Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Star Wars Panel 1977

This link was sent to me via IM. It's been posted before. It's from the time before Star Wars exploded on the silver screen, when we were pitching it to my fellow geeks and nerds.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


As the architect of the marketing of Star Wars, one of the questions which has always intrigued me was "Why did STAR WARS fans become so devoted to Star Wars?" I've thought about this, and looked at it in different ways. The simplest answer is we were in the right place at the right time. In other words, it was pure luck we had a film which spoke to people at the time. Lots of articles and papers have been written examining what in particular STAR WARS had that caused it to appeal to fans. Story line, universal themes, and good versus evil are all reasons cited to explain why fans loved STAR WARS. But that does not really answer the question because there have been other great films which moved and stirred audiences. There have been books, like UNCLE TOM'S CABIN, which fueled our Civil War. If Harriet Beecher Stowe's words were strong enough to influence a war, then we can assume she had a fandom who felt about her book the way fans today feel about STAR WARS.

You see, STAR WARS is great, but there were other great films before STAR WARS. Great films. Great books. Great bands... The direct precursor of STAR WARS fandom was STAR TREK Fandom, to whom STAR WARS owes a great deal. Bands like the Grateful Dead, Rolling Stones or any number of groups had major fandoms, but the difference is, STAR WARS surpassed all these fandoms. It didn't happen overnight. It happened gradually, over years, and included a period when STAR WARS had basically withdrawn from producing new product and was in decline. To boost his company and hawk his franchise, shy, introverted George Lucas appeared on Japanese commercials advertising Panasonic goods.

I was surprised to see George in these commercials because the George I knew would have never done that. But George and I had gone our separate ways, and the reasons why someone does something are sometimes only known to themselves, or to a select group of people involved.

How did STAR WARS fandom change from the average pop culture fandom to the super fandom it is today? I think part of the change may have been accidental -- like being in the right time at the right place -- but other parts were Orchestrated behind The Scenes. I say this with full conviction because I was involved in orchestrating a renewal in the box office via THE RICHARD PRYOR SHOW, THE DONNY & MARIE SHOW and STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL. After I left Lucasfilm, I'm not sure if there were folks orchestrating other events, but one thought which has been mulling in my brain centered around THE PSYCHOLOGY OF DESIRE.

The PSYCHOLOGY OF DESIRE basically is a merchandising theory where you create desire via scarcity. Think about it. Instead of cajoling your mother into buying you a toy, you had to use your imagination and come up with your own toys. The more you have to use your imagination, the more vested you are in the product. Because you had to wait to get your Kenner toys, your desire for your Kenner toy increased. Your desire for STAR WARS increases.

Most of you see the delay of Kenner toys as a bad thing, but in terms of marketing, it's actually a good thing.

I wanted to share an article from, but facebook's format only allows one link per post, and I'm linking George's Japanese commercials. This is the article in full. You'll see from reading it what I mean -- creating desire for STAR WARS by withholding Kenner toys.


Interested in boosting customer desire? A classic study that demonstrates the psychology of scarcity reveals an interesting quirk of human behavior that may hold a clue.

In 1975, researchers Worchel, Lee, and Adewole wanted to know how people would value cookies in two identical glass jars. One jar held ten cookies while the other contained just two stragglers. Which cookies would people value more?

Though the cookies and jars were identical, participants valued the ones in the near-empty jar more highly. Scarcity had somehow affected their perception of value.

There are many theories as to why this was the case. For one, scarcity may signal something about the product. If there are less of an item, the thinking goes, it might be because other people know something you don’t. Namely, the cookies in the almost empty jar are the num-numier choice.

It’s About Context

Classical economic theory starts with two key assumptions: First, consumers are armed with “perfect information.” Second, people behave rationally. However, in the real world, these two conditions are more the exception than the rule. In fact, marketers do their best to trigger cognitive quirks, like the scarcity heuristic, to influence behavior.

Even though it may make no objective difference regarding what is actually being sold, marketers know context matters just as much as the product itself. The near-empty jar with just two cookies left in it conveys valuable (albeit irrelevant) information.

For another example of the importance of context, consider what happened when the world-class violinist Joshua Bell decided to play a free impromptu concert in the Washington, DC subway. Bell regularly sells-out venues like the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall for hundreds of dollars per ticket. But placed in the context of the DC subway, his music fell upon deaf ears. Almost nobody knew they were walking past one of the most talented musicians in the world.

When Bell gave away his concert for free, few stopped to listen. But when he charges beaucoup bucks, his music becomes a rarefied commodity and thousands of people pay-up.

Can the same principles of scarcity and context make technology products more desirable? You bet your sweet cookies they can!

The Slow Roll

In its early days, Facebook was only available to Harvard students. Then, the service rolled-out to the Ivy League. Soon, Facebook was made available to college students nationwide. Then came high school kids and later employees at select companies. Finally, in September of 2006, Facebook was opened to the world.

Today, Facebook is used by over a billion people but its early invitees were among a small exclusive group. As the service grew in popularity, others wanted in too.

Though it ultimately worked to his advantage, it is unclear if Zuck knew what he was doing. In a vintage video, the Facebook founder described his intent to keep the service just for college kids. We will never know if Facebook’s scarcity strategy was intentional or not, but the fact remains, it worked. The buzz soon grew about the social network made by, and only available to, Ivy kids.

When scarcity is a feature, as was the case for early Facebook converts, the service’s limited access increased its appeal.

Today, Quibb, an online discussion board frequented by a select cadre of tech professionals and entrepreneurs, provides a more recent example of the scarcity heuristic at work.

Quibb is curated by its founder Sandi MacPherson who personally decides who gets in and who stays out. MacPherson turns away far more people than she accepts and getting her approval is equivalent to getting past the velvet rope of an exclusive night club. That is, if the nightclub were full of tech geeks.

“When it comes to professional content, I believe that it actually matters who you are,” MacPherson wrote in an email interview. MacPherson says she did not build Quibb to be a big company — although it might end up being one some day. Her intent was to create a place for people she thinks are interesting to communicate with one another — MacPherson gets the satisfaction of listening-in.

MacPherson set out to filter out the noise of open communities like Hacker News and Reddit by only letting select people join the community. For Quibb members, the scarcity of the invites MacPherson doles-out is a virtue of the service.

Scarcity Gone Wrong

Facebook and Quibb provide examples of how exclusivity can increase appeal. But earlier this year two companies showed how scarcity can backfire.

Mailbox and Tempo, both iOS productivity apps, released their services to small groups of users. If you were not at the front of the line, you had to wait for an indefinite period of time. The only condolences when you opened either app was to see how many people were ahead of you in the queue — only 21,000 people to go and you’re in!

Mailbox’s attempt at damage control came in the form of a blog post explaining their roll out plans. At the center of the plea for patience was what appeared to be a hand-drawn yellow post-it note. As if sketched in the nick of time to placate the angry mobs, an exponential curve showed that soon, the company would accept many more users. But unlike in the case of Facebook, frustrated customers punished Mailbox for the wait. They trashed the app by writing poor reviews despite never having actually used it.

How Mailbox explained its roll-out plan.

As for Tempo, CEO Raj Singh said his app’s waitlist was a response to its unexpected popularity. In an email interview Singh wrote, “We mis-estimated demand for Tempo by 24X.” Expressing his regret, Singh continued, “There may have been some velvet rope effect but trust me, that was absolutely not the intention…We probably lost ~100K registered users as a result of the line.”

So why the difference in the response to Facebook versus Tempo or Mailbox? For one, it’s not clear things turned out all that bad. After all, Mailbox was snatched up by Dropbox in a rumoured $100 million acquisition and Tempo just raised a respectable wad of cash.

Nonetheless, as these examples show, scarcity made some people lust, while making others livid. But why? Here again, the 1975 cookie jar study provides some clues.

In the second part of their experiment, Worschel, Lee, and Adewole wanted to know what would happen to the perception of the value of cookies if they suddenly became scarce or abundant.

Groups of study participants were given either jars with two cookies or ten. Then, the people in the group with ten cookies suddenly had eight taken away. Conversely, those with only two cookies had eight new cookies added to their jars. How would the changes affect the way participants valued the cookies?

The researchers showed that consistent with the scarcity heuristic, the group left with only two cookies, rated them to be more valuable. However, those who got more cookies, experiencing sudden abundance by going from two to ten, actually valued the cookies the least. In fact, they valued the cookies even lower than those people who had started with ten cookies to begin with.

The study showed that a product can decrease in perceived value if it starts off as scarce then becomes abundant. Sound familiar? Take a look at the Mailbox post-it note graph again, that is exactly what the graph shows.

Doing it Right

To potential users, Mailbox and Tempo’s scarcity backfired, at least in the short-term. Attempts to placate users by telling them about the technical limitations of “load testing,” obviously didn’t cut it. Instead, the message received was akin to, “this is going out to the cool kids now and the rest of you plebs, well, we’ll see.”

In contrast, Facebook and Quibb never made any appeals for patience or promises of expanding to the masses. Their products started-out as scarce and the founders closely guarded the perception that they will remain so. When asked about his expansion plans past Harvard, Zuckerberg says, “There doesn’t necessarily have to be more.”

Of course, there was much, much more. Young Zuck masterfully explained Facebook’s small footprint at the time as a necessity to providing the level of service he wants to give his users, typifying the lesson that for scarcity to increase perceived value, it must be a feature of the product, not a bug."

End of nirandfar article. The cookie jar experiment was done in 1975, two years before STAR WARS came out. Now what do you think about the Kenner rollout?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

"10 Unsung Heroes Who Saved Star Wars"

Wow, looking for Laddie quotes, stumbled across this. I'm flattered. The Deja Reviewer piece was written June 11, 2013, so it's particularly awesome I get a mention, and it's a nice mention.

I've been working on a list of people I think who were important to the Making of STAR WARS. I wouldn't have added Willard and Gloria because George not only gave them profit sharing, he also produced Howard the Duck for them, which is a really nice way of expressing your appreciation.

Marc Pevers, of course, would be on my list. Marc and I did the merchandising together. He represented Fox, who had the legal right to licensing STAR WARS, and I represented STAR WARS CORPORATION, which later became LUCASFILM.

I'd have added Peter Beale, who was Fox's man in Europe. He not only oversaw production, he also managed the marketing, promotion and licensing. Every fan owes him a debt because he was the on location liaison between SW and 20th Century Fox.

George's attorney, Tom Pollock, would also be on the list. Directors and actors get all the glory in Hollywood, but the real movers and shakers are lawyers and agents.

Jim Nelson would be on my list also. Jim was the mean, bad daddy who had to keep a group of unruly boys in line. There were such divergent personalities involved with ILM and the start of the effects industry as we know it today. Really, to try and manage this diverse group of egos and personalities was a really difficult job.

I'm going to limit this list to 10 or 12 people. I plan on doing up a little card set, like the TOPPS cards, which will be part of a kickstarter to get the CHARLITO PROGRAM off the ground. The kickstarter will fund the digitizing of the archive, including the recent audio tapes I shared.

Read here: 10 Unsung Heroes Who Saved Star Wars

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"The ‘secret weapon’ behind Star Wars"

Gary Kurtz' daughter, Tiffany Hillkurtz, commented "This is an interesting article. Dad had a similar influence and was for a long time "written out" of history."

The main source of information that singlehandedly resurrected Marcia Lucas from obscurity was Michael Kaminsky's THE SECRET HISTORY OF STAR WARS.

Very early on, when Michael had stared writing up his Secret History, I read his page and decided I liked what he was doing, and I was going to support him. I sent him the Making of Star Wars transcript I had on Marcia Lucas. I asked him not to reveal the source of this transcripts because I was very worried about repercussions from LFL. My thought was that I didn't have the right to disclose the contents of the interviews.

I believed I did not have a right to use the Making of Interviews because I signed a separation contract when I left LFL. The contract has a couple of points which are probably in every corporate separation contract -- non-disclosure of trade secrets and return of all materials -- plus, it grants me rights to work I had created, including a share of every dollar made by my interviews. I had not read the contract in years because -- like everything STAR WARS -- I had a bad taste in my mouth from being screwed. This bad taste came from Marc Pevers and I being accused of depriving George of millions for making a deal with Kenner Toys before the release of the film, and my LFL positions being replaced by Charlie Weber's people. I was stripped of every job title except the Making of Star Wars book. When Fox offered me the job of Alien, I left LFL to work on Alien. I shut the door on my LFL office and flew to the UK.

Now here's where things get weird. While I was in the UK, LFL decided to get rid of me completely. LFL packed up my office and put everything into storage. Prior to Weber coming on board, LFL was a small group of closely-tied people. Marcia and George were a couple. Gary's assistant, Bunny Alsup, was his sister-in-law. Carol Wikarska, LFL's Head of Publication, was my ex-girlfriend, and Val Hoffman, my neighbor. Who Weber got to move my things into storage is not clear. I thought it was Val, but Val says she didn't do it. That leaves Wikarska. Wikarska has Alzheimers, so she's not answering questions. Bottom line comes down to this -- when I was in the UK, my office was packed up and everything moved into storage, including items which, per my separation contract, should have been returned to LFL.

I felt like I had given STAR WARS my all -- including dumping Wikarska, because girlfriends can demand time and energy which takes away from expanding my Lippincott Spiral. I mean, OK, it's screwed -- I admit it now -- but I was young and at the point in my life where STAR WARS meant more to me than my girlfriend. I wanted to expand my wings and fly. I was given freedom to do whatever I wanted, so everything I wanted as a young fan I got to try with STAR WARS. There's nothing more exhilarating than doing the work you want, and seeing it succeed. So yes, girlfriends came second. I admit it. I had more fun with STAR WARS than Wikarska, who wanted to get married. So I dumped her. She was not very happy. Whether Wikarska was the one who was overjoyed at the prospect of moving my office out of the Egg Factory, or if it was one of Weber's minions, I'll never know.

Regardless, the outcome was this: in my storage room was everything which had been in my STAR WARS office. For years and years, I did not know what was in storage because my storage rooms were like ex-girlfriends. Once you shut the door, there's no point in going back.

So years go by. The boxes which LFL had packed up and moved into storage remain unopened. I add more boxes to storage, including the boxes of samples Kenner mails to me. I'm ambivalent about my work on STAR WARS. On one hand, I'm proud. On the other, I'm bitter. The more I read of STAR WARS financial success, the bitterer I get -- especially during times when I'm so broke I'm eating ramen and living on borrowed money. I know people who have been able to retire off of points from a successful film who did less than I. I know, had I been given my due for building the STAR WARS franchise, I would be eating better than instant noodles. But, what's the point in making myself miserable? Like old girlfriends, it's behind me. What's present is whatever work I can get marketing or doing publicity. I'm happy if I don't think about STAR WARS. I think about producing Judge Dredd.

Judge Dredd is that child you raise hoping they'll do well, but the child fails to achieve your hopes and dreams. They get involved with bad company. They go down the wrong streets. In the end, you have to accept they are who they are. You chin up on your disappointments and move on.

I meet Bumpy. We get married. We decided to move out of Los Angeles. For the first time in years I'm opening the doors to my storage and going through stuff. I see boxes and boxes of STAR WARS files. Of course, there are also boxes and boxes of stuff on lots of other films I've worked on, plus my 20,000 vinyl LPS we have to pack. And my 10,000 books. And Bumpy's books. She easily has as many books as I have. It's an overwhelming job. We hire a crew to pack things up and ship them to the East coast as commercial goods packed on pallets. They're put into a storage warehouse where they remain for another few years. Eventually the pallets are moved from commercial storage into a barn.

After paying for storage and movers, Bumpy has had enough. We have to unload stuff. Downsize. Bumpy starts helping me sort and go through stuff. In my archives, she finds my separation contract and realizes that per the separation contract, I am due residuals on the Making of Star Wars interviews and have a limited right to use the material for establishing or defending my professional reputation.

I have given you a very long-winded explanation about my rights to the Making of interview and the Lippincott Archives. Essentially, all papers and materials were to have been returned to LFL. But -- the Lippincott Archives were created by LFL, who moved my office into storage, which I have paid for and maintained since 1978. As for my rights to the Making of Star Wars interviews, I was supposed to have been paid a royalty for any and all use of the materials, including residuals on Johnathan Rinzler's book and the broadcasting of any snippets from the interviews. I haven't been paid a dime. Regardless of whether LFL paid a dime or not, the ownership of my STAR WARS archive or work is murky.

This is why I have been very careful about the use of materials from my archive. I gave Kaminski the Marcia interviews on the provision the source remain anonymous. I have been very careful about the interviews I've uploaded. The transcript of the meeting between George, Howard Chaykin, Roy Thomas, Marcia and myself were uploaded to prove what was going on during formation of the MARVEL STAR WARS COMICS.

I've been advised by folks here that I should hire a lawyer and go after LFL and Disney for residuals owed for the Making of Interviews. The problem which arises out of doing that is the archives. I signed an agreement to return them. I have them because of LFL's actions. If I go after residuals, I may lose the archives.

Ultimately, I think restoring the true history of STAR WARS is more important than residuals. First, Hollywood has always had "Creative Accountants" who will force you to fight for every penny. Second, and most importantly, there isn't any other source of material out there which is not vetted by LFL. The books which have been written were done so with the assistance of LFL, which means, Marcia was written out of history. Gary was written out of history. I was written out of history. I don't know if it's altruistic of me, but up 'til now, I've lived without financial benefit from the work I did on STAR WARS, so I can die without them.

Read here: The ‘secret weapon’ behind Star Wars

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Vintage radio interview

Funny listening to this vintage interview about STAR WARS. Note that we were still using the STAR WARS CORPORATION rather than the LUCASFILM entity... A telephone interview with KILT.. As KILT was a Texas station, it's amusing we have a reference to SW's "Biblical" overtones. Thanks to Craig Lenti, who digitized this. He gets a Brownie Point for helping me out.

Listen here: KILT-Interview.mp3

Italian Star Wars radio commercial

Charlito Program in action -- here is one of those mystery reels digitized and uploaded. This is a 1977 Italian 30 sec. spot for STAR WARS. Thanks to Craig Lenti, who digitized this. He gets a Brownie Point for helping me out.

Listen here: Italian SW spot, 1977

The Obi-Wan song

Special thanks to Craig Lenti for digitizing this. He gets a Brownie point for his efforts. Had no idea what the mystery tape sounded like. This was a cold submission tape sent to the Star Wars Corporation in 1977. Listening to it, I thought to myself, it would be a hoot to listen to a compilation of all these fan made songs. Really worth thinking about -- doing a competition for SW songs.

Listen here: The Obi-Wan song

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Brownie point awards from the Charlito Program

More weird stuff for the Charlito Program -- original promos for Star Wars, including several Kenner commercials. As these are 16mm clips which have never been projected, the quality if undoubtedly high. Not quite on the level of a 35mm print, but better than most of what you're seeing on youtube which was saved off a TV.

I had a couple of Cast & Crew T-shirts which I wore for Star Wars promotion. Whenever I had official business, I'd don one of these so you'd know I was with STAR WARS. When one got dirty, I'd wear another. So in spite of my wanting to say, "Yes, this was THE shirt worn at the Grauman's footprint ceremony," I'd probably have to correct myself and say there was a 33 1/3% chance this was the T-shirt I wore at the ceremony.

My collecting is limited to music. I'd love to own a horn played on by Miles Davis or Ornette Coleman. I suppose my getting a thrill out of putting my lips to the mouthpiece Miles used to perform Sketches of Spain would be the same as someone wanting the T-shit I wore at Graumans during the footprint ceremony. I can't understand it, but that's because I don't think of myself in the same way as I think of Miles. I'm just a dweeb who happened to work on a movie you like.

Steve York has been making so many fanboi waves I figured I'd give him (and you) the chance to get this used, vintage T-shirt which has a 33 1/3 chance of being the one worn at Graumans. It's now officially added to the Brownie Point awards.

Thinking of trophy articles from "celebrities," in my very weird collection of artifacts, I have to confess to owning a pair of socks which Jean-Luc Goddard wore... AND some cigarette butts.Think they're Gauloise... OK, the skinny is I hosted Jean-Luc at USC during my student days of film programming. Jean-Luc left a pair of sock in the hotel room which I bagged, along with the contents of his ashtray. Though I find it hard to understand someone wanting MY T-shirt, I wanted Jean-Luc's socks. To us, Jean-Luc was a god. He was BREATHLESS!!! Bumpy, who went to UCLA, thinks I sound rather perverted... but there you have it, folks.

Graumans T-shirt and Jean-Luc's socks.

Andy Vajna had leather jackets and these bags made up for the producer's group swag. This will be a Brownie point award. It was never used but crummy photo makes one side look faded. Not.

Judge Death candle, another Brownie point award.

Dino had this original framed King Kong in his office. Its original, in Polish. I always liked it. We had it up in our house in LA and when we first moved East. This is a Brownie point.

Here's the gold record I got commemorating the sale of the first 500K records. You can see in the next two pics the "plaque" and record became unglued and need to be remounted. This will be a Brownie point award. While some part of me, out of sheer laziness,wants to say, well, I'll just let the winner remount this. In another way, I sure would like to have a decent pic of it, which would best be done when it's removed from glass.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Charlito Program AKA Bumpy's Charley Program FKA the Brownie Points system

The director we originally hired to do the STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL was David Acomba, whom George and I I knew from USC. At one point, David lived next door to me. He lived in the same building as Taylor Hackford. I don't stay in touch with people I knew, but recently Taylor contacted me about some jazz albums. It was nice talking to him. For those of you who don't know who he is, Taylor did THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE (1997), RAY (2004) and PARKER (2013). When I knew him, he was married to Lynne Littman , who directed that great anti-war indie, TESTAMENT. He was in the gossip rags recently because he and his current wife, Dame Helen Mirren, are publicly affectionate so the tongues wag.

Didn't want to get into a bit of namedropping there, but sometimes it's inevitable as I don't know how many of you know who these folks are.

Anyway, Taylor had a nickname for me which he still uses -- Charlito. He's the only one who has ever called me that.

I always liked the ring of it -- Charlito... much cooler than Charley... Sure, there are some, like Dino, who called me Chaaaly, but Charlito is cooler. So Bumpy started calling the Brownie Points system the Charley Program. After talking to Taylor, I told her instead of calling it the Charley program, we should call it the Charlito Program.

I've been recently very liberally giving out Brownie Points. There's been a reason for this. Christopher Shy did this wonderful mashup for me. I'm planning on printing them up and sending them out to everyone who has gotten a Brownie Point. It's not the Brownie Point Award. It's just a thank you card from me for your contributions.

Bumpy realized the mailing would end up being a pretty penny. Plus, we probably need to help funding getting the tapes digitized. So we're going to do a gofundme. That is basically Bumpy's Charley Program, which I am renaming into the cooler sounding Charlito Program. It'll be a gofundme kitty. First thing out the door is Christopher Shy's wonderful mashup.

I had originally planned on getting this done bout now, but I seem to be a very slow senior citizen :) so we're talking more like next month.