The year was 1973. I was a young reporter still earning his chops chasing George McGovern across the great rolling prairie of South Dakota. It was there, at a theater in Watertown, that I first saw the motion picture that set the tone for an entire generation, “American Graffiti.” My generation. Our movie. It touched us all. It marked our lives, and its heart and soul came from the northern end of California’s mighty San Joaquin Valley. From the Modesto area, where movie great George Lucas was born.
And then came “Star Wars,” and a collaboration with Steven Spielberg that produced Indiana Jones, and George Lucas Industrial Light and Magic, and Lucasfilm, and LucasArts, and Skywalker Ranch, where the great American philosopher and educator Joe Campbell spent some of his final days.
From the San Joaquin Valley to the San Francisco Bay, the life’s work of George Lucas and his home state of California will be forever tied. So why am I reading that he’s decided to locate his new Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, his personal legacy, in Chicago, rather than California? Really? Chicago? Surely this is a joke?
It’s said that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel lobbied hard to get the museum in his town. I’m sure he did. It’s also being reported that Chicago is giving Lucas a plot of land near the Shedd Aquarium for a measly $1 a year and that San Francisco wanted $30-million for a location in the Bay Area. Lucas, apparently wanted to locate the museum in the Presidio, but he and the Presidio Trust couldn’t come to terms. There’s also the fact that his wife is from Chicago, so that may have played a role in his decision.
But none of the magic happened in Chicago. It was all California. The legacy belongs to both George Lucas and his home state. How and why the State of California let him get away, is a question that should probably be answered.
While businesses flee to Texas and Arizona, Chicago has stolen one of the State’s true artistic treasures.
In the northern reaches of the San Joaquin Valley, Bob Falfa cruises main street in search of a race, while the Wolfman howls through the night for the displaced legacy of a native son. How empty. How sad.