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Darth Vader Made Me Cry

Note: An expanded version of this story is now available here.

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of The Dark Lord of Sith
When I was seven years old I received the best Christmas present ever: a copy of The Star Wars Storybook. On the inside front cover my parents had written "To Matthew - Merry Christmas in 1978. From Mother and Daddy with lots of love."

I was fairly certain that this was a gift beyond improvement. But a few months later I saw in the paper that Darth Vader -- the Darth Vader! -- would be coming to a nearby department store. I begged my mom to take me. She agreed, and we visited the mall on a Saturday afternoon so I could get Vader's John Hancock.

Upon our arrival we found ourselves at the end of a long line of parents and youngsters eagerly waiting their opportunity to meet Darth Vader. Kids would be allowed to approach Vader singly or in small groups; they would approach and exchange a few words, or ask for autographs, or simply stand there awe-struck. It was like visiting Santa Claus, except the guest of honor was more renowned for breaking necks than for dispensing candy canes. And, to the best of my knowledge, no one sits on Darth Vader's lap.

As I got closer to the front of the line, I could feel my excitement reach fever pitch. Finally it was my turn. The attendant waved me through, and I rushed forward to meet my anti-hero. But once I actually entered Darth Vader's Personal Space, I was abruptly cowed. He was huge! And he had exactly the sort of dominating presence you'd expect of an Imperial Dark Lord. I was struck dumb, and stood there like a field mouse that had just spotted an owl.

At some point I managed to squeak out my request -- or maybe I just held the book and black marker out, I honestly don't recall. In any case, Darth Vader took the Storybook, quickly wrote something inside, and handed it back. I stammered out a thank you as we were ushered off to the side.

As we walked away I was filled with combination of terror, relief, and exhilaration. After snapping out of my daze I urged my mother to stop walking so I could see the autograph, and opened the storybook to find the words "Darth Vader" scrawled on the inside cover. I immediately began to proactively gloat, thinking about how jealous my friends would be when I showed them Darth Vader's autograph. But then, just before I closed the cover, I noticed something else. While signing my book, he had also taken the opportunity to scratch out the word "love" in the inscription "From Mother and Daddy with lots of love."

Stunned that the Lord of Sith could be so mean I immediately burst into tears, and continued to bawl as my mother led me to the escalator. The kids still in line watched me with curiosity, and then glanced at Darth Vader with fear in their eyes.

Posted on May 28, 2003 to Favorite Posts


Yes, the dark side of the force can be like that. You were lucky to have left that line without total conversion to the dark side. I bet you ran with scissors for weeks after that and had no idea why.... BUAhaHAHAhhahahahHAHAHAHa

Posted by: boomratt on May 28, 2003 8:24 AM

That is the funniest thing I have ever read.

Times must have been tight around the Empire for old Darth to be doing mall appearances. I wonder if they'll explain that in the sequal to the prequal or something.

Posted by: clark on May 28, 2003 8:28 AM

Children should be more careful when messing with the darker powers of the universe.

Posted by: Anonymous on May 28, 2003 9:27 AM

That was back when it was an evil democracy instead of an evil empire. Darth was out Politicking, you know, signing auto-graphs and spitting on babies.

Posted by: KOTWF on May 28, 2003 9:29 AM

Mr. Vader was probably just jealous of your semi-normal home life. He didn't have a "Family Ties" childhood, you know. His own son was plotting his death for goodness sake.

Posted by: Calvin on May 28, 2003 9:49 AM

You were 7 years old in 1978? Man, you're OLD.

Posted by: Ryan Waddell on May 28, 2003 12:25 PM

OHMIGOD! I had the same experience! Except that instead of handing Darth Vader a book to sign, he was giving out already-signed b&w head shots (hmmm, maybe he was looking for a new agent?) He must have been doing a big mall tour that year

BTW-I love your blog...I'm addicted....

Posted by: Margaret on May 28, 2003 1:32 PM

You know, I too had the same experience of seeing Darth Vader in the back of "diamonds" department store in phx.az. . . except with out all the mamby-pamby crying and carrying on. it was, honestly, the first experience i can recal of concrete cynicism. (the first of many) where i realized, "hey! thats a fake darth vader" . the dark lord was handing out head shots, i still have mine somewhere. i do think its REALLY funny that he crossed out the word love. one is made to wonder ... - actor playing into the part to much or disgrunteled nearly suffocating bitter store employee. the other thing worth thinking about is how this OBVIOUSLY was BEFORE lucas ran the franchise into mythic proportions. ex. star wars xmas special.

Posted by: Brodie on May 28, 2003 2:15 PM

Thanks for sharing this story - brightened up the afternoon! I don't ever remember Darth Vadar or any star-wars characters coming to visit my town - further proof that everything about Florida sucks.

Posted by: Shawn on May 28, 2003 3:28 PM

Just when I think you're making half of this stuff up you produce the honest to goodness evidence.

I'm a little confused though. If David Prowse was the actor who played Darth Vadar but James Earl Jones was the voice, whose signature is it?

And I think you should be honored that the Dark Lord took the time to read the inscription and editorialize on it instead of just scribbling D. Vadar and moving you along.

Posted by: Duane on May 28, 2003 3:48 PM


You have GOT to listen to the Star Wars Christmas Album. Luke Skywalker is played by none other than a young 18 year old lad named John Bon Giovvi. Yup. That one.


Posted by: digitaljosh on May 28, 2003 4:52 PM

I guess somewhere around that same time a Darth Vader impersonator made an appearance at our local Les Schwaab tire store. I wasn't born yet, but I guess my older brother was 7-8 and went, and took the opportunity to try to strike a blow for the rebellion by attacking the guy in the suit mercilessly. Good times, good times.

Posted by: Hildago on May 28, 2003 5:18 PM

Wait, it wasn't the real Darth Vader?

Posted by: Fred on May 28, 2003 5:35 PM

You got off lucky.

My two older siblings went to Florin Mall in Sacramento to visit Darth Vader and he cut them both clean in half. They had been joking in line about his "smoker's breathing" and I guess he just snapped.

My mom ran to summon security, but he mind-tricked her before she could get two steps. True story.

Posted by: Rob Cockerham on May 28, 2003 5:57 PM

OK I love the comment from the guy who said he thought you made all this stuff up and then prove it REAL with this honest to goodness evidence. my oh my! Just stay tuned for more. Friend you continue to crack me up. and even more funny is how many people comment on how old you are, hahahahahaha

Posted by: efdot on May 28, 2003 6:54 PM

Man. This is what sets Vader apart from your typical evil guy: his incredible attention to detail. Hitler would have just signed it, Lex Luthor might write a smarmy comment... but Vader uses it as an excuse to wreak evil.

Posted by: Jay on May 28, 2003 8:56 PM

Omigod! The same thing happened to me only it wasn't Darth Vader it was Carrie Fisher. And it wasn't 1978 it was 1998 at Star Tours in MGM Studios Florida (see they do come to Florida). And instead of crossing out "love" from anything she started on some stumbling drunken ramble about how pathetic all we "fans" were. I guess Vader finally turned her to the dark side. . .

Posted by: Paperts on May 29, 2003 5:14 AM

somewhere there is some fat old dude who totally forgot he did that...

Posted by: uni on May 29, 2003 2:28 PM

Ok, I came back to leave another comment, about how RAD that story is. I was reading it outloud to my roomate and I had to stop reading because I was laughing so much. Awesome.

Posted by: Rob Cockerham on May 29, 2003 4:32 PM

Just a thought. If you were Darth Vader in this situation, you have to be thinking that you pulled off a pretty cruel joke. But I'm sure part of you is also hoping that little Matthew shows the book to his Mother, and Mother comes back yelling at Darth Vader for making her son cry. Think about it, how cool would it be to be dressed up as Darth Vader and to have some strange woman yelling at you for writing in a kid's book, and then to suddenly to reach for the light saber, maybe while being restrained by mall employees, as dozens of little kids look on in horror, waiting to see this woman be struck down like Obi Wan?

Maybe "cool" is the wrong word.

Posted by: Jimmy Corrigan on May 29, 2003 6:07 PM

Having read the story of poor Matthew's unfortunate encounter with the Dark Lord Vader I was completely astonished at the extreme eviltude of a man who ended up to be nothing more than a fat, pale, bald, guy in a suit. This man was so evil, in fact, that I felt compelled to write a little ditty about it, and it goes a little something like this:
There once was a Sith named Lord Vader
Whose head looked just like a potater
With black pen and glove
he crossed out the "love"
plus he voted for Bush and not Nader.
Truly, an evil evil man...

Posted by: Dave Beefoven on May 30, 2003 9:54 AM

I had this same book. And it has a little extra part that wasn't in the movie, about Biggs Darklighter talking to Luke about the academy, correct? I was hoping when they re-released the movie with new scenes, they were going to put this part back in. Because with this scene we realize that Luke wanted to join the IMPERIAL academy, not the rebels--in fact its here were Biggs tells Luke that the Academy isn't so great and that he's going to join the Rebels. And then they put the Biggs part in the movie closer to the end [before the Death Star attack], where its apparent the Luke and Biggs know each other, but it makes no sense without the earlier part. For more info:

Posted by: john on May 30, 2003 10:27 AM

I just looked at the book, and you are absolutely correct: the extra scene with Biggs is in there, and he does talk about switching from the Academy to the Rebels.

Luke Skywalker was having an unepected reunion with his friend Biggs. Biggs was on a visit from the Academy, and Luke wanted to hear all about it. The two friends talked and laughed for a while.

The Biggs got serious. "Luke, I have to tell you something, and you are my best friend. As soon as I get back, I'm going to join the Rebel Alliance."

Luke was startled. Fun-loving, happy-go-lucky Biggs was going to be one of the Rebels! "You can't do it, Biggs. You'll never make contact with a Rebel unit. You'll be captured by the Imperials. You'll ..."

"You don't know how bad things are, kid," Biggs interupted. "Only the threat of the Rebellion keeps the Imperials from being even more evil. Out here in Tatooine, you don't hear much about the terrible things the Empire does. The Rebellion is growing, and I want to fight for the side I believe in."

The friends said a sad goodbye, Luke returning to the farm and Biggs going off to fight for his beliefs. Luke couldn't ever remember feeling so alone.

Crazy. Posted by: Matthew on May 30, 2003 10:38 AM

could have been worse.

i bet that goofy ass jar jar binks would have circled the word love with a heart shape in red ink.

Posted by: griff on May 30, 2003 12:00 PM

This one time, at Cub Scout Camp, a Storm Trooper showed up. And he (?) was all walking around looking just like the guys in the movie. And we were all checking him out with his cool looking but fake-because-they-don't-really-have-laser-guns laser gun. And we were both smug in knowing he was fake and thrilled to be hanging out with a Storm Trooper.

One of the Boy Scouts admitted that the Storm Trooper was just a guy in a costume, but that the jet pack on his back was real and that if he pulled the cord he would shoot up into the sky.

I didn't really belive him, and I wanted to pull the cord just to see what happened, but I was afraid that if it was real I'd get in a lot of trouble.

Posted by: Mike on May 30, 2003 5:24 PM

Darth Vader was busy on the mall circuit that year. He gave out signed 8x10s in Tallahassee, Fl! When it came to be my turn, he picked me up and held me high in the air. All I remember is a group of teenagers laughing at me, and one said something to the effect of "That kid is totally petrified!". The 8x10 was pinned to my wall for many years. Unfortunately I lossed it at some point. Your storybook reminds me of a giant oversized Star Wars comic the kid next door had, which I coveted dearly.

Posted by: Robert on May 31, 2003 9:06 AM

I was 7 years old in 1978 and also had this book, although I never got to meet Darth Vader or anyone else in the book because my parents are mean and evil.

Posted by: Mark on May 31, 2003 9:36 AM

You were 7 years old in 1978? Man, you're OLD. Posted by Ryan Waddell at May 28, 2003 12:25 PM

Thankfully, I was not 7 in 1978, I was 23, and I damn sure am not old ... nor did Darth Vader make me cry. I just peed my pants.

Posted by: Tiger on June 2, 2003 2:59 AM

Maybe he just wasn't looking when he went to sign the book, saw he had started to sign over the original inscription, and then moved down before completing it. Or maybe you were just so nervous that you accidentally held the marker there when handing it to him to sign. Or maybe when he gave the marker back the cap was still off and it rubbed it.

At least you got your marker back...I keep forgetting that part when I get an autograph.

"Thanks Mean Joe Green!" I just can't follow up with "Hey can I have my marker back?" and "Didn't you give that shirt to that kid who was holding your drink and if so how are you wearing it now?"

Posted by: Brian on June 2, 2003 7:48 AM

Right, Brian -- just try to convince poor Matthew it wasn't the real Darth Vader who signed his book.

Stomp all over his childhood illusions, why don't you?

Posted by: McGehee on June 2, 2003 8:22 AM


Posted by: McGehee on June 2, 2003 8:22 AM

I'm sorry for doing that...really.

Posted by: Kevynn Malone on June 2, 2003 9:57 PM

I can only think of the lawsuit that some kid's mom would file if that happened today.

Posted by: David Strain on June 2, 2003 10:03 PM

Oh, that was beautiful. Childhood memories at their best ;)

Posted by: Hex on June 3, 2003 2:50 PM

i see a sequel to the christmas story.

is your fathers name ralphie? dunno why but i could almost hear the voice over from that movie as i read your words and the scene played out in my mind. i seriously thought i was gonna pee.

classic story, truly

and whats this about young luke joining the IMPERIAL forces??? nooooooo. suddenly my world is upside down...i need to go rest for a while

Posted by: lisa on June 3, 2003 7:09 PM

Wow! I have a similar story, except for me, Lord Vader lined-out "father" and scrawled "*I* am your father."

Posted by: Jim on June 4, 2003 7:24 AM

I was sexually harrassed by Ewoks at a mall in Paramus, NJ. I really can't say any more.

Posted by: Cam on June 4, 2003 7:46 AM

When only two hundred years old had I reached, by my parents an "Empire Strikes Back" picture book given I was. By Chewbacca, signed it was. Envious my friends were. Now, all grown up I am. Possess it still I do. But no longer the Chewbacca noise can I make.

Posted by: Pastamasta on June 4, 2003 8:22 AM

I had that book, too.

Posted by: Scott Rogers on June 5, 2003 3:40 PM

In ref to Pastamasta's Yoda comment:
So easy to do, yet still so very very funny.
Hmmm? Yeeeesss.

Posted by: pavlov on June 6, 2003 9:36 AM

Would have been cool had he drawn a TIE fighter blowing the crap out of that stupid looking rocket ship.



Posted by: Greedo on June 9, 2003 7:26 PM

man that's pretty fucking cool...the irony is so thick!!!

Posted by: sunny on June 12, 2003 2:13 PM

Childhood memories are great. I have this one where I ride a bus to Kentucky.

Posted by: studebacherhoch on June 12, 2003 5:55 PM

Does anyone know the title of the sequel to "The Christmas Story", which was about Ralphie? I've seen the sequel, and I want to buy it, but I can't remember the name of it! Please help. Thanks.

Posted by: Pam on July 18, 2003 4:05 PM

Thanks for the reply about the sequel to "A Christmas Story." I've ordered "My Summer Story." I didn't know that movie existed.
However, the one I'm looking for was Ralphie at 15 with a summer job;his parents,he, and his brother going to the lake for 2 weeks (and they pack everything in the house), and losing their dog before they leave. The mother played on "Mama" as the daughter-in-law. Charles Grodin was not in it. The title was very long and strange. Any help? Thanks.

Posted by: Pam on July 22, 2003 11:49 AM

I have no idea how I missed this the first time.

I picture this 40 year old jerk sitting around with his friends on Sunday afternoons, drinking beer and watching the game, belching, and saying to his similarly half-crocked buddies: "Hey, did I ever tell you about worst summer job I ever had? The costume sucked, but I managed to terrify this little kid one time..."

Posted by: Stacey on July 30, 2003 10:38 AM


Posted by: sdasdas on September 19, 2003 9:57 PM

The closest I've ever gotten to the stars of the movies was during a Comicon when I lived in LA. The last living admiral from A New Hope was there, some rather nice looking english chap signing shots of him from the movie....

The shots, of course, where of him gettin choked by vader during the conference sceen. The one I chose him to sign has him pulling at his collar with a small caption "I find your lack of faith disturbing, admiral"

I chatted with him for a while, about nothing in particular, but I did get his autograph.

He signed it "The force works... But the empire rocks!"

Posted by: Mor`gruth on October 6, 2003 8:24 PM