To a kid my age, Kenny Baker was as important as Frank Sinatra or John Lennon. In 1977, Star Wars mania was just taking off. Unlike today’s prefabricated media phenomena, which rise to a crescendo and then typically, within a few weeks, fizzle away until the Blu-Ray release, 1977 was only the beginning. By 1978, it was in full swing. Some theaters were still playing Star Wars in mid 78. And in those theaters, lines still formed. After all, before VCRs became widely available, most fans knew this would be their only chance.
At the tender age of 11, I was mesmerized, and knew more about the cast of Star Wars than I knew about most cultural icons of the day. Kenny Baker was, along with Anthony Daniels, part of the best comedy pair, in my opinion, since Abbott and Costello. “That golden man and the robot” my Mom called them, with no small amount of disdain. She took me to see it several times, but oddly enough, never warmed up to it. That was still a point where there was a large divide between kids playing their video games and watching their space movies and the older generation all about playing Euchre and working for a living.Today, of course, as many parents play games and indulge in digital entertainment as kids could hope to. When my boys were over at a friend’s house, I’d ask if the parents were home. And the answer better be yes. More than once I’d ask what they were doing, and I’d be told their dad was playing Call of Duty, or Grand Theft Auto, or something similar. But in 1977, that generation gap was still around, and a fascination for unseen actors who rode around in robot suits shaped like a garbage cans eluded my parents. But not me.
So it’s with some level of sadness I must say goodbye Mr. Baker. You helped bring more happiness to a generation of kids than you might ever know. I pray that the happiness you brought to us were matched by what you were able to enjoy. And I pray that God bless you and keep you, and may perpetual light shine upon you.