Waiting (and waiting) for “The Phantom Menace”

"Crazy K" is so crazy about "Star Wars" movies he's been in the ticket line for weeks.

Topics: Star Wars,

On Geary Boulevard, a bustling, foggy thoroughfare that divides San Francisco in two, passersby are being treated to an unusual sight. Slumped on a gray bean bag in front of the Coronet Theater, Khari Crowder (who goes by the pseudonym “Crazy K”) is conducting a one-man vigil. Like others in cities from Los Angeles to Austin to New York, Crowder is waiting (and waiting) for the privilege of seeing “The Phantom Menace” on opening night. His marathon camp-out began April 30 and will end Wednesday, when the movie opens. He’ll be joined by scores of die-hard fans as the anticipated day approaches, but when I spoke with Crowder, he was the sole occupant of his line and grinning with enthusiasm for the long wait ahead.

Whose idea was it for you to camp outside of this theater?

My directors, Slim and Hazel, at radio station KMEL. I work
on the street team, in promotions. Slim came up with this crazy idea to
stand in line. They asked me, and without hesitation I said yes. I will be
out here night and day, 24-7.

What are you doing about a bathroom?

I’ve worked out a thing with Round Table Pizza here behind me and Pip Printing. They allow me to use their restroom
facilities.

Are you a big “Star Wars” fan?

I am a huge “Star Wars” fan. I’ve been a “Star Wars” fan since I was 4,
when I first watched it — seeing R2 and C-3PO walk in the desert after
they jettisoned their pod from Princess Leia’s ship. I’m a big
fan. And, between you and me, I always wanted to be Lando Calrissian.

You’re not a typical “Star Wars” geek, though.

I can never say I’m an extreme geek in anything, because I just don’t
want that label, but I could tell you some things about “Star Wars,” yes. I
have all three videos, the new versions and the old. And I have my light
sabre, too.

Do your parents know you’re out here?

My parents do know I’m here. My sister knows I’m here, too, because she’s a big “Star Wars” fan. She has most of the old baseball cards from the original “Star Wars.” In fact, this is her light sabre. We’re big fans.

How many tickets are you buying for the opening?

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As many as I can get.

What’s it like out here during the day and night?

They bring the smelly dumpsters right out here, that stink so bad. It’s the weirdest thing: People have been stopping by on their lunch breaks. They’ve been stopping by any time they get a little time off. I’ve had like a collection of people, especially the meter maids. Calvin, who’s a tow-truck driver, has been going up and down this street towing trucks and hitting the horn and stopping by every once in a while. I haven’t dealt with the real cold nights yet, but I have my tent and I have my warm-ups. My “Star Wars” pajamas will be coming here. So I’ll be set.

What was it like when you first saw “Star Wars”?

The sights and sounds: especially of the laser cannons going off with
the X-wing fighters, the Millennium Falcon, the first scene, Chewbacca, and then the best and most memorable thing is James Earl Jones’ voice. His voice is so distinct and so clear that it just puts you in awe when you first hear the voice come around. And then in the later movies, he calmed down and came into a more grounded voice and it just took off from there. That’s probably the best thing in the whole movie.

Why does “Star Wars” mean so much to so many people?

Well, most of them, it’s what they grew up on. I don’t know if it’s an
early X generation or the late baby boomers, but that section, that demographic there, they grew up on “Star Wars.” It almost took on a cult following, similar to what “Star Trek” has done, but on a much greater level. Plus, George Lucas, who’s a local, a native to this area — this is his place right here, the Coronet Theater. He’s shown all of his previews here and all of his movies, and we know he’s going to show this one here.

But it hasn’t been officially announced that it’s playing
here.

Hasn’t been. I could be camping in front of the wrong theater. But I know, I can feel it in my bones, that this is the place.

Jenn Shreve writes about media, technology and culture for Salon, Wired, the Industry Standard, the San Francisco Examiner and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, Calif.

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