The Lava Didn’t Maim Darth Vader… It Was The Rain

I was recently chatting with some friends on the west coast about the new Star Wars Episode 3. We are old enough to have actually seen the first Star Wars in the theater back in 1977. It had a profound impact on all our lives. After I signed off of the chat, I recalled my halloween that year, which was of course, Star Wars related. I wrote them an email about the experience. Here it is…

All this talk of Star Wars has reminded me of a funny story from when the first Star Wars came out. I was 13 years old in 1977 and just getting on the edge of being too old for halloween, but since it was a good excuse to get dressed up as my new favorite movie villain, me and a friend of mine decided to go out trick or treating one last time.

I worked for weeks on my Darth Vadar mask. Everything was paper maché in those days, my medium of choice. I used a White Sox plastic batting helmut to create the shape of the helmet and layered the paper down over the ears to extend the helmet shape in true Vader fashion. After it dried, I carefully pulled the batting helmet out and I was half way done. For the mask, I cut out pieces of thin cardboard and taped them together before adding the paper maché coating. A tape recorder hanging around my chest and a cape rounded out my transformation.

Oh yes, and the light saber. I made my own. I found a small flashlight about the size of a large sharpie and a tree foot piece of white plastic tubing attached with black tape. It was never quite as bright and glowing as I wanted it to be, but it was do-it-yourself and it served it’s purpose.

My friend went as Chewbacca. His mom had quite a job creating that costume.

So out we went into the early evening.

Everything started out well, but as was so often the case with Chicago halloweens, it was chilly. I always hated that. Superman never wore a coat over his costume and I spent hours arguing with my parents about the weather and getting sick over the years.

Then came the rain. Now I’m not sure which was worse – being encased in an ever melting paper maché Darth Vader helmet or suddenly gaining 30 pounds in a soggy wookie costume. They were both pretty bad. I don’t think either costume survived the night. But part of the fun of halloween for me was making the costume, so I had a few weeks of pleasure before the cursed rain ruined everything.

I remember seeing Darth Vader helmets the next year for around $80, which might as well have been a million dollars to a 14 year old, so I never was Darth Vader again. But I was Darth before you could buy a proper costume and I enjoyed it… at least until the rain.

Sadly, I don’t think any photographs exist of that costume. I’m sure I was too cool for halloween photos by then. A R2-D2 hologram would have been nice though.

This is what I imagined my paper maché helmet looked like.

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