From time to time, celebrities have crossed my path or I’ve cross theirs (especially in the case of Diana Rigg—and she wasn’t all that pleased—long story, don’t ask). Two celebs that I bumped into just as fame found them were R2F2 and Darth Vader—or I should say, Kenny Baker and Dave Prowse respectively.
Kenny Baker and his fellow diminutive partner, Jack Purvis, were a comedy double act called the Minitones. Jack Purvis also was in the Star Wars movies as various Jawas and Ewoks. They had comedy-slapstick act which I think was aimed at kids, although I do wonder if they had an adult themed show. I say this because the two times I saw them perform was in a dingy working men’s club in my hometown and I always thought that was an odd venue, also Jack Purvis seemed the kind of guy to have a dirty joke on hand. The first time I saw them perform was the year before Star Wars, but when they performed the second time was just after Star Wars was a phenomenon and they were billed as the Minitones featuring the stars of Star Wars. Now their act hadn’t changed from one year to another and there were no Star Wars based skits, but they did answer questions about Star Wars and they signed autographs, etc. I remember them coming into the crowd to pull kids onto the stage to be part of their act. I think I was blown away by the fact that I was the same height as them. I stood next to these guys and I was the right size for something for once. I could be a Jawa. I could be a troublesome little droid. But so could about 200 other kids in the room. Although questions were about landing a Star Wars gig was asked, none of us got a hookup. Bummer. All I have to say, I do have fond memories of them.
My Darth Vader encounter was a little different and a tad more formal. Dave Prowse visited our school as the Green Cross Code Man! A superhero crossing guard. Yeah, suck on that Superman. Who cares about being faster than a speeding bullet if you don’t know how to cross the road?
The Green Cross Code Man was the face and biceps of a new government promotional advertising campaign. See this high production value ad below:
As we all know James Earl Jones voiced Darth Vader because Dave didn’t have a great voice, even if he did have great physicality. He should have realized the writing was on the wall on that score because you might have noticed that they dubbed his voice for the Green Cross Code Man too. Ouch!
I was in 3rd or 4th grade at the time and I remember all the kids in the primary school received a Green Cross Code pack and we did road crossing drills with our teaches (and at home with parents for extra credit…woohoo!). The idea was that GCC Man would visit our school to check our progress. I have some vague recollection of a lightning appearance and a simulated road crossing demo in the parking lot. It was kind of a letdown after all the buildup, especially as this was the first person I was meeting from the telly. That kind of changed when it came out that the GCC Man had switched to the dark side to become Darth Vader a year later. The Green Cross Code Man hadn’t taught me to cross the road. Darth Vader had!! Oddly (probably because of the helmet) he remained doing good as the GCC Man while being Darth Vader. Now, I find that duality somewhat interesting for a story.
Obviously this means I’m that one degree closer to Star Wars than the average person and from time to time, I’ll start a conversation with, “That time I Met R2D2 & Darth Vader…”