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As Luke Would Have It, O.C. Fans of 'Star Wars' Get Hyper-Psyched

May 13, 2005|Kimi Yoshino | Times Staff Writer

They're normal people. Really, they are -- accountants, college students, disc jockeys; and husbands, wives, parents.

But when they utter the words "Star Wars," something inexplicable happens, and normal flies out the window faster than the Millennium Falcon can soar into hyperspace.

"Would I categorize myself as a geek? Probably not," said Robert Estrada, 34, of Orange, a.k.a. Robeewankenobe and Supreme Chancellor of the Orange County Star Wars Society, a group nearly 350 strong.

"But then I start talking about 'Star Wars,' and I light up and you say, 'OK, he is a geek.' I think there's a geek in everybody.... I think it's chic to be geek today."

Today, that may be true, as thousands of "Star Wars" fans, geeks or otherwise, prepare for Thursday's release of "Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith," the final installment of George Lucas' epic.

The local society has been camped across the street from Fashion Island at the 1,108-seat Big Newport theater since Sunday. There's also a group of six self-described "normal guys -- with wives, girlfriends, jobs and lives" who are posting on the Star Wars Campout Blog, rhapsodizing on friendship and childhood, life and possibly growing apart without the glue of "Star Wars" to bond them.

Never mind that they bought their tickets weeks ago.

Then again, this is "Star Wars."

"We take it fairly seriously," said Don Trim, 53, of Anaheim, "Star Wars" name Zhi-Don. "This is not a joke to us."

Sure, things are in high gear now, but year-round, Trim teaches young Jedis how to handle their light sabers. The group meets weekly at an Anaheim park for lessons in technique and line battles, their neon-glowing weapons and flowing Jedi robes often attracting onlookers.

For the six bloggers at Big Newport theater, who have camped out together for "Star Wars" opening days since 1999, it is perhaps more about their history as friends.

"It's morphed since that time from a bunch of guys being stupid and camping out for a movie that we like to something like a last hurrah," said Alex Douvas, 24, of Placentia, who will graduate next weekend from law school.

"It is a closing chapter ... for a lot of us in terms of where we're at in our lives."

So they've come prepared for their two-week campout with tents, refrigerators, space heaters, Playstations, VCRs and televisions. The theater leaves a door unlocked so the fans, who are on rotating shifts, have access to a bathroom and can run extension cords to their gear.

And because it is about reliving their teen years, they are armed and waiting for any drive-by pranksters out there, with eggs -- not light sabers -- in hand.

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