is going on?!? All figures ever made for Star Wars should be the same scale, period. Aside from those deluxe 12” ones they do sometimes. Turn that music down and get off my lawn!
The figures are a lot more detailed and well-painted these days, though. I’ll grant them that. I guess quality comes at a price. I hope some kid has mastered how to steal these expensive bastards! Today’s mega-packaging ain’t nuthin’ to frak wit, either, son.
Today, the Gutzman Brothers are “grown-ups”; unmarried, semi-unemployed, chubby, bus-ridin, balding, law-abiding guys. Jay just got work doing voice-overs and animation in Minneapolis. A dream job. I’m barely-employed in Tampa, Florida after my 8-year customer service gig ended in a buy-out in 2009. After 3 years, I’m still struggling to bounce back.
Jay continues collecting Transformers and the re-born Star Wars lines and other sub-sets that now fill the toy aisles of Wal-Mart and Toys R Us. Over the years, I bought a Power of the Force Stormtrooper and a General Grievous figure when “Episode III Revenge of the Sith” came out in 2005. Jay also sent me a Power of the Force “Jabba’s Dancers”, featuring the 3 alien ladies from the re-vamped musical number in the 1997 re-release. Due to tough times, I have it up on-line for sale.
Once in Elk Point as we concluded our playtime agreeing, “That was almost as good as the movie!” That, to me, is one of the biggest validations for ever becoming Star Wars figure collectors and fans; it was what we got out of it being creative kids. It helped bond us as brothers and as friends, sharing a common interest in an exciting realm of imagination. The figures truly were wonderful story-telling tools as well as toys. “Fine collectables” indeed.
So, yes, my friends, as the 35th anniversary of the release of the almighty Star Wars passes, we are reminded of those thrilling times awash in all the electrifying chaos of each movie’s explosive release…and the impending chase for our precious quarry to follow: the unleashing of the newest wave of precious Star Wars action figures.
If you still have your figures, keep them my friend. Cherish them. For if you get rid of your collection, you will miss them all, I promise you. They don’t take up that much space, do they? Do you know what I’d give to be holding Luke Skywalker Hoth Battle Gear right now?
Or AT-AT Driver? Figga, please.
May the Force Be With You Always, fellow Star Wars fans, collectors and especially thieves alike. May the sins of our past be forgiven as we continue to pour our precious dollars into the merchandising masterpiece, the groundbreaking franchise that honed our Sith inclination to steal; the almighty Star Wars Saga and the marvelous folks at Kenner.
If I were ever in the position to do so, I would certainly re-collect them all. I promise you I won’t steal any this time. In fact, I’ll probably truly end up paying my penance for stealing all those figures by paying collector prices plus shipping. Ironic, really. Time and money will ultimately restore balance to the Force. Redemption via PayPal. Although Kenner and George Lucas won’t see any of the money this time, I will definitely be made to pay dearly. Now I get to show up as a glowing blue Jedi ghost at my own funeral. And then be digitally replaced by Hayden Christensen.
Story and Art by Kurt Vonn Gutzman © 2012
Any resemblance to characters in Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Saga or Kenner’s toys is purely coincidental and/or protected under fair use as a “satire” or whatever. Then the Lucasfilm LTD. Lawyer says, “Well, yeah but that defense only works if its funny.” Then I start crying because the Lawyer hurt my feelings.
Copyright © 2012 Kurt Vonn Gutzman
All rights reserved.