In 1994, Mark Hamill was starting to appear as a special guest at sci-fi conventions. One of his very first stops was in Anaheim, CA. Eureka! At the time I was living in the San Fernando Valley which was just a 45-minute drive. I never thought the day would come where I would get to meet Mark Hamill. But now, that day was here.
I got to the con bright and early and sat in the hall where Mark was going to do a panel later that day. I sat through a Dr. Who sound-alike-contest, a few Bugs Bunny cartoons and a panel with the blonde guy from the Planet Of The Apes TV series. I loved the Apes series but I wished the blonde guy was a little bit more sober so I could understand what he was saying.
The hall soon started to fill up with hundreds of eager fans all waiting to get their first glimpse of Mark ‘Luke Skywalker’ Hamill. It soon became a packed house. I was ready with my very large portable video camera to catch this historic event. Bill Mumy, Will Robinson from the TV series Lost In Space introduced the “special guest” and the place went nuts! I went nuts! Mark Hamill stepped out on stage. There he is! I was so glad I was recording this.
“Sir, there is to be no videotaping at this event.” I was told by the convention security.
“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” I screamed in my head. I was not going to let this volunteer security guard thwart such a rare opportunity. I thought as quickly as I could and told him that I had called ahead and got clearance for this. He saw right through this lie, so not wanting to miss another second of the panel already in progress I laid the camera on my lap as if I was stopping. I never stopped recording but “cleverly” covered the red tally light with my hand. I may not get the nicely composed shot that I wanted, but still, I was getting it. In your face volunteer security guard!
Mark spent most of the panel telling us what a TV junkie he is and that he videotapes numerous shows with numerous VCR’s in numerous rooms of his house. And when he runs out of VCR’s, and rooms, he would have to call Billy Mumy to record a show or two. This anecdote was Mark’s way of answering the question, “how have you been?” I found it hilarious that he answers a question with a long twisting back-story that may have many side stories before he gets to the actual question.
After his panel where he told stories and answered hypothetical questions about the next proposed Star Wars trilogy, Mark was escorted to the convention floor where he was going to sign autographs. A snake-like line quickly formed that covered an entire section of the convention floor. As anxious as I was to meet Mark Hamill, I would wait until the line simmered down in a few hours, then jump in to get my autograph, handshake and maybe even share a few stories. This was a brilliant plan!
I walked the floor looking for any new collectibles. Star Wars fandom was now slowly waking back up from a long slumber and every so often new items would pop up. I picked up a couple of Bend-Ems and after about an hour I headed for the line that was still hundreds of fans thick. I stepped behind an official looking woman ready to wait out the next few hours.
“Sorry sir, the line has been capped,” the official looking woman said. UGhhhh! Why are these people trying to ruin my Mark Hamill experience? Suddenly everything went dark. Sounds around me were slurring and I was hearing them in slow-motion. That’s not true, that’s impossible! Did I really just blow my chance at meeting my childhood/adult idol? Apparently so! I must’ve looked like I was about to burst into tears or maybe I blacked out. Whatever happened it got me in line!!!!
I was so grateful to this convention stafffer who let me in line that I called her up at the convention headquarters that following Monday to thank her once again. She was extremely touched to know that she helped achieve a life-long dream. I like to let people know when their kindness and generosity makes a difference.
About an hour into the waiting process word had gotten out that Mark’s time was almost up. Anxiety was setting in. How could he leave with over a hundred die-hard fans still waiting to meet him? Another half hour went by. Followed by another half hour. And another. And another. Clearly Mark was staying until he met every last waiting fan. And that fan was me!
He knew it was me who was last in line because every once in a while he would look up to see how far back the line still was. He made direct eye contact with me every time he looked up. I now meant something to him. He knew that after he met me he could finally go home, go to the bathroom, see his wife and kids or whatever it was he wanted to do. I now played an important role in Mark Hamill’s life!
Over the next hour I started chatting with the guy in front of me. His name was Josh Miller. I remember his name because we are still good friends to this day. He was even a Stormtrooper at my wedding.
After about an hour a staffer told us to please have our stuff ready for Mr. Hamill to sign. I have to get my head together. What was I going to say to him? What fun facts can I pull out? I’ve waited to long, I cannot blow this.
Looks like I still have time to think this through. As close as I was it was still taking some time. I must say Mark Hamill really loves talking to his fans. He took his time with each person as if they were the only person in line. He listened to what they had to say and made each fan feel special. When the number of us were small enough we all gathered around in front of him for more of a personal discussion. It was like we were old friends from Tosche Station enjoying a glass of blue milk only without the glass of blue milk. An actual conversation with Mark ‘Luke Skywalker’ Hamill! I stood there rapt with attention, hanging on his every word.
I tried to think of something worthwhile to say or something that he hadn’t been asked a thousand times that day. Nothing was coming. I searched my mental rolodex for that obscure fact. Someone else jumped in and asked if he would be playing Anakin Skywalker in the prequels. A prequel question, that’s good.
“It might be gimmicky. Do you think people would like that or would it be confusing?” he asked us.
I immediately jumped in by also agreeing that it would be too gimmicky. He looked up at me and agreed. He just made direct eye contact. He knows my face. My mind raced for something else to bring up. Then my mind processed what had just happened. Did I just give Mark Hamill career advice? Did I just talk him out of playing Anakin Skywalker? Could Mark Hamill really be convincing as a 9 year old Anakin?
It wasn’t long before he signed his last autograph and was saying goodbye. Not so fast. A new line formed to take pictures. This guy’s a trooper. He took pictures with everyone that wanted one. I wanted a picture but didn’t have a still camera.
The line was dwindling, time was short. A guy leaving saw the panic look on my face and offered to take a picture of me. I thanked him profusely and offered a copy of my videotape of the panel and personal chat session in exchange.
Just as Mark was saying his final goodbye, I asked if he would take just one more picture. He threw his arm around me and pressed his head against mine. We were now besties (just let me have it, ok?)