Author Archive



A. A Television Show That Mentioned My Name. Q. What Is Jeopardy?

Steve Sansweet | March 20, 2014
Jeopardy logo

Courtesy Jeopardy Productions Inc.

It was just an ordinary Tuesday afternoon a little after 4:15 p.m. I was working at my computer as usual, when I caught an e-mail from my nephew Jeff, a lawyer in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

“Did you know you were just an answer to a Jeopardy question!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

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The Rebel Troop Carrier, from Echo Base to Rancho Obi-Wan

Steve Sansweet | February 3, 2014
The Rebel Troop Carrier in a scene from The Empire Strikes Back

The Rebel Troop Carrier in a scene from The Empire Strikes Back.

Blink and you’ll miss it on screen in The Empire Strikes Back! On a list of the 200 top vehicles in the Star Wars saga, it wouldn’t make last place. I’m embarrassed that there’s not even an entry for it in the 1.1 million word Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia, which I co-wrote. And yet now it’s sitting, in all its amazing full-size glory, in the carport at Rancho Obi-Wan.

The “it” goes by several names: Rebel Personnel Transport, Flight Crew Shuttle, or as the three incredible (and just a bit crazy) guys who built it call it, the Rebel Troop Carrier. You may have seen it on display, or even sat in it, in the R2 Builders Club room at Star Wars Celebration V in Orlando, Florida in 2010. This is its story.

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Sculptor Lawrence Noble’s Long Journey with Yoda

Steve Sansweet | January 20, 2014
Lawrence Noble’s bronze Yoda welcomes visitors to Lucasfilm headquarters at the Presidio (Photo By R. Sheridan)

Lawrence Noble’s bronze Yoda welcomes visitors to Lucasfilm headquarters at the Presidio. (Photo By R. Sheridan)

The thing about life-changing experiences is that you never know when they’re going to happen. For sculptor Lawrence Noble, it came in a darkened theater watching an advance screening of The Empire Strikes Back, seated next to his longtime friend and fellow artist John Alvin. And it happened because of a major and risky gamble by George Lucas.

Yoda was going to be the heart and soul of Empire. But could a puppet carry that large a burden? With the creation of creature master Stuart Freeborn and the incredible puppetry and voice of Frank Oz, Yoda not only worked but was magical!

Speed forward nearly 34 years, and the iconic Yoda statue that graces a fountain at Lucasfilm’s headquarters at San Francisco’s Presidio, as well as three other monumental bronzes created by Noble, has brought him, George Lucas and the late landscape architect on the project, Lawrence Halprin, the prestigious Henry Hering Memorial Medal for Art and Architecture for 2014, awarded by the National Sculptural Society, founded in New York in 1893. The award is given for outstanding collaboration between owner, architect, and sculptor in the distinguished use of sculpture in an architectural project.

For a talented artist as well as a diehard Star Wars fan, the award couldn’t be more gratifying for Noble, who is currently San Francisco Academy of Art University’s Sculpture Chair. Noble’s father was a fan of science fiction and fantasy, and the first time Lawrence saw Star Wars it blew him away. “It hit me on so many levels — certainly including the visual one.”

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He Kidded That He Was “Almost Famous,” But in the Hearts of Many Fans, Jerry Treiber Was a Shining Star

Steve Sansweet | January 6, 2014
Jerry Treiber's Facebook page header

Part of Jerry Treiber’s Facebook page header, with the infamous lightsaber.

I first became acquainted with Jerry Treiber nearly 20 years ago. I was Los Angeles bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal at the time, my first two Star Wars books had been published, and I had started my six-year stint as a sidekick on QVC Star Wars Collectibles shows. I was in my office editing a story when I heard a worried voice.

“Steve, is anyone working on a story so hot that someone would want to send a bomb to the office?” asked Inga, my very-worried sounding admin. She got my attention quickly. When I approached her desk I saw a half-opened cardboard box addressed to me with a clearly written return address. Buried in the packaging material I could make out what looked like a hand-made cylinder; it looked far too nice to be a bomb.

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When it Comes to Christmas Music, Is There Anything Better Than Christmas in the Stars? (Trick Question!)

Steve Sansweet | December 18, 2013
Christmas in the Stars 1980 LP cover

Christmas in the Stars 1980 LP cover

What can you get a Wookiee for Christmas when he already owns a comb? No, not a hairbrush. And if you don’t immediately get what I’m talking about, you’re probably not as much of a Star Wars trivia expert as you think.

Actually, despite the festiveness of the season, I’m perturbed. I’ve heard “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” at least four or five times on the radio already, but not once have I heard “R2-D2 We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” And what about “The Odds Against Christmas?” Those, along with “What Can You Get a Wookiee…” are three of the nine tunes on Christmas in the Stars: The Star Wars Christmas Album, which originally came out as an LP (remember vinyl records?) in 1980 from RSO Records — and fairly quickly went out of print.

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World Record Night at Rancho Obi-Wan Comes with Auctions, Celebrities, and Even Balloon Pops!

Steve Sansweet | November 20, 2013

World Record Night logo

Party time! Who among us doesn’t love to hear those words…especially if Star Wars is involved. Well, perhaps the party planner who has hundreds of details to attend to, tight budgets, deadlines to meet, occasional quirky people to contend with — and a reputation to uphold.

We’re just beginning to recover from the Nov. 2 World Record Night at Rancho Obi-Wan, an evening designed to mark our second anniversary as a nonprofit museum and to celebrate our inclusion in Guinness World Records 2014 as the “Largest Collection of Star Wars Memorabilia.” As important, the event was a fundraiser to help us continue our mission of Inspiring through the Force of Imagination, which is a nice way of saying — like any nonprofit — we need to keep raising money to stay alive. More on that later.

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From 20,000 Chickens to 300,000+ Star Wars Items: It Must Be a World Record!

Steve Sansweet | September 17, 2013
A special look at Rancho Obi-Wan's Guinness World Records shoot by David Iskra.

A special look at Rancho Obi-Wan's Guinness World Records shoot by David Iskra.

I don’t have the world’s longest fingernails, shortest dog, or largest collection of vacuum cleaners. But, according to the globally-recognized authority on such things, Guinness World Records 2014, I have amassed the “Largest Collection of Star Wars Memorabilia” in the galaxy. But who knew that would be such a big deal?

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Sunday in the Park with George…and Yoda and Indy, Too

Steve Sansweet | June 7, 2013
SA layout-5.6

Chamber of Commerce poster.

Stephen Sondheim’s musical Sunday in the Park with George was inspired by the concept and the painting of Georges Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece, “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” But here I’m referring to another George — Lucas, of course — and another park, this one being built in George Lucas’ longtime hometown, San Anselmo, California.

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Gearing Up for May the 4th, and with Good Reason

Steve Sansweet | May 1, 2013

597px-Thatcher_reviews_troops_(cropped)

What are we to make of this? A pun initially used to celebrate the election of the first female prime minister of the United Kingdom becomes a meme long before the Internet is born and then morphs into the first worldwide holiday for a movie!

If you think I’m exaggerating, do your own Google search on “May the 4th be with you” and in a quarter of a second you’ll get nearly one billion hits. That’s billion! OK, slight exaggeration: it’s merely 909,000,000.

We fans know that Star Wars isn’t just any movie but one that truly justifies that overused word, phenomenon. And if Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Party wanted to hype her victory on May 4, 1979, with a newspaper ad that blared “May the Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations!” who could blame it for trying to tie the party to the then-most popular movie in the British Isles?

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The Force Binds Together Not Only the Galaxy, but Friends and Families, Too

Steve Sansweet | April 26, 2013
The letter to Chief Justice Roberts on YouTube

The letter to Chief Justice Roberts on YouTube

You never know how you’re going to meet and make new friends through Star Wars. It could be standing in line for a week waiting for the next movie. Perhaps it’s at a big Star Wars Celebration convention. Or maybe it’s someone you’re marching next to at a 501st Legion parade. In this case, it was a viral video of a really smart and articulate 12-year-old boy reading a letter he wrote to Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts after he heard that Justice Roberts and his wife had two adopted children.

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