When an innocent trip to meet Darth Vader at a department store turned physical.
It was in the British version of Myer where I first came face-to-face with Darth Vader as a 13-year-old. I can’t for the life of me remember why the Sith Lord was appearing in Debenhams, but as a Star Wars enthusiast, I wasn’t going to miss it for the world.
The crowd within the department store had grown from a small congregation to a seething impatient mass within minutes. I had secured a place at the front when Darth strolled defiantly through a door and approached the assembled fans. Leering menacingly with the lights on his breastplate flickering from blue to red, Vader raised a clenched fist, driving the throng into a frenzy.
It was at this point that people from behind me began to push forward, forcing me repeatedly into Vader’s leg. He glanced down and in a broad cockney accent told me to step back. “I can’t,” I replied. “Step back,” he shouted, loud enough for others around to hear. “I told you, I can’t,” I yelled back with a smile on my face.
I was enjoying the banter with one of the greatest villains in film history. Well, that was until Darth Vader put a black leather-gloved hand around my neck, squeezed and proceeded to lift me off the floor like the rebel soldier at the beginning of A New Hope. The higher he raised me from the ground, the tighter the grip became until I could barely breathe. Everybody at the event cheered and applauded, convinced that it was all part of the act.
When I drew level with him, he growled beneath his helmet, “I f–ing said step back you little pr-k” and with that he dropped me back into the crowd. Embarrassed, I feigned laughter and slowly slipped into the horde, gradually retreating back towards the escalator and subsequently the exit. What was that all about? He practically choked the life out of me. Who was that in the suit?
Back at home I peered into the mirror to look at my now sore neck. Bruising had appeared on either side of my throat, and the white t-shirt I was wearing was covered in black from Vader’s glove. My parents asked me what had happened, but I lied. I had been humiliated in front of my peers and I wanted to forget it as soon as possible.
The bruises eventually faded, but the memory of Darth Vader hoisting me five feet from the ground by the neck with will stay with me forever. Today there would've been a court case with documented phone camera evidence and tesimonies, but this was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.