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

No comments:

Post a Comment