Yes, I really made a Star Wars podcast with my mom
George Lucas was awarded the James Smithson Medal at George Washington University in October, 1997...and I was there because my mom agreed to take her freshly Bar Mitzvahed son over 200 miles to see a man get an award on a school day.
I asked my mom to come on to share our memories of the event, why she decided to take me in the first place, and what George Lucas said that she never let me forget.
Guaranteed to be the only Star Wars podcast where the host's mom is the guest!
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[00:00:00] JOSH: Welcome to Trash Compactor. I'm Josh. today we have a very special episode. The James Smithson bicentennial medal was named after James Smithson, who among other things was the founding donor of the Smithsonian institution. And the Smithson medal is an award given to, and I'm quoting from the Smithsonian's actual website here, persons who have made distinguished contributions to the advancement of, areas of interest to the Smithsonian.
[00:00:26] As of this recording, the Smithson medal has been awarded to 69 people in including Jacque Cousteau, Rosemary Clooney, Dolores Huerta, Julia Child, Walter Cronkite, and on October 24th, 1997 to one Mr. George Lucas . A blurb. That morning in the Washington city paper noted briefly leaving the world of Wookiees for the city of wonks, Star Wars creator george Lucas will today receive the James Smithson and bicentennial medal for his work, which is the subject of an exhibition opening this Friday at the Air and Space Museum.
[00:00:58] This Smithsonian tribute to George Lucas includes some remarks from Lucas, at 3:00 PM at George Washington.
[00:01:03] University's Lisner Auditorium, And the reason I'm telling you all, this is because I, your faithful host was among those in attendance that day. And I was able to be there because of today's special guest, who I am very proud to welcome to the show Kathy, otherwise known as my mom.
[00:01:22] Should I call you Kathy? Your mom? It feels weird to call you Kathy.
[00:01:25] KATHY: Well, why don't you say my mom, Kathy Bernhard, and then just keep referring to me as mom.
[00:01:32] JOSH: So mom,
[00:01:33] KATHY: Yeah,
[00:01:34] JOSH: so today's guest Kathy, otherwise known as my mom. Hi mom.
[00:01:39] KATHY: Hi, Josh.
[00:01:40] JOSH: thank you very much for coming on my little podcast. I appreciate it very much.
[00:01:46] KATHY: My pleasure.
[00:01:47] JOSH: so, the reason I asked you on is because, you took me out of school that day to fly to Washington DC, from New York to see George Lucas get this award. and
[00:01:59] I was wondering why you did that?
[00:02:02] KATHY: So it wasn't quite as simple as that, um, that was a, I'll call it a compromise solution. The original plan was very different and didn't include me at all. Um, and that plan fell through. Then you had a plan that I couldn't get on board with. And
[00:02:22] JOSH: Wait, I'm sorry. Wait, I'm sorry. Wait, sorry. Sorry. what was the original plan?
[00:02:27] KATHY: the original plan was your grandmother and her husband.
[00:02:33] JOSH: because they lived in Baltimore.
[00:02:34] KATHY: Outside Baltimore Elcot
[00:02:36] JOSH: oh, I see. So I would've gone there and then it would've been easy to get to DC.
[00:02:40] KATHY: Well, she was gonna take you,
[00:02:42] JOSH: Oh,
[00:02:42] KATHY: this, this was all your idea that you, I don't know how, but you somehow became aware of this event. And I do remember you saying that this was like a one time opportunity because George Lucas was no longer making public appearances and he was making an exception to accept this award.
[00:03:03] So in your mind, if you didn't get to see him then in person, you might never get to see him. So you asked if.
[00:03:12] JOSH: Well, wait a second. You're you're blowing my mind because that is not my memory at all my memory and the way that I recount the story. Whenever I tell somebody is that you read about this and this was your idea. And I see you're shaking your head. No,
[00:03:31] KATHY: I don't think so.
[00:03:33] I don't think so.
[00:03:34] JOSH: it it's
[00:03:36] KATHY: I, I could be wrong. Um, but my,
[00:03:39] JOSH: No, it, I don't think you're wrong at all. This sounds, this sounds like me.
[00:03:43] KATHY: you came up with this plan and I think you asked, would it be okay if you asked your grandmother, if she would take you and dad? And I said, sure. And my mother said, sure. And I think she was very flattered that you asked her and she wanted to be able to do this for you. And you made very clear how important it was because of the fact that George Lucas was at a point in his career that he'd.
[00:04:11] Was no longer making public appearances, which was news to me. I mean, I was not a follower of George Lucas. Um, so that was the plan you were going to go by some means to Maryland and she, or she and her husband, um, were gonna take you to George Washington university where this appearance was, was being made.
[00:04:36] And then what happened was her husband got sick, so she couldn't take you. So your plan B at 13 years old was you were just gonna hop on Amtrak and figure out the public transportation to get yourself to George Washington university all on your own.
[00:04:56] JOSH: I have done memory of this whatsoever.
[00:04:58] KATHY: Well, I do, cuz this probably won't surprise you, but that plan was not acceptable to me.
[00:05:04] Um, so, even at 13. you were quite a persistent fellow, , pretty much like a dog with a bone and you were bound and determined that you were going, and I was pushing back at you. And I was saying, well, you better figure out some other way to do it because you're not going by yourself. And this went on for whatever period of time.
[00:05:31] It's probably shorter period of time than I remember. And then I kind of had an epiphany cuz you asked me why I did this. And today I have a very clear memory of why I did it. And my epiphany was, Hey idiot. How many times do you have an opportunity to make a dream come true for your kid? That's really what my thought process said.
[00:05:55] And once that dawned on me, I decided, okay, I can take a day off from work. I guess I was gonna let you take the day off from school anyway, or I don't know, maybe it was during vacation.
[00:06:06] JOSH: No, it wasn't during vacation. I have a very, I have a very clear memory that a part of the fun of this was that I got to miss a day of school.
[00:06:13] KATHY: Well, I guess I, I guess I had already decided that, um, it was okay for you to miss a day of school, but what flipped it around for me was I realized I had a chance to really make a dream come true for you. And I decided, okay. So at the time I had a job where I did a fair amount of traveling. So I said to you, all right, well, we'll pretend that it's a business trip and you'll see that. Yes, there's some parts of it that are nice. And there are some parts of it that frankly suck. So
[00:06:45] JOSH: Oh, so it was also like a, a little bit of a teachable moment. So I could see what traveling for work was like for you.
[00:06:52] KATHY: well, that was like a side benefit.
[00:06:54] That was, that was a side benefit for me. And I was just curious to see what your reaction was gonna be because we got up early and we took, at that time, there were still, I don't think this is exist anymore, but there were still shuttles that went like every hour or every other hour from LaGuardia to DC and also LaGuardia to Boston.
[00:07:17] So we took the shuttle with a whole lot of business people and I don't remember which airport it went to. , but we got there and then I really didn't know very much about, , DC as a city and there certainly wasn't GPS or anything like that. Um, and anyway, I think we took public transportation cuz I remember being underground and sort of navigating whatever they call it.
[00:07:44] The equivalent of the subway.
[00:07:46] JOSH: the Metro, I think.
[00:07:47] KATHY: yeah. Yeah, the Metro, um, to get to, to, GW. So we get to GW and we're pretty early and there was a very long line outside. Do you have any memory of this, of waiting in a very long line outside
[00:08:03] JOSH: I
[00:08:03] KATHY: hours?
[00:08:04] JOSH: the several hours part. I don't know. I do remember, I do have a strong memory of waiting in a long line. And I remember there was at least a couple of guys dressed up, like Indiana Jones. I remember one guy
[00:08:16] KATHY: I don't remember that.
[00:08:17] JOSH: No. Yeah, there was a guy dressed up like Indiana Jones. I do remember waiting outside for sure.
[00:08:24] Um, but I wanna back up for a sec. I, the, um, What you said about that epiphany you had, how often do you get the chance to make a dream come true for your kid? That's really sweet and lovely. And I wanna say thank you for that.
[00:08:40] KATHY: I it's the truth. And now that you're a parent, I hope you have the opportunity to do that for your daughter one day, but it,
[00:08:47] JOSH: I appreciate that. But it's too early in this recording to start to make me cry. So, so, um, but I also have a question. Why, why do you think this was so important to me? Why do you think it was a dream of mine to meet this man to meet George Lucas? Do you have any idea why.
[00:09:05] KATHY: well, I think that you idolized him. I think he was one of your heroes. And even though at that age, I might not have had a deep enough appreciation for how seriously invested you were in his work and the work of other filmmakers that you admired. And I can't tell you the moment when that dawned on me, but that reframed everything.
[00:09:40] When I looked at it that way, instead of the way I had been looking at it as probably an overprotective parent that I don't know if 13 years old is old enough to go by yourself and what if this happens and what if that happens? And then all of a sudden it's like a, a light bulb went off for me and I did a complete 180 and I decided there's a way to. Your needs and my needs. And that's if I go with you. So I decided what's the big deal I can take one day off from work.
[00:10:15] JOSH: No, that's a, I mean, that's a, a wonderful, um, parenting moment. I don't know what they give for those gold stars or thumbs up, but, but, uh, you get top marks for that. That's a really lovely, thing that you arrived at.
[00:10:28] KATHY: So, so I would say one other thing about that. if I can give just a tiny bit of parenting advice and it took me a very long time to realize this. When you realize that sometimes you're just projecting your own irrational fears on your kid. It's very freeing how to stop doing that.
[00:10:52] I couldn't tell you, but at least being aware that it happens. Um, and that was certainly part of it, cuz this was, this was all foreign to me. I didn't know DC, so I couldn't picture what you would be doing and if it would be safe and what I could tell you to do to make yourself safe. And I just didn't think 13 years old was old enough to be doing it yourself.
[00:11:16] I, I don't know if I would feel the same way today, but that's sure how I felt in 1997.
[00:11:19] JOSH: I wanna kind of reframe that question. I asked about, why this was so important to me to, to see George Lucas in person, I guess, what, what, I'm curious, what you think of the passion that I had for, this man and his work and film and filmmaking, and, you know, I was also a big Star Trek fan.
[00:11:42] I was a movie fan and in my memory I was quite obsessive and, and, and quite, it was very, very meaningful to me. And I was just, I guess I'm just curious, number one, if you have any idea where that
[00:11:58] comes from and number two, what you thought of that as my parent.
[00:12:05] KATHY: I know where it doesn't come from. It doesn't come from either of your, it doesn't come from either of your parents.
[00:12:11] JOSH: Now, what do you mean by that?
[00:12:14] KATHY: well, it's not as though either I or your dad cultivated this interest because it was a something that we were into that we wanted to share with you.
[00:12:26] Neither one of us knew very much, uh, about any of it.
[00:12:30] And also if you put this in context of how old you were and when this was, I think that this was shortly after your Bar Mitzvah. And if you remember your Bar Mitzvah and all of the discussions about the theme and. It was all you things that you cared about, it was all related to movies and your favorite films.
[00:12:55] JOSH: Oh, sure. Yeah.
[00:12:56] KATHY: yeah, so we had, we had a lot of discussions about how important this was to you a few months before that when we were planning the party after your Bar Mitzvah. And I, I also have a clear recollection of the party planner lady. When you told her that you wanted each table named after, um, a famous movie and a director, she said, okay, but you have to provide me all that information because she didn't understand many of the references that, that you were making.
[00:13:35] So that's just one example that is pretty vivid to me of even at that age. How much you knew about it, how much you cared about it. And I remember saying on that day that I don't know if, if you remember this, but the parental speech, I said that you were blessed with, um, not only, um, vivid, imagination and passion, but really clear dreams about what you wanted for your future.
[00:14:13] And it always included filmmaking. So I, I did have that sense reinforced or underscored by that recent milestone in your life.
[00:14:25] JOSH: No. Well, that's true. That's funny actually, because, um, because I didn't remember the exact timing of this, but you're right. This would've been. Just shy of one month from , my Bar Mitzvah where I quote unquote became an adult
[00:14:42] KATHY: But not old enough, not old enough to go to DC by yourself and roam around a college campus by yourself. Actually, I think it was like, like a month after your Bar Mitzvah. Yeah,
[00:14:55] JOSH: Yeah. right. Is that not what I said?
[00:14:56] KATHY: no, I guess you did the other thing that I remember, and I don't wanna turn this into a, discussion of, of religion, but My recollection is the way that the rabbi got your attention and befriended you, is that she invited you to, , partake in any of her collection of, I don't know if it was Star Wars or Star Trek. She had a light,
[00:15:22] JOSH: star.
[00:15:23] KATHY: right. She had a library.
[00:15:25] JOSH: She was a Star Trek fan and she was also a Babylon 5 fan, which also really impressed me at the time. But yes, no,
[00:15:31] KATHY: that's how, that's how she tried to bond with you as I recall.
[00:15:34] JOSH: that's very funny.
[00:15:35] KATHY: And it sort of, it sort of worked.
[00:15:38] JOSH: no, no, no. She was a very smart lady. Um, but, you asked me if I remember if I had any memory of uh, what you said about having a passion and how, and how important that was something you said to me that. , has stuck with me to this day. I actually think about it a lot.
[00:15:56] One of those times that you were expressing to me how special it was that I had a passion and I knew, , what I wanted for my future, or, you also, you told me that not everyone has that,
[00:16:11] KATHY: Oh, for sure.
[00:16:13] JOSH: but that, really blew my mind because that's not something that I understood that had never occurred to me
[00:16:21] KATHY: And, and at what, at what point in your life was that? How old were.
[00:16:25] JOSH: oh, I don't, I don't remember.
[00:16:27] I may have been around the age. We're talking about, it was like between 13 and 17. If I had to guess,
[00:16:34] KATHY: I want, I wanted you to know how special it is and that it's a, in my mind, it's a gift. It's a, a blessing. And I guess it's a little bit of a double edged sword sometimes, cuz it it's a difficult business. , but from the youngest age, You were single minded of purpose. I can't remember you ever talking about wanting to do anything else with your life wanting to be involved in anything else as, as a, a, a profession or a, a vocation?
[00:17:09] JOSH: I wanted to go to USC cuz that's where George Lucas went to film school.
[00:17:12] KATHY: I'm not sure. I knew that
[00:17:14] JOSH: No. You knew that cuz I talked. No, because you, you were,
[00:17:17] KATHY: I was ruling out air. I was ruling out airplanes at the time.
[00:17:21] JOSH: Yeah. You had, you, you said I don't know if you said absolutely. No, but, but you said no, cuz it's it's too far away because I don't think you wanted me to go to California to, to, to school.
[00:17:34] KATHY: Right? I wanted you to go away. I wanted you to have
[00:17:38] JOSH: Yeah. But not
[00:17:38] KATHY: experience. I right in my head, you could go as far as you can go without having to take an airplane.
[00:17:45] JOSH: okay. Fair enough. Yeah, I understand that.
[00:17:47] KATHY: That was again, I don't know that I would say that now, but that's how I felt then.
[00:17:52] JOSH: I, no, I understand that. so let's discuss the, , the event itself. I remember, now that you mention it, I do remember there was a lot of waiting. We go into the auditorium. There were some other speakers, all of which, were known and of great interest, , to me, probably not, to you, so that was all very fascinating to me, but, um, what is your memory of when George Lucas came on the stage and accepted the award? And if you have any memory of his remarks of what he spoke about?
[00:18:25] KATHY: Uh, can we just back up a second, if we, if we're sort gonna do this in a linear or chronological way.
[00:18:31] So when we were waiting in the line and it, it was easily two hours, if not longer than that, cuz I think it started, well, you said, I think it started in the AF in the afternoon
[00:18:46] JOSH: Yeah, like three or something like
[00:18:47] KATHY: yeah. Um, so there was a.
[00:18:51] Guy with a clipboard that was walking around, asking people if they had questions for George Lucas, because he wasn't gonna answer any ad hoc questions he would choose from among the written questions from the crowd. And if people wanted to submit a question, they had to give their name and, and they would be called upon.
[00:19:14] I would've bet money that you would've had a question. And I was amazed when the guy came to us and you said, no, you didn't have a question. And I was really surprised by that. And what I thought was you must have a lot of questions, but for whatever reason, you didn't wanna ask it. Um,
[00:19:34] JOSH: I have no memory of that. Uh, that strikes me as odd as well. because I would've thought my question would've been, you know, how do I be you? How do I do what you do?
[00:19:44] KATHY: well, interesting. What happened? I don't remember an answer to your question. I don't remember a whole lot about what George Lucas said when he was accepting the award. And you have to remember, I knew who he was, but I knew very little about him. You knew everything there was to know, but I really didn't know too much about him.
[00:20:13] I was impressed by him as a speaker, although I can't remember what he said in his prepared remarks. What I do remember clear as day. And I would be surprised if you didn't remember some of this, um, when they got to the Q and A period and they chose however many questions, , that I guess had been vetted before. One of the questioners was a contemporary of yours. I think he said he was 13 years old and he said, I very much wanna be a filmmaker. And I'm interested in, what advice would you give to someone at my age who aspires to be a filmmaker? And I was like sitting on the edge of my seat, because even though you didn't ask the question, I knew you wanted to hear that answer. And honestly, I could not have scripted him better myself. The first thing he said is forget about the technical aspects of making a movie. Somebody else can worry about that. Or you can learn that later. The most important thing you could do is to go learn about the world. He said, go take courses in history, go take courses in mythology, go take courses in anthropology.
[00:21:38] If you wanna be a filmmaker, you have to have something to say, that's of interest to other people. You have to have stories that are, I don't know what he said compelling. Um, and the only way you're gonna be able to interest people in your stories is if you learn about the world and I was, I just said to myself, yes, the minute he said that, because I, I didn't really know very much about film school and I wanted you to get an education.
[00:22:07] Um, and I'm curious what your reaction was to his having said that if you remembered it, because for me, the whole trip was worth it. Just to have you hear him say that in.
[00:22:19] JOSH: No. Well, well, I, I absolutely remember that. very specifically and in my sort of, paraphrased, , version of it. I always recount it as, it's not enough to know how to make movies. You need to have something to make movies about.
[00:22:35] KATHY: Yes. Yes.
[00:22:37] JOSH: And the reason I think that I remember that, so, specifically. Because I know that had a great impact on you , because over the years you reminded me of what he said, it feels like you that, that every so often you would remind me of his words that he said that, ,
[00:22:56] KATHY: Every parent should be opportunistic.
[00:23:04] JOSH: um,
[00:23:04] KATHY: quite sure I did.
[00:23:06] JOSH: the other thing that I remember specifically, And I also remember this, , because you commented on it. I also think it had a big impact on you, I guess, not, that much because, it seems like you don't recall it now, but when he got up to speak, so he was announced he was given the award and then he had to give his remarks.
[00:23:27] He like, he unfolded his pre-written, remarks or whatever, and he kind of looked at it and he said something like, oh, geez, I don't know how I'm gonna get through all this. and, the audience kind of laughed because it was clear. He doesn't enjoy public speaking. Right. So, so it was, you know, kind of a humorous, , moment.
[00:23:46] And I remember you saying to me, I don't know if this was on the train ride home or the plane ride home, but I remember you expressing to me that, that really humanized him for you, that it seemed like he was, he was nervous to get up there and speak.
[00:24:01] KATHY: Huh? No, I, I really have no recollection of that. When I think about it, I can picture the, the auditorium and I hope I'm not confusing this with the Kennedy center awards, but I think there was a real medal. I, he was awarded a medal and I think he had it on a ribbon around his neck or, or, or it was placed over his head and was hanging,
[00:24:28] JOSH: Yes. I think you're correct. you know, I'm surprised in preparation for this. I did a little Googling because I wanted to, , make sure I got the details. Right. Cuz I didn't remember exactly when it was and I didn't, , recall some of the stuff. Um, I was surprised I couldn't find a single photo.
[00:24:44] I couldn't find a single, , video. Ideally. I was hoping that there was a video of his remarks. I don't know if, , maybe there's an audio recording in the Smithsonian archives. Actually. I'm actually curious. I might actually reach out and see if they do, because I'm just curious what he said now, hearing what our fragmented memories are.
[00:25:04] I wonder what it was. He actually said,
[00:25:08] KATHY: You know, it's interesting given what you said about his discomfort. I wonder if he made sure that there wasn't any
[00:25:17] JOSH: oh,
[00:25:18] KATHY: ongoing record of it? I don't know.
[00:25:20] JOSH: so what's funny about that
[00:25:21] and I'm sure you know, nothing about this, but, basically between, between the third and final Star Wars movie of the original star wars trilogy in, in 1983 and 1997, he kept a very low public profile. , he became a father, he went through a, a very awful divorce and he, he decided to, to concentrate on, you know, raising his children and, building
[00:25:49] his company, which ended up creating the technology that completely changed the way films are made. Like, like the editing software that I use for work that I use every single day was, created at one of his companies, the progenitor of it, not the literal.
[00:26:09] KATHY: What was that at the ILM company?
[00:26:13] JOSH: yeah, well, so, , he had several companies, so there was industrial light and magic, and, an animation company, that, became Pixar. they basically created what's called non-linear editing software, which is the editing software that everybody uses because it used to be, to edit a movie, you had physical reels of film on kind of a flatbed and you were physically manipulating real physical film.
[00:26:42] You were literally, cutting it with a splicer and you were gluing it or taping it together. And then you had to, so it was a real, like it was a manual. And in time consuming process, especially when you made a mistake and you wanted to change something. , and, his special effects company, ILM, completely changed the way movies are made in terms of special effects, but also that digital workflow, the way that I'm able to this, this, this, recording that, you know, we're making right now, the way that I am going to manipulate it and change it, it, relies on technology that was developed at his, companies in the 1980s.
[00:27:28] KATHY: I wanted to ask you if you had any reaction to the fact that I knew ILM, industrial light and magic.
[00:27:38] JOSH: Oh, actually, now that you mentioned it, that is very impressive. Um,
[00:27:41] KATHY: do you know why? Can you remember why I might remember that?
[00:27:45] JOSH: No.
[00:27:47] KATHY: Well, the answer to that question is yet another example of how I knew that all of this was so important to you cuz you may remember that we took a trip to San Francisco as a family and we spent several hours driving around
[00:28:05] JOSH: Oh, we tried to find Skywalker ranch.
[00:28:07] KATHY: We did,
[00:28:08] JOSH: yeah, we
[00:28:09] tried to find sky. We got, we got as far as Lucas valley road,
[00:28:13] KATHY: Right. And you took a picture of the street sign.
[00:28:16] JOSH: oh, I wonder if I still have that somewhere.
[00:28:18] KATHY: That was as close as we could get. And boy, were you unhappy?
[00:28:25] JOSH: well, yes, well, it was very picturesque. It was a nice
[00:28:27] KATHY: yes. Yes it was. Um, but we were driving around in circles and you kept saying dad, let's just, let's just try going around here one more time. Um,
[00:28:38] JOSH: Yeah, no, that's true. I, I am now. I am now recalling that. I apologize. Uh,
[00:28:43] KATHY: okay.
[00:28:44] JOSH: the,
[00:28:45] KATHY: It's okay. It was a, it was a lovely area, but wherever that place is, or was, it was so far off the beaten track that
[00:28:55] your average person couldn't find
[00:28:57] JOSH: no, no. It's very far from the road for obvious reasons. Cuz people like me are looking for it and wanna look at it. Um, a little bit of, trivia. I always assumed Lucas Valley Road was named after George Lucas, but it's not the property that he found and he liked to build Skywalker.
[00:29:12] Ranch just ha so happened to be off of a road that was called, , Lucas Valley Road.
[00:29:18] KATHY: That's funny. We also found out on that trip that. There was some provision for doing tours of Industrial Light and Magic, but you had to have reservations like weeks ahead of time. So that was a disappointment too, that you were so close yet so far
[00:29:37] JOSH: Well, once again, thank you for indulging me. I appreciate that very much.
[00:29:41] KATHY: It wasn't so much indulging you. I realized dad and I both realized at some point that this was not just some interest that you had. This was integral to who you were, even as a young teenager.
[00:29:56] JOSH: How do you think that happened? Why do you think that that is? I realize that that's a question you probably won't be able to answer, but I'm just curious if you have any thoughts, why. Why that is
[00:30:09] KATHY: Well, I mean, this is, this is not a, a very comprehensive answer, but I, I think it's just indicative of your personality and it could have been this. It could have been something else. I think it's just part of your personality
[00:30:25] that when you
[00:30:26] JOSH: question. No, but that's my question. Why this and not something else? Like what do you think
[00:30:30] KATHY: I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. Although, as you got older, you were fascinated with history and I guess to a less lesser extent mythology. , but I think there was something about the stories that you were drawn to. Um, and you're, you're also a very visual. Person. So I, I mean, I, I remember the first time, , that you, and later your sister as well started talking to me about pixels and I didn't know what you were talking about. um, and, and another thing I remember you going on and on and on about the importance of what is it called letter box.
[00:31:19] JOSH: Oh, yeah. Letter box out. yes.
[00:31:22] KATHY: only did I, not, not even appreciate the difference being a non-visual person, it looked, it took me way too long to even understand what the heck you were talking about.
[00:31:32] JOSH: yeah, well to, so, because at the time, a regular television set was more or less a square it's actually four to three, but it was more or less more square than, rectangle. And as you know, movies are wider. So, to put a movie that's a rectangle onto a machine, that's a square, you have to cut off the sides.
[00:31:52] So that's what they mostly did. But for, for film enthusiasts, that means that you're missing a good amount of the picture. so what they started to do in the nineties was they would release special, , letter boxed editions of movies on video and also laser disc, but we never got a laser disc, player because that was very cost prohibitive. I think a laser disc was like a hundred bucks at the time. But, yeah, I remember the first time, the Sci-fi Channel showed the Star Wars movies in letter box. It was a revelation to me because all of a sudden these movies that I thought I knew, like the back of my hand, I realized I had never actually seen the whole thing before.
[00:32:40] KATHY: Because you didn't see it in a movie theater.
[00:32:42] JOSH: not only because I didn't see it in a movie theater, but because the sides were cut off.
[00:32:46] KATHY: Got it.
[00:32:46] You know, you just reminded me of something else. When we were talking about movie theaters, another sort of tip off about how important this was to you was when a, a new movie came out, whether it was star wars or something else that you were really interested in, you had this thing that you had to go see it, the minute it opened, you had to be at the first showing.
[00:33:16] And I remember you like. Waiting in line outside or talking about waiting in line outside. And if you didn't get to see it at the first showing, which sometimes was like at midnight, then there was something lost about it for you. There was something in the experience that wasn't gonna be the same if other people had seen it before you did.
[00:33:39] JOSH: Thanks. No, no, you're absolutely correct. Thankfully, that's something that I've mellowed a lot about as, I've gotten older, but, there was something very, I couldn't stand the idea, especially where the Star Wars movies were concerned, because as you say they were, so I don't wanna say foundational to my, my identity, but they were very, very important to me.
[00:34:00] So the thought that someone else might see a new Star Wars movie before me was, was just, it just drove me crazy. It just, it just wasn't something that I was willing to allow to happen if I could, and for, for each one of the, the prequel movies, the new movies, obviously I wasn't alive when the original ones were in theaters.
[00:34:21] Through different circumstances, I managed to see all three of them early, and for the second of the prequels, , that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, and my graduation present you, , you and dad, got me a ticket to the premier event. I think it opened the Tribeca film festival, which was either the first or second one.
[00:34:42] No, well, it must have been the first one because it was 2002 because it was started after nine 11. So, so it must have been the first, Tribeca film festival. So I saw that one, like a week early
[00:34:51] KATHY: Obviously dad and I were not creative enough to come up with that idea on our own. , I think that we asked you, what would you like as a graduation present? And that's what you said. And we were happy to do that.
[00:35:07] I remembered that you didn't mind going by yourself.
[00:35:10] But I had, I would have no recollection of what the movie was when you just said that that was like news to me that it was a Star Wars movie.
[00:35:18] I'm sure I knew at the time,
[00:35:19] so each of these little snippets should help to answer your question about how it was that dad and I happened to realize how important this was to you.
[00:35:29] JOSH: had you ever seen a star wars movie?
[00:35:32] KATHY: I've only ever seen one. It was with you and the rest of our family and your grandmother, and probably her husband in Florida, because we were on
[00:35:46] JOSH: oh, the oh, the special edition. Oh, yes. Yeah. , when the special edition of the empire strikes back opened, we were visiting Florida
[00:35:55] and I wasn't and I wasn't gonna miss the opening up. No, no, no, no. I'm sorry. We went to . See, oh God. I think I saw, two Star Wars movies that week, because I saw The Empire Strikes Back special edition opened while we were down there and dad took me and then. Star Wars. The special edition had opened the previous month in January and it was still playing. And I guess I I thought it would be a great idea for the whole family to go and see Star Wars together.
[00:36:28] KATHY: We all did
[00:36:29] JOSH: So I saw two Star Wars movies in Florida when we were ostensibly supposed to be, visiting,
[00:36:35] KATHY: well, we, we were still visiting. I mean, it, it, wasn't unusual for us to go to a movie.
[00:36:40] JOSH: that's true. That's funny.
[00:36:41] KATHY: I remember nothing about the movie. It's the only Star Wars movie I've ever seen.
[00:36:46] JOSH: No, that's actually not true. , because when Episode One, came out, which I don't know if you recall, but the day that it opened, , me and my friends, we bought a ticket for, for every single showing. And we spent the whole day in the theater, just seeing the movie over and over and over again.
[00:37:02] And, , a few weeks later, I think I asked you, would you have any interest in coming to see this movie with me? And, , you came with me to a screening of episode one. I, I remember that very specifically, but, but
[00:37:18] I guess it didn't leave much, I guess it didn't leave much of an impression on you.
[00:37:22] KATHY: I honestly, don't what I remember more about the one in Florida. I do remember. And I couldn't tell you which one it was, but I do remember going to the one in Florida. I remember that I think it was the first time I was in a movie theater that had stadium seating and I was very impressed with that.
[00:37:37] JOSH: speaking of, of watching Star Wars and Gram my grandmother, your mother, the reason why we realized that I needed glasses was because I was watching Return of the Jedi on our 20 inch TV, in the den, sitting on the couch with Gram she must have been visiting us. And in that movie, when certain alien characters are speaking alien languages, there are subtitles.
[00:38:06] And Gram noticed that when the subtitles came on, I got up and move really close to the TV so I could read them
[00:38:14] KATHY: really.
[00:38:15] JOSH: And she went and told you, I think Josh might need glasses.
[00:38:19] KATHY: And how old were you?
[00:38:21] JOSH: I remember the first year school year I started with glasses was fifth grade. , so
[00:38:27] KATHY: So about 10,
[00:38:29] JOSH: yeah.
[00:38:29] KATHY: huh? I, I don't really remember that.
[00:38:32] Wow. And she was right. Apparently.
[00:38:34] JOSH: yeah,
[00:38:34] I, yeah.
[00:38:36] KATHY: So one other thing that I just wanted to share with you, if you don't mind going back to the George Washington university., because we got there so early. We went and hung out in the student union at GW before the, the line was even forming. And I remember thinking, wow, he's 13.
[00:38:59] He really doesn't look a lot younger than most of the kids that are here. And then my mind went to, oh no, it's only gonna be however many years, five years, and he's gonna leave and he's gonna go to college. And I, I was just struck by the fact that we were in a college student union and you look like you belong there.
[00:39:23] JOSH: Well, that's very charitable because I've recently seen photos of myself at that age and I look like a child. So, so you, we. I recently did an episode where we listened to the unearthed recording of the interview. Sam and I did with Mark Hamill in 1995. No 6, 6, 6.
[00:39:41] so is, uh, about a year before this. And, there were photos from the event where we met him and we looked like children. I mean, I guess a lot of growth can happen in the span of a year at that age. But, but I, I , I think you might be being charitable.
[00:39:59] KATHY: I, I don't know. I just remember thinking you didn't look that outta place there and, and that was somewhat overwhelming to me.
[00:40:07] JOSH: No. Well, well, because I also dress, so I remember, so this was the nineties, so flannel was in. Right. Um, so I remember that I always used to wear flannel shirts and I think it also had something to do with the fact that, uh, you probably don't know this, but, George Lucas is also well known for, for wearing almost exclusively flannel
[00:40:30] KATHY: I did not know that I did not know that.
[00:40:33] JOSH: And so I can't recall, but it wouldn't surprise me if I was wearing flannel shirts cuz I wanted to be like George Lucas.
[00:40:42] KATHY: And yet another new tidbit of information I was here before, or unaware of.
[00:40:48] JOSH: Um, I wanna figure out how to, how to wrap this up. , I feel like I should have some, some profound question. I was actually going to ask you what it was like to raise a Star Wars nerd, but I feel like we got into a lot of that stuff through this conversation. Now,
[00:41:06] KATHY: Yeah, and I didn't really have the appreciation that I would, I would say I have today for exactly how invested in it you were and how important it was and how much it has influenced the adult that you became
[00:41:27] JOSH: Okay. Well, that's an interesting question. How, how do you feel it's influenced the adult that I've become
[00:41:35] KATHY: I don't know if I can express it anymore than just like, I feel that being a writer is part of who you are, I think. And I, and I've told you that many times, I think it's related to that, that it it's like, I remember you at a reasonably young age and you probably were doing it before. I was even aware of it.
[00:41:59] Um, but I know. Well, now you probably do it on your phone, but you used to carry around a little notebook and you used to like jot down ideas for stories as they would come to you. And, and I don't know if that's, it's probably not Star Wars per se, but that's part of what I mean when I say that being a writer and, and telling stories is, is part of who I think you are as a person.
[00:42:30] JOSH: That's true. That's true.
[00:42:33] I think those movies gave me a framework for understanding the world, because really, that, and Star Trek, but, George Lucas has said many times that he was explicitly trying to create a mythological framework for kids to, to teach kids how to be good members of society, like to, to instill in them values to, to show them how to face challenges in life.
[00:43:06] And, you know, I think he succeeded in doing that. and I think that, you know, it is interesting because a lot of Star Wars, really, and I don't know how much of this was conscious on his part, but it was really about, transferring from generation to generation, both, knowledge through wisdom and also mistakes and how those things are, passed on from the older generation to the younger generation, writ large through, conflicts between a Republic and a fascist empire and a group of, , rebels and also writ small it's about reconciling your relationship with your father and becoming your, your own person and charting your own path.
[00:44:02] And, reconciling , who your parents were with, who you are and, learning what those differences are and being okay with it. And then doing the same for your children. That's, that's, that's what these, these movies, I think ultimately are about.
[00:44:19] KATHY: So. Much much smaller scale, not anywhere near the detail that you just so articulately expressed. I do remember referring to Star Wars as science fiction, and you very quickly corrected me. And you said, no, no, no, no. That these are not science fiction movies. That's not what this is about. There's I don't know if you used the word depth, but, but you were trying to convey that there's, there's much more, there's a much deeper message.
[00:44:55] There's there's much more meaning to it than special effects and, and things of that nature.
[00:45:02] JOSH: Yeah. I mean, it's really more it's really what I say now is that Star Wars is not science fiction. It's really fantasy with science fiction iconography. Is really what it is.
[00:45:14] KATHY: and all I, all, I really remember from the movie that we saw, I guess in Florida, was the, the battle scenes and the, and the, the, um, I don't know if their aircraft spacecrafts, whatever they were and how fascinated you were by all of that in.
[00:45:35] JOSH: well, yeah, so I mean, it's like you know, the sugar that makes the medicine go down. it's about all these things, but it's also exciting and, visual and engaging and fun and humorous, and it's all this stuff. It's a, it's a fun movie to watch, but there's also really a lot, , going on, you know, there's a quote, Rian Johnson, who's the director of, one of the recent films said that, um, here, I wanna get the quote, right?
[00:46:02] KATHY: She is she a woman? R I a N? He,
[00:46:06] It's with an, I.
[00:46:07] JOSH: yes.
[00:46:09] so Rian Johnson, who directed one of the more recent Star Wars films, he made a tweet, , where he said, George Lucas made a beautiful seven hour long movie for children about how entitlement and fear of loss turns good people into fascists. And did it while spearheading nearly every technical sea change in modern filmmaking of the past 30 years
[00:46:29] KATHY: Wow.
[00:46:31] where where's he getting the seven hours from? Is that the combined
[00:46:34] JOSH: yes, yes.
[00:46:37] yes. The combined the combined length. So that's sort of a more eloquent version of what I was saying. like all that stuff is there. but when you're a kid you're excited with the, the spaceships and the, The sword fights and the lasers, the speed and the, the action stuff.
[00:46:55] , but at the same time, you're also absorbing all of these, these messages.
[00:47:02] KATHY: And I guess I, I really, at the time I didn't realize that I thought it was all of the, the former that you was important to you
[00:47:12] JOSH: did you know the reason George Lucas made star wars
[00:47:16] KATHY: certainly not.
[00:47:19] JOSH: well, he had just made American Graffiti, which I know you've seen.
[00:47:23] KATHY: Yes.
[00:47:25] JOSH: And correct me if I'm wrong, but you like that movie, you have some fondness for that movie. It's about your generation basically.
[00:47:31] KATHY: Right, right.
[00:47:32] JOSH: and it was a big success and his follow up movie, the next movie he was going to make, was actually supposed to be Apocalypse Now,
[00:47:44] KATHY: Really.
[00:47:44] JOSH: was, yeah, he was originally, supposed to direct Apocalypse Now, from a script that he and his friend John Milius wrote.
[00:47:55] But the reaction to American graffiti was so positive. He heard from a lot of young, the youth of the seventies, essentially saying how uplifting it was and how, um, you know, what a positive impact it had on them to see, , just a fun, kind of happy go lucky movie, because if you recall at the time, like it came out in 1973 and, you know, Vietnam was still going on.
[00:48:25] you know, Nixon was in the white house and there was all the Watergate stuff was in the air and it was a really, rough time, and. George Lucas decided that he wanted to, that, that made him realize that there were no movies anymore , for kids to, you know, learn about the world and be uplifted.
[00:48:47] And, he also said, this is reminding me of something else that, I'm pretty sure he said in the, the acceptance speech, he said, it's really easy to make a movie that depresses people that tells people what a horrible place this is. But, the challenge is to make an uplifting movie that, makes people leaving uplifted,
[00:49:09] KATHY: Wow, I guess that makes sense.
[00:49:11] JOSH: and if I could get the remarks from the Smithsonian that may or may not exist, I could confirm if he actually said it and that or not, but, but, but that is my memory.
[00:49:19] And if you think about it, he was gonna make Apocalypse Now, which was about Vietnam and that all went into Star Wars. Star Wars is about a group of scrappy rebels, fighting a, massive, technologically advanced empire. The good guys are the Viet Cong and the bad guys are the U.S. Military, like that's, that's what Star Wars is.
[00:49:45] Star Wars is about Vietnam.
[00:49:48] KATHY: I had no idea. I had no.
[00:49:51] JOSH: Um, so in closing, here's how I'll end it, what did you think when I asked you to be on this podcast?
[00:49:56] KATHY: I wanted to do it. And my first thought was, I don't know that I'm gonna have that much to say, apparently I was wrong about that.
[00:50:07] JOSH: Well, I knew we would have something to say, this is just a conversation. That's all these
[00:50:10] KATHY: right, right. Um, I definitely wanted to do it. I listened to the podcast a podcast,
[00:50:18] even though yes, I do.
[00:50:20] JOSH: well.
[00:50:21] KATHY: there, there are, there are, there are a couple of things that, that you said tonight that. I knew because I've heard them on the podcast. Um, I can't say that, that I always understand all of the conversation, but especially since we lived 3000 miles apart, I like to hear your voice.
[00:50:42] And I've, I've learned things about you and what you were thinking when you were 10 years old when you were 12 years old. Like, like, like the, the, the newsletter, the, the, uh, Star Wars newsletter
[00:50:58] JOSH: helped me do that.
[00:50:59] KATHY: I know, I know, but I didn't remember much about it. and I guess it's another podcast, but all the stuff about Mint Condition, I mean, so, so I wanted to be part of this.
[00:51:12] I wanted to have this conversation with you.
[00:51:14] JOSH: You really listen to the podcast
[00:51:16] KATHY: I do. When I walk,
[00:51:18] usually when I walk or sometimes if I can't sleep.
[00:51:22] JOSH: So, so just outta curiosity, aside from hearing my voice, , what do you get out of it with, with so much of it? That's that's that kind of goes over your head cuz you don't know what we're talking about.
[00:51:35] KATHY: Well, I'm, I'm not. A shame to say, I'm your number one fan. Um, and when I hear, when I hear you talk about things going way back to the kid that used to live in this house, and I'm realizing there were things that were going on in your head that I had no clue about. Even the, the, the, um, the newsletter and yes. I have some recollection vague of you doing that, but listening to the podcast gave me a, another whole sort of view into what you were thinking at 10 years old that I had no clue about and, and better late than never.
[00:52:29] JOSH: That must be interesting.
[00:52:32] KATHY: Oh, it's, it's, it's more than interesting and it it's hard to explain, but it, it makes me feel closer to you because We don't see each other other than on a screen very often because of factors outside of our control. and I don't know. I, I think it, it just makes for a, a deeper bond between us as adults, that I have a better understanding of how you came from the child that I knew to the adult that I'm very proud to know now.
[00:53:10] JOSH: I love that that's really sweet and that, makes a lot of sense. And for those who may be questioning why I am doing a Star Wars podcast with my mother, I just wanna reiterate Star Wars is about. , children and their parents learning to understand each other and, come to terms with who they are.
[00:53:29] And I think this episode was a great example of that, actually happening.
[00:53:35] Well, thank you sincerely for agreeing, to do this. I had no doubt that. , this was gonna be a great, conversation. And, , it certainly did not, , disappoint and, I love you mom.
[00:53:48] KATHY: I love you too.
[00:53:50] JOSH: if you'd like what you heard, please rate us at podchaser.comcom/trashcompod we're trashcompod across all social media and transcripts are available at trashcompod.com. And we will see you on the next one.