Growing up in San Rafael, California, in the heart of Marin County, I was fortunate/ lucky enough to live just a few miles from George Lucas’s fabled movie-making hub Skywalker Ranch. Due to our close proximity to his creative facilities and my dad’s prominent position in San Rafael’s city government, I encountered Lucas many times in various contexts and situations. I have always admired Lucas for his creativity, innovative vision, and ultimately, the entire Star Wars saga.
Lucas is a very quiet man, a polite individual who prefers to keep to himself and expects onlookers to respect his privacy. A few months ago I was conducting an interview with Micky Hart, one of the two drummers for the insanely popular Bay Area jam band The Grateful Dead. I knew Mickey had used some of Lucas’s audio facilities to record some tracks, so I inquired about the subject. Mickey lit up and launched into several anecdotes regarding his friendship with Lucas. Mickey had one quote I particularly remember:
“George doesn’t talk a lot. This is because he has so many ideas in his head constantly swirling about, he is always thinking.”
I didn’t include any of the Lucas-related quotes in the story due to the fact they had nothing to do with Mickey’s upcoming Flagstaff show. Despite my many encounters with Lucas, we’ve rarely exchanged actual words. I gave him space in most instances, opting to let him go about his business undisturbed. I’m not suggesting in any way I possess a close personal connection with the man or that it is remarkable I’ve run into him at all; looking back, I just get a kick out of thinking about my many run-ins with the creative genius whose space saga singlehandedly captivated my childhood.
The Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) Halloween Party
My dad received invites from Skywalker Ranch to attend one of ILM’s annual Halloween parties. It was being held in a cavernous film sound stage, and featured some of the most outrageous and creative costumes I’ve ever witnessed. I was very young, perhaps eight, and I remember spotting George from a distance. Despite it being his party, he was seated on a table alone with a glass of water. I ran up to him, and since I was eight, and possessed zero concept of respecting people’s privacy, blurted out “George Lucas, I love your films so much!” He looked up wearily at me, and drearily responded “thank you, I appreciate it.” Realizing the conversation was done, I quickly hurried away.
Phantom Menace Coincidence
Phantom Menace had just been released on VHS, and I was dead set on buying it as quickly as possible. Dad was a good sport and drove me to Comp USA, and I walked out ten minutes later with a brand new copy in my hands. On the drive back, we stopped to let a bystander cross the street. That bystander happened to be George Lucas, casually strolling across the road en route to the downtown. This massive coincidence still blows my mind to this day.
Every year, hundreds of local artists converge on downtown to participate in the annual Italian Street Painting Festival, painting original creations onto the city pavement and showing off their abilities. I was walking down the crowded streets, admiring the various works of art, when I looked up, only to see George marching towards me, sporting some killer shades. I was old enough at this point to respect his privacy, and I simply moved to allow him to walk by me.
According to my sister, George Lucas’s daughter Amanda had begun attending her tap dance studio, serving primarily as an instructor. With this knowledge in hand, I wasn’t at all surprised to see Lucas viewing virtually every single tap/ dance performance of that year. He is truly a shy dude, and seemed content on entering and leaving with barely a word.
Yes, many of these encounters are completely unremarkable and are definitely a product of pure coincidence. But I don’t care. One of the best aspects of my childhood is how I was able to encounter the man who gave me and the world Star Wars. He still constantly frequents the streets and establishments of San Rafael to this day. And despite all the negative press and opinions towards Lucas, I will always treasure those brief encounters.
- George Lucas’ Marin land in question (sfgate.com)
- Disney Buys Lucasfilm: Now What Happens to Skywalker Ranch? (sf.curbed.com)