Growing up, around the time I turned 6 or 7, my mom moved from being stay at home to going to work as an occupational therapist with Grandview Hospital. My dad was the manager of Hauer Music on Far Hills and through that job we really became close with the Hauer family, in particular Ed and Martha Hauer. Around 1980 "Aunt Martha" ,as my brother Todd and I called her, became our babysitter. She would pick us up after school and either watch us at our house on Marshall Rd. or take us to her house in Moraine to hang out with her German Shepard and FIVE poodles - side note: I developed a dislike for poodles as a result, but that's another story. "Uncle Ed" had recently died so I think my brother and I were a really good distraction for her and she used to take us to the toy store and a lot of movies when she watched us. This one rainy day the plan was as follows, 1. go to Children's Palace and get a small toy and then 2. go see a movie. One thing I should say is that Aunt Martha took me and my brother to a lot of age inappropriate movies, but for the most part looking back it was a good thing as I got to see stuff like 9 to 5, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Stroker Ace, and Six Pack (which actually was kind of a family film) but sometimes it was a bad thing, as was the case on this day.
Now when I was a kid and knew I was going to the toy store I used to get horribly sick to my stomach from the anticipation but it would go away the second I got there. I mean it was almost an immediate thing once we arrived, the stomach ache would quickly dissipate and then I could get down to the business of looking at toys. So this was about the time He-Man and the Masters of the Universe were just coming out and Children's Palace had a wall of figures to choose from. I've always been attracted to the colors orange and red, so I was immediately drawn to the Beast Man figure and after getting him we left to go to the movie theater in the Dayton Mall to see POLTERGEIST. What would follow would be two of the most terrifying hours of my little life. Well actually the first half hour wasn't that bad, but after the part where the tree crashed through the son's window and tried to eat him, I spent the rest of the movie clutching my Beast Man figure, nervously chewing on multiple pieces of Hubba Bubba, and watching the rest of the movie either with my eyes closed or through the spaces between my fingers.
As if the tree eating part wasn't bad enough there was that FREAKING CLOWN who came to life and tried to strangle the son. I already had a pretty hefty fear of clowns thanks to a painting of one my great grandmother had done and was given to me. For some reason my mom thought it would be a good idea to prop up in my closet and when I would wake up in the middle of the night he would be there staring back at me.
Needless to say I left the movie pretty shellshocked that day, holding onto my Beast Man figure for dear life. As a result, for years I was creeped out by trees. Yes, TREES. Especially climbing on them because I would see these different seams on them where the branches met the trunk and imagine them opening up and swallowing me whole at any given moment. And then I would think about what would happen if you did get eaten by a tree. Would you get digested? Was it a gateway to another dimension? Would you just be trapped inside the tree and suffocate? It's kind of funny because since then I've caught bits and pieces of Poltergeist on tv and laugh at how horrible some of the effects are , especially the part where the guy hallucinates that he's tearing his face off, but at the time, man oh man, that stuff was terrifying to me.
Luckily Beast Man was there to look out for me.
Growing up, my childhood was awesome. I was and am still surrounded by a loving family and because I was a good kid and almost never got in trouble I was given free reign to lose myself in my toys, my art, and comic books. I have so many great memories associated with these things that I've become a very nostalgic person as I've gotten older....whether that's a refusal to let go of my childhood or just holding onto the stuff that made/makes me happy, regardless I have a lot of tales to tell. One such tale took place in the spring of 1983 right on the cusp of the release of Return of the Jedi. This was obviously before the internet and rampant speculation about the plots and characters in movies so it was amazing to go into a film with no idea what was going to happen, except for the little glimpses you saw in trailers and tv commercials....and did I mention action figures? And this is where our tale begins. In Centerville there was a K-mart where Spring Valley and Main street crossed that we used to go to when I was a kid. And this one glorious day, I would have been 9 at the time, my trek into the toy department was met with a huge wall of action figures from Return of the Jedi. I just remember it was like visual overload, that classic Star Wars packaging that upon seeing it would spark the happy part of my brain and probably 90% of them featured characters I had never seen before. I don't want to speculate as to who all was available because I know ROTJ figures came out in waves and I know someone's going to call me out and say "that particular figure came out in the second wave so he/she couldnt have been there." All I know is I gravitated right to the Bib Fortuna figure aka Jabba the Hutt's right hand man. He had these cool tentacle looking things coming off his head and just looked like a complete badass...in my little Fundip addled brain I imagined he was probably some sort of bounty hunter who knocked people out with his staff and howled over their corpses. My brother decided to play it safe with a Jedi Luke, and I probably bragged and bragged how I made the better decision with my action figure choice and would be vindicated when the movie came out. And came out it did. I think I saw Return of the Jedi about three times that summer. Twice with my parents and a third time with my grandma. The time with my grandma is a whole other story. Let's just suffice to say I spent the moments after walking out of the theater with my grandma trying to convince her that she NEEDED to take me to Children's Palace IMMEDIATELY and buy me a Wicket the ewok action figure. No if ands or butts. She was very skilled in negotiations and I ended up losing that particular battle.
But back to Bib Fortuna. The guy for weeks I thought was going to be one of the most bad ass bounty hunter characters in the movies ended up being a creepy pointy tooth droid molester.
Moral of the story : don't judge an action figure by it's packaging.