I’m so sorry to hear that Kenny Baker passed away yesterday, at the age of 81. He was, by all accounts a very nice man. In fact, out of the main 1977 Star Wars main cast, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything but good things about him. For that alone, he was a great ambassador for Star Wars.
I almost met Kenny, once. It was my first Star Wars convention—or any kind of Con for that matter. It was Invasion, the Irish Star Wars convention which has been running for a few years in Ireland and Northern Ireland. There was a queue of folks all day long at his desk, but I didn’t join it. I’d never met a celebrity before, never mind asked for an autograph. I partly felt silly about doing such a thing, partly wondered what I might say to him which could possibly be interesting, but I also worried about meeting a childhood hero and being disappointed.
At about 5:45, when the event was finishing up, and more importantly, the celebrity guests had finished their day-long stint of signing and posing for photos, and were probably looking forward to a pint or two; I said to my wife that I was sorry that I hadn’t gone up to meet him and ask him to sign my comic adaptation. I dithered about on the spot as I watched him packing up his things for the night and saw my opportunity escaping from me. But Gabby said, “Go on John, go over to him. If you don’t you’ll always regret it.”
Sheepishly, I chose the tactful approach and went over to one of the staff. I apologised to her, and said that I’d love to show Kenny my comic and ask him if he’d honour me by autographing it. My worry then, was that it’d look like I was trying to get a freebie after the show, instead of queuing and paying like everyone else. I was holding the fee in my hand, and held it toward her, but she said, “Leave it with me, and I’ll have a word with Kenny. Just wait there.”