beating up george lucas -- 2/1/17

Today's selection -- from George Lucas: A Life by Brian Jay Jones. Born to parents George Sr. and Dorothy Lucas, George Lucas Jr., who reached global fame as the creator of Star Wars, was a diminutive, scrawny kid sometimes bullied and intimidated by other kids on his own block:

"Two pregnancies in three years had taken a toll on Dorothy [Lucas]'s health. Delicate from the start, and likely suffering from pancreatitis, Dorothy found each pregnancy harder than the last, compelling her to take long periods of bed rest -- and after Kate's birth, doctors advised her to stop having children. Yet she and George would continue to try to conceive over the next eight years, suffering through at least two miscarriages. Finally, in late 1943, Dorothy became pregnant again, this time with a baby she carried to term. At 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, May 14, 1944 -- a pleasant, clear Mother's Day morning -- Dorothy gave birth to a son. Perhaps recognizing that with Dorothy's frail health, this might be his only chance for a namesake, George abandoned the name Jeffrey, which had earlier been considered for the newborn, in favor of a name much more appropriate for an heir apparent: George Walton Lucas Jr. The baby was very small -- only five pounds, fourteen ounces -- but healthy, squirming so much when the attending doctor put the infant on Dorothy's stomach that she nearly dropped him. 'Don't let him fall off,' she warned. 'This is the only son I've got!'

"Like his parents, George Jr. had dark hair and dark eyes, as well as another distinguishing feature that ran through the Lucas line: ears that had a tendency to stick out. George Jr.'s, in fact, were more promi­nent than most, and one was even a bit floppy -- a defect that George Sr. was quick to remedy by taping it up. George Sr. would eventually proclaim it 'a good ear,' but George Jr.'s ears, which leaned upward and stuck out, would always be one of his defining features. '[He] was a scrawny little guy with big ears,' recalled sister Kate warmly.

George Lucas 

"Scrawny. It was one of the many diminutive adjectives Lucas would hear for decades. As a toddler '[he] was quite small,' said his mother. 'Really a peanut then.' At age six, Lucas weighed thirty-five pounds; by high school he would reach his full height of five-foot-six and barely tip the scales at a hundred pounds. 'A scrawny little devil,' said George Sr. ...

"For most of George Jr.'s childhood, Dorothy would spend much of her time in and out of hos­pitals or confined to bed. 'Her health kind of went downhill, remem­bered Kate. The care of the children was left largely to an outgoing housekeeper named Mildred Shelley, whom everyone called Till. Till could be strict and quick with the back of her hand, but she was also loud and funny, telling stories in a southern drawl, and the Lucas chil­dren adored her. Because of Till, said Kate, 'we were never without a mother figure.' But it was George, she thought, who had a special place in Till's heart. 'He was the only boy in the family, so he was sort of the apple of everybody's eye,' said Kate. For his part, Lucas would always speak fondly of the lively Till. 'I have very warm feelings about that time,' he said -- a positively glowing remembrance from the famously tight-lipped Lucas. ...

"For George Lucas Jr., growing up in Modesto as the son of the town's most prosperous stationer was never a bad life. But Lucas would always remain ambivalent, and slightly conflicted, about his child­hood. 'I had my share of traumas and problems,' he said later, 'but at the same time I enjoyed it quite a bit.' ...

"While Lucas's most devoted boyhood companion was probably his younger sister, Wendy, he did have a stable group of friends, including best friend John Plummer, whom Lucas met when he was four and would remain a lifelong friend, and the slightly older George Franken­stein. The three of them would regularly play together at Lucas's house on Ramona Avenue, where even Plummer and Frankenstein gave George Sr. a wide berth. 'My memory is, you never crossed him,' said Frankenstein of Lucas's father. 'I mean, if you ever did something to tick him off ... he was like a one-strike kind of person.' As John Plummer put it, 'Every time Mr. Lucas came around, you just kind of hid.' ...

" 'When I was very young, I loved make-believe,' said Lucas. 'But it was the kind of make-believe that used all the technological toys I could come by, like model airplanes and cars. I suppose that an exten­sion of that interest led to what later occupied my mind, the Star Wars stories.' Still, 'there wasn't much as a kid that inspired me in what I did as an adult.' Or so he would always claim.

"Unlike a later friend and collaborator, Steven Spielberg, who made magical childhoods a centerpiece of many of his films, Lucas never had a romantic or idealized view of childhood. 'I was very much aware that growing up wasn't pleasant, it was just ... frightening,' Lucas said later. 'I remember that I was unhappy a lot of the time. Not really unhappy -- I enjoyed my childhood. But I guess all kids, from their point of view, feel depressed and intimidated. Although I had a great time, my strongest impression was that I was always on the lookout for the evil monster that lurked around the corner.'

"Sometimes the monsters were the other kids on his own block, who bullied and intimidated the small George Jr., holding him down while taking his shoes off his feet and throwing them into the lawn sprinklers. George wouldn't even fight back, leaving his sister Wendy to chase away the aggressors and retrieve his wet shoes."



Brian Jay Jones


George Lucas: A Life


Little, Brown and Company


Copyright 2016 by Brian Jay Jones


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