I certainly was not alone in eagerly anticipating December 17, 2015. While officially, Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened the following day, many theaters across the country began screening the movie at 7:00 PM that night. My sister and I were lucky enough to get to see the movie in Orlando as part of a Disney World event that was meant not only to premier the film, but also show off Disney’s future plans for Star Wars Land, which is coming to the Hollywood Studios theme park.
As someone that has grown up with the Disney Parks and still visits once and sometimes twice a year (four times in 2015) I was definitely excited to see these models and concept drawings, but the real draw for me was the chance to meet Star Wars celebrities. Would Mark Hamill be there? Maybe Carrie Fisher?
To me that didn’t matter. All I wanted out of this evening was to live out my lifelong dream of getting a hug from Chewbacca. And get that hug I did!
People always say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, and in a lot of cases that’s true. While I wouldn’t call the band Kings of Leon my heroes, I have always been a big fan, so when they were absolute turds the one time I met them, I was a little disappointed.
Chewbacca is everything you want him to be and more. As you can see, he’s warm and inviting. He’s humble, willing to admit when he is unfamiliar with something like the Earth greeting of a high five.
It’s no wonder Han Solo was so protective of Chewie and his feelings. That cookie is a gentleman through and through.
I also met R2D2. He kind of big timed me and only made time to turn his head for a quick selfie, but the advantage of hindsight gives me the proper perspective. I was asking one of the biggest stars in the galaxy if I could intrude on his moment for one of my own.
What this night, what these meetings were really all about was making right one of the greatest wrongs I have ever inflicted upon myself.
Back in the 96 Rock days, my partner Salt and I were offered celebrity interviews all the time. We would be told a time and date window that someone was available and we worked out with the promoter when we could set up a phone call. I got to interview a lot of cool people that way, but I missed out on one that would have been huge to me. I didn’t even respond to a promoter’s email because Hulk Hogan’s interview window would have been on the last day of my scheduled vacation and I didn’t want to cut things short.
Sure, now we know that Hulk Hogan is a racist steroid-user that has sex with his friends’ wives, but all 8-year-old Demetri knew was that Hulk Hogan was the reason he said prayers and took vitamins. Not reaching out to line up an interview killed a part of 8-year-old Demetri.
Thursday night 8-year-old Demetri forgave present day Demetri. Hulk Hogan may have been his hero, but Chewbacca is a legend. Plus, it wasn’t much later in life that I would learn Hulk Hogan was just some guy named Terry Bollea. Chewbacca is and always will be Chewbacca. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Was this my redemption story? In a way, yes. By hugging Chewbacca I became not unlike Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi – destroying the evil influences that once controlled me so that future generations could prosper. With that hug, Hulk Hogan became unnecessary, because with that hug I became my own hero.