An Evening With Ahsoka
Being the steadfast Star Wars fan I am, when the CG Clone Wars movie came out, I of course had a ticket and was in line to see it on opening night. I’ll admit I was a bit apprehensive at first. Given the backlash the prequels received, which I was briefly a part of, I was unsure of how a CG movie about the Clone Wars would work after the success by the unfortunate brief run of the Genndy Tartakovsky miniseries. Nevertheless, I was in line and willing to give it a go. I was pleasantly surprised with the film because it really captured the feeling of excitement and fun I had when I would watch the original trilogy as a kid. I sadly missed the first season of the consecutive show that aired on Cartoon Network but eventually got caught up with it on home video. I did the same with the second season and was completely onboard by that point. Although the show is now cancelled, it has since become a sleeper hit with Star Wars fans and has created new ones. A certain segment of these new fans come courtesy of a character introduced in and created for this new Clone Wars property. Ahsoka Tano has made a significant impact in the Star Wars universe and is known to be quite a spitfire, ass-kicking Jedi apprentice. Through both her Ahsoka’s character arc and the enthusiastic support and genuine fandom from the actress that provides her voice, Ashley Eckstien, Ahsoka has given little girls a character and personality to look up to. Something that is unfortunately rare in that galaxy far, far away.
Ashley’s husband, former pro baseball player David Eckstein, was doing a signing at the grand opening of a local hardware store where she also just happened to be attending. Thanks a loyal reader of ours, Emily Woods, I found myself at this hardware store completely unawares of what was going on. I could just tell that, for some reason, everyone and there moms seemed to be at this store. When we got in, I saw a line that was almost the entire length of the store and was wrapped around several aisles but I was still oblivious to what was going on. Then, I saw this guy with a St. Louis Cardinals jersey on with Eckstein on the back. I freaked! If Ashley Eckstien was here, I wouldn’t be able to NOT embarrass myself. Emily made a call and we were able to circumvent the signing line for her husband and meet her directly. When I got there, I saw her mom first (whom I’d already met), was introduced to her sister, and was shown to a lithe young woman on the phone. She turned toward me as she hung up the phone and I was immediately star-struck. I was introduced, we shook hands as I blundered my name out again, she complimented me on my jacket, and quickly looked around for something to fall back on. We made our way to the outdoor furniture section, found a suitable table and chairs set and had a set and began chatting it up. And by chatting it up I mean her mostly talking while I stared in disbelief. Ashley gave me the first had account of how she got the show, I attempted to regale her with how I got into Star Wars, I was privy to some pics and details about a few upcoming dresses from Her Universe, Ashley’s clothing geek-inspired clothing line. We continued talking Star Wars and of course Clone Wars. We discussed how the show reached a darker place by the fifth season (which I regretfully haven’t seen yet) and Dave Filoni’s obsession with wolves. Another couple of fans, as passers-by, stopped in to speak to her as well; poor unfortunate souls, if only they knew how lucky of a fan I was that night. They were only allowed to speak, while walking by, have a brief chat and take a picture. I, however, was getting to hang out with Snips herself. The conversing continued, turned out she showed just as much interest in my life and profession as I did hers. There was talk about reality shows and the “stars” of said reality shows that, ironically enough, seem to have no grasp on reality. (Yes, I’m talking to YOU Kim Kardashian). As I’m a professional dancer, by trade, we talked briefly about the plethora of dance based shows currently in the market. However, seeing as how I treat my chosen line of more as a hobby, I had to admit that I didn’t really like any of these shows and that I only really watched things that entertained the 13-year-old boy I am from the waist up! Then, we got hungry.
Luckily, across the street from the hardware store was the most convenient and ‘popular’ of expeditious eateries….McDonald’s. True not the greatest of choices, but our need was dire and it’s not very often one gets to hang out at McFilthy’s with one of their inner childhood heroes. We piled into Ashley’s mom’s car and headed toward the good ole golden arches. On the way, she told me about how she got to see Skywalker Ranch at night when empty and that it was truly a magnificent place. Being that the Ranch is pretty much a Mecca for Star Wars fans at and above my level, after that anecdote I was rendered temporarily speechless bordering on drooling. We talked more dance; there were some Center Stage quotes and we realized that male ballet dancers have commonly accepted title other than ‘male ballet dancer’. I made another effort of a divert, this time with the story of how I got my two front teeth kicked out….that one seemed to go over a little better. When dinner was over, I couldn’t decide which was more Ridiculously Awesome: the fact that I was chilling in a McDonald’s with Ahsoka (cause she sounds just like her, obviously), or that she bought me some chicken McNuggets!!
After leaving the restaurant, we headed back to the store so Ashely could check on her husband. The line for his signing was STILL very substantial; it would seem that St. Louis really appreciates their Cardinals, even former ones. But the Force is with me, cause I’m hanging with the coolest Jedi I know/the ONLY Jedi I know. Once we’re back, we briefly talk about by chosen lineage as a grey-side Jedi, we make our way back to our patio set up and then talk get real. Ashley starts dropping some science on us about making it in show business as she tales us tales of intrigue and struggle about her pre-lightsaber days in Hollywood; and the awesome name dropping begins. We hear about Amanda Bynes and her recent fall from grace. Raven-Symone also made a cameo in these tales of wonder. But, just in time to pick things up, in comes Vader himself. Not, literally of course but Ashely tells us about meeting David Prowse (the O.G. man in the Vader suit) and being a little star-struck herself as she exchanged autographed photos with him. And if that was enough, the crazy name dropping really started. Ray Park (Darth Maul), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Billy Dee (Lando), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), and of course George Lucas himself who turned out to be the mad-genius we all think he is. I also got a bit of inside info on Ahsoka’s eventual fate, but as I have yet to see the final season of Clone Wars, Ashley obviously couldn’t reveal too much and with the show now over anything could happen to her character now. All of it was almost too much to handle. There I was sitting with someone directly involved with something I like so much it could almost be my religion.
I was able to snap a few photos before leaving knowing she would soon be surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands, of more fans, like myself, when she arrives at C2E2 this coming weekend. However, the most important thing I take away from this is not the picture I got with Ashley, or the (hopefully) personalized autographed item I’ll get; the best part of the whole ordeal was the ordeal itself. The fact that I literally just hung out with Ahsoka Tano, and a few members of her family, for over 3hours was one of the most amazing and awesome things I’ve ever done. And it wasn’t cool just because I got to hang with a famous person; it was amazing because this famous person was also a COOL person. She was nice and laid back and easy to talk to, an all around great lady and really just a great celebrity personality. It’s highly likely that I will be forgotten and will never have such a tremendous opportunity again, which I’m completely fine with because after the experience I just had, I can pretty much die a happy man right now; and this is even with Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Monsters University coming up. This being a life changing event for me is kind of an understatement. Of course for her, she was just meeting another crazed fan but for me, I fulfilled a geek-wide dream of hanging with a character whose adventures I had seen and was introduced to a terrific person.