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words: Bonnie Burton

March 2012 marked the sad passing of conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie. The legendary conceptual artist not only inspired filmmaker George Lucas making Star Wars possible, but also other future directors, actors, screenwriters and more, not to mention millions of fans worldwide. I asked some of my favorite celebrity Star Wars fans what McQuarrie meant to them, as well as gathered the best celebs tweets that celebrated this one-of-a-kind artist.

Read more about Ralph McQuarrie and his work on


Star Wars Prequels Producer Rick McCallum writes:
Ralph was the very first person I went to when we started prep on The Phantom Menace. When Ralph came to visit at the Ranch, he told me he just didn’t feel strong enough to take charge of the picture, but I felt sure I could convince him to change his mind. George and I were willing to work in any way that would make it possible for him to be part of the creation of the new trilogy. We had a great few days going over everything and finally when he told me he simply couldn’t take on the challenge because of his health, we took him into our conference room.

I showed him artwork from young artists from schools and visual effects companies throughout the world. We must have had at least 35 seriously talented artists work positioned throughout this big room. He walked around in total silence for nearly three hours, meticulously looking at everyone’s work and then he gathered Eric Tiemens, Ryan Church and Doug Chaing’s work and put them all together — then he sat down and looked at their work for what seemed like another hour and then suddenly he pointed at Doug Chaing’s samples and he exclaimed with urgency and a huge smile, “Yes, he’s the one!” And that’s how we hired Doug to become the Concept Designer on Episode I. And on Episode II and III, Ryan and Eric became the concept designers!

Ralph was a constant source of inspiration. We always had his art work hanging all over the art departments in the hallways and offices in London, Sydney and at Skywalker Ranch. There was never a single moment that I can remember not seeing someone looking, staring, or studying the beautiful and stirring images that Ralph created.

He was kind and decent — a consummate gentleman with a unique and beautiful perspective on our own world and those beyond. He will be sorely missed from our hearts but never ever forgotten.

The Clone Wars Supervising Director Dave Filoni writes:
Ralph set the standard for design in cinema. An entire generation of artists was inspired by his work. We all wanted to be Ralph. We wanted that job — designing starships and Stormtroopers, Jedi and Sith.

Every day on The Clone Wars we aspire to be like Ralph, to capture the magic that he gave all of us as kids. One of our most memorable days at Lucasfilm Animation was when Ralph came to visit, and we screened episodes for him. We wanted to show Ralph that his “look,” his vision for design, was alive and well on our show, and that we had respectfully studied his craft to make our Star Wars universe much like his.

We still use Ralph’s designs as inspiration, many of which have never appeared on screen before. Rakko Hardeen’s helmet was one of Ralph’s early Boba Fett helmet designs. There are countless examples of his influence on our show every week.

My wife asked me what Ralph meant to me, and I think I can sum it up in a way that many of my fellow artists feel. Without Ralph McQuarrie, I would not have the job I have today. I never would have considered it. I would not be half the artist I am, without his influence on my childhood. Thanks for everything Ralph. You will be missed, but you will live on in that galaxy far, far away.”

“To the world beyond the galaxy far, far away, Ralph McQuarrie was perhaps an unsung hero of the Star Wars universe but to the fans he was the intelligent design behind so many wonderful worlds. He was a visionary and an artist of the deepest imagination. Our universe is poorer without him.” – Simon Pegg, actor

Sad news. It sounds almost too cliche, but what he did with his bare hands and his tools of paint brushes and pencils not only influenced a young filmmaker in George Lucas, but an entire generation future filmmakers born after ‘77. It cannot and should not be underestimated.” – Colin Hanks, actor

“Thank you, Ralph, for creating a universe of adventure that has held a steadfast section of my brain from the first time my dad took me to see Star Wars, all the way through to today. You are a genius and a hero. The world is a lot less cool without you in it. May the force be with you.” – Mark Hoppus, Blink-182 singer/bassist

“The first images of Star Wars that I ever saw, were the pre-production paintings of Ralph McQuarrie. His artwork imagined a serious, mysterious, vast and completely new vision of a science fiction universe. Very much at odds with the too often silly, campy, or cold visions I was accustomed to seeing. In short, they blew my 12-year-old mind wide open.” – Hal Hickel, Animation Director Rango

“Star Wars would definitely not be what it is artistically and visually without the influence of Ralph McQuarrie. His magic and legacy will live on, just like the Star Wars saga and many of the other special films that have been blessed with his talents. He will be missed.” – Matt Lanter, actor The Clone Wars, 90210

“Ralph McQuarrie made science fiction feel like a reality we could live in. I will always cherish my Art of Star Wars books because they are filled with his brilliant illustrations. He will be missed.” – mc chris, rapper

“I was lucky enough to see Ralph’s concept art in the flesh within the archives of Skywalker Ranch. I was stunned by how vivid and luminous the images were. It was as if they were back lit with LED’s. Like a frame of Ralph’s imagination had been captured through alchemical means and preserved for the reverence and study of his disciples. For me, Ralph’s visions defined what SF should look like.” – Jesse Alexander, TV writer/producer

“Without a doubt, Ralph McQuarrie was a landmark definition of how we visually associate most sci-fi today. Star Wars alone would not have looked half as original, mind-blowing, or have even existed without his limitless imagination and creativity shaping the most important aspects of the original trilogy. He set precedence, changed the game and will be sorely missed.” – Joe Trohman, Fall Out Boy guitarist

“A truly gifted spark of creativity has just winked out of existence, which makes me sad… but at the same time, Ralph McQuarrie is a reminder to all visual artists, that we can shape amazing worlds and characters, with nothing but our minds and a little imagination. His work is an absolute testament to that.” – Ben Templesmith, comic book artist/writer

“A few years ago, I had the honor of touring the Lucasfilm archives. The highlight of that trip was seeing Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept art. To personally view these seminal works was as life-affirming an experience for me as seeing Picasso’s “Guernica’ or the Mona Lisa. McQuarrie’s images were the visual fountainhead of a story that ignited my imagination at a very young age and put me on the course to become a professional in television and film. Both his influence in our popular culture, and my gratitude for his work are beyond measure.” – Javi Grillo-Marxuach, TV writer/producer

“Ralph was the greatest. My favorite artist, plain and simple. As a child, it was Ralph’s wondrous images in Bantha Tracks that kept me going in the years between Star Wars films. Through his breathtaking paintings I discovered the craft behind the magic on screen. It was world building, universe building, life-changing art that forever altered the direction of my life. Star Wars made me fall in love with movies. But Ralph made me fall in love with film-making. He will be sorely missed but respected forever.” – Kyle Newman, director of Fanboys

“Ralph’s art was awe inspiring, and gave a lot of people joy and collectables. The most I can say is thank you SO much, and the most I can offer with a heavy heart are my condolences.” – Adrianne Curry, supermodel & reality TV star

“I had no idea that the creation of imaginative films started with art until my parents took my sister and I to see Ralph’s work in a huge Art of Star Wars retrospective in San Francisco when I was about 8. Before that I guess I had just assumed that Darth Vader himself was an actor, or that the Rancor really was a one of a kind beast that was trapped and forced to roar when the cameras rolled. When seeing McQuarrie’s early renditions of the characters displayed next to the costumes and props, which were next to a print of the actual film scene, I questioned why an artist would draw something different than what it was ’supposed’ to look like. My dad explained that it was the other way around, and that someone first had to IMAGINE all these things that we see on screen. Then I re-walked through the whole gallery and became obsessed with all of the original concepts and immediately said, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to imagine things. I want to imagine everything.’” – Alex Pardee, artist
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Milo Ventimiglia Gives Fans Geektastic Battles on Ultradome
Words: Bonnie Burton

Fans love to debate who would win in a fight -- a Jedi versus a Hobbit? Han Solo against Indiana Jones? And now they can see these battles take place in the ultimate arena -- Ultradome!

Heroes star and avid Star Wars fan Milo Ventimiglia, with his production company DiViDe Pictures, bring these awesome battle match-ups and more to MSN with their new Web show Ultradome -- starting Jan 25! And the first episode pits a Star Wars Jedi vs. a Lord of the Rings Hobbit -- to the death!

WATCH VIDEO: Ultradome Trailer

MSN interviews Milo about this new show, how a gift of lightsabers helped spawn the idea for the show and who he'd like to see Boba Fett battle against:
What was the origin of Ultradome? How did you guys come up with this idea?

Milo Ventimiglia: Actually, it came to lightsabers. Russ, my producing partner -- we got a couple of lightsabers from Lucasfilm and we made some small videos where Russ and I are battling one another with our lightsabers. I mean, totally low-fi, there's no effects. Two big kids playing with lightsabers.

And we sat down with Agility and the idea just kind of germinated where it wasn't just lightsaber battles but what we're actually taking geek culture and pop culture and we're kind of mashing that all together in a battle to the death. So once we had the initial idea, then we discussed the potential and possibility of what these battles would be and it grew into what is Ultradome now.

Read more... )
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Take a tour of Go-Go's Jane Wiedlin's sci-fi loft inspired by Star Wars, Star Trek, Blade Runner & Barbarella!
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Watch me distract Seth Green and Breckin Meyer at the Comic-Con Robot Chicken panel!
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Milo Ventimiglia Inducted By 501st Legion
Words/Photos: Bonnie Burton

In addition to the 501st Legion uniting Star Wars fans worldwide, it also likes to recognize those people who contribute their time and talents to the Star Wars community in special way. These people who support of the 501st and Star Wars fandom are called "Friends of the 501st Legion."

During San Diego Comic-Con International 2009, one such person was recognized by the Southern California Garrison for his continual support of the 501st Legion as well as for his undying love for all things Star Wars -- Heroes actor Milo Ventimiglia.

Already well-known as a hardcore Star Wars fan as well as a fan of the 501st, Milo also supports real-life troops fighting overseas by working with the military veterans organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).

Southern California Garrison XO Lesley Farquhar, who sponsored Milo's induction, had this to say about their newest Friend of the 501st:
"Milo Ventimiglia has been a great Star Wars fan for years. Not only does he have fun with the lightsaber battles and props, but another similarity we have is our devotion to charity work. The 501st Legion is noted for its charity work for soldiers around the world, and this is something Milo has a passion for as well. Anyone with that kind of passion for charity and love for the genre fits right in! Now we just need to get him in armor!"

Milo was presented a custom plaque, coin and custom name badge commemorating his "Friend of the 501st" relationship with the 501st Legion. Keeping with tradition, the induction was a complete surprise to Milo who was ambushed by the Southern California garrison, and myself, at the end of his Top Cow comics panel at Comic-Con where he was promoting the two new comic titles his production company DiViDe Pictures is supporting -- Rest and Berserker.

Read more... )
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Celebs Share Phantom Menace Memories

Words: Bonnie Burton

To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Jar Jar, Queen Amidala, Darth Maul, Qui-Gon Jinn and little Anakin Skywalker hitting the big screen, here are some of our favorite quotes from celebrities and bands interviewed on who shared their favorite memories of The Phantom Menace.

Celebs interviewed include: Kyle Newman (Fanboys director), Seth Green (Robot Chicken, Matthew Senreich (Robot Chicken), Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live), Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes), Simon Pegg (Star Trek), Andrew "Whitey" White (Kaiser Chiefs), Jeordie White (Marilyn Manson/Nine Inch Nails), Weird Al Yankovic (singer), Nick Verreos (Project Runway), Blake Lewis (American Idol), Duff Goldman (Ace of Cakes), Mark Hamilton (Ash), Adam Savage (MythBusters), Brian Harnois (Ghost Hunters International), Hal Sparks (comedian), Sam Endicott (The Bravery), Chris Jericho (WWE Wrestler), and Christopher Guanlao (Silversun Pickups).

Read more... )
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RIP Bea Arthur: I'll Miss You, Ackmena

Words: Bonnie Burton

When I first started working at Lucasfilm 6 years ago, one of my responsibilities was to admin the forums. Because I was an admin, I could choose any Star Wars character (including obscure EU folks) I wanted as my avatar. I didn't have to think about it long. I instantly chose Ackmena -- the night-time bartender of the Mos Eisley Cantina on Tatooine played by none other than Bea Arthur in The Star Wars Holiday Special.

I had always a nostaglic love for that Thanksgiving television special which aired in 1978. It wasn't because of the Boba Fett cartoon, or the discovery that Chewbacca was married and had a kid named Lumpy. Nope. It was all because of Bea. She was strong, smart, witty, and didn't take any guff from anyone, including the Empire.

Every character Bea Arthur played -- whether it be the sassy bartender Ackmena, Maude Findlay (on Maude), or Dorothy Zbornak (on Golden Girls) -- had this inner strength and sarcasm that made her cynical yet lovable. She was liberal without being self-righteous. She was a feminist before I ever knew what that meant. Best of all, she danced with Greedo and sang to that wretched hive of scum and villainy as she threw them out of the cantina.

As a writer for I've managed to interview and meet many cast and crew from the Star Wars films, but my ultimate quest was to track down Bea Arthur and ask her about her role as Ackmena in The Star Wars Holiday Special. I always wondered what she thought about this weird bar full of bizarre characters. I wanted to know her opinion of another sassy lady -- Princess Leia, and if she had a few choice words for Darth Vader.

I wanted her to tell me backstories about the Holiday Special, and how much fun it was to pour drinks into the head (literally) of the lovestruck alien Krelman played by her friend the late-great comedian Harvey Korman. But sadly, I never got my chance to ask.

Bea Arthur was a broad in the best sense of the word. She was outspoken, funny and never ever dull. When I grow up I still want to be just like Bea. She was one of a kind, and one heck of a cantina bartender.

I'm still waiting for Hasbro to make an Ackmena action figure (HINT! HINT!) so I can act out my own cantina dramas with Han Solo, Hammerhead and IG-88. (Trust me, I have an awesome scenario playing out in my head for some time now.)

Her standard farewell to cantina bar patrons was, "Come back soon, I'll be waiting." I'd like to think that she's in that big cantina in the sky, waiting for us with a few sage words of advice and a pitcher of her best libation.

Rest in peace, Bea. And save me a cantina cocktail!

Read more about Bea Arthur here:
Bea Arthur was a true 'Golden Girl' (via Los Angeles Times)

SOURCE: Official Blog
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(Matthew Wood and his inner Grievous)

WonderCon 2009: Celebrities
Words/Photos: Bonnie Burton

You don't have to head to Los Angeles or New York to see your favorite comic book, movie and TV celebs. Thanks to conventions like WonderCon, they come to you. In fact, they sit at a table and wait for you to come by with things to sign. Sometimes they'll even pose for photos or make small talk with you about their Twitter.

Here's a selection of some of the famous folks you might have spotted at this year's WonderCon.

Carrie Fisher:
(photo by Dennis VonGalle)
Princess Leia herself met fans and signed posters, prints, photos and more. In the photo above, Fisher signs a Nagel-inspired print called "The Princess" presented by the artist himself Craig Drake.

Mark Hamill:
Luke Skywalker (or the voice of the Joker, depending on your fandom) signed everything from Star Wars posters to rare Corvette Summer memorabilia. Mark Hamill didn't sing any verses of "Luke, Be a Jedi Tonight" but this rare appearance at WonderCon did make fans giddy with the Force.

Dave Filoni:
As the Supervising Director of Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV show, fans follow around Dave Filoni around like the Jedi Pied Piper. Filoni was one of the coolest interviews at the Star Wars presentation on Saturday as he talked about Cad Bane and the bounty hunters who will be invading the series soon. Another highlight for us included watching the 501st Legion induct Filoni as an Honorary Member at their annual WonderCon dinner. He was presented with the coveted badge, as well as one-of-a-kind art from Cynthia Cummens. Here he is posing with Ahsoka's lightsaber that he signed for a special fan.

Read more... )
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Goodbye Queen of Curves:
Bettie Page Dies Dec. 11, 2008

Words: Bonnie Burton

I've worshiped pin-up icon Bettie Page ever since I laid eyes on her (or at least a magazine cover of her) in a comic book store my freshman year of college. The comic book store owner had seen me walk by the store for months and finally urged me to come in so he could show me the cover of a fanzine called The Betty Pages. He thought I looked aa lot like her and I was completely dumbfounded by the compliment. I became obsessed with this black-banged beauty from the start. Who was she? What became of her?

I spent all of my college years researching her life. This was long before she came out of seclusion and no one really knew what had happened to one of the most famous models that ever lived. I wrote my first published work of freelance journalism "I Was a Teenage Betty" about my search for her and how famous she had become. In the process, I ended being one of the last people to speak to Bettie's photographer Paula Klaw.

I entered Bettie Page look-a-like contests, collected photos of Bettie from her heyday, as well as comics, vintage magazine covers and anything she happened to be mentioned in. During the early age of Web sites in the early '90s, I created The Bettie Page so I could compile my photo, comic, magazine, art and other Bettie collections, as well as news, articles and essays, all in one spot for other Page fans to check out. It was one of the first Bettie Page fan sites to exist online, and it brought me closer together with other fans who wanted to know more about the mysterious icon. I was a bonafide Bettie Page fan, and proud of it! (Still am.)

(As seen in Entertainment Weekly magazine - Oct. 13, 2006)

As the years passed by, her popularity continued to grow. We all had our own theories why a pin-up from the '50s could continue to leave such a last impression of fans decades later. In the Richard Foster's book The Real Bettie Page, I explained my own ideas of her continued fame:
"I'm a Bettie fan for the mere fact that she's gorgeous. No other model has been photographed more than her, and for good reason: She's the best there is. I love Bettie because she sort of brought innocence back to sex. When you mention pinup models and men's magazines to most people, they think you're talking about porn or smut. With Bettie, you aren't embarrassed to appreciate looking at her, whether she's being spanked, trying on stockings, or playing in the buff on the beach. She makes sex seem okay instead of a sin. I think a lot of older fans left over from the 1950s appreciated that quality in her when she was in magazines like Playboy. She made you feel at ease with your sexuality, and most of all, she had fun with it."

Bettie Page influenced everything from my desire write about people who do extraordinary things with their lives, to the way I wore my hair, to the self-confidence I gained in living by her example -- having fun with life, calling the shots and being my own person. She was one of the first models to do weight training, be a vegetarian and do such a wide range of modeling genres (from beach bunny to bondage queen).

Bettie Page had an incredibly difficult childhood and adult life, yet managed to bring a smile to millions of fans every time she graced us with her presence -- whether it be in photos, comics, magazine covers or even the campy mini-films she made to entertain us all. Without her, I never would have been so passionate about journalism, I never would have started my site (which began as the Bettie Page fan site) and I never would have met many of my friends I still have today.

It's difficult to explain to others why I feel about Bettie the way I do. She helped me decide who I was and who I wanted to be as a young woman. Her life inspired me to do my own thing and not care what others thought. I hope that my appreciation and dedication to her life helps other discover who she is and why she's so incredible. I never had the honor of meeting her face to face, but she had a profound effect on my life and I will never forget her.

Rest in peace, Bettie Page. Rest in peace.

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Restless Hero: Milo Ventimiglia
Geek Monthly - Aug. 2008 issue

Words: Bonnie Burton

As the big-hearted Peter Petrelli, who has the ability to absorb one useful power after another to help his character ultimately save the world in NBC’s hit TV show Heroes, actor Milo Ventimiglia has a habit of immersing himself in a multitude of skills which include acting, directing, writing and publishing, just to name a few.

“Though I can’t fly, bend space and time or heal myself,” Ventimiglia explains on the phone during one of his rare breaks on the Heroes set. Considering how many powers his character has gotten the chance to show off, it begs the question, which skill would Ventimiglia like to have in real life?

“I used to say that I wanted the power of persuasion so I could walk into a foreign country and end a war with just the right words, or if I was so inclined, I could start a war,” Ventimiglia reveals. “But now I go for the practical choice—to be able to control space and time so I could teleport to Orange County and have dinner with my parents, and then pop right back into Los Angeles for a meeting.”

Read more... )
bonniegrrl: (photobooth)
Just walked by director Spike Lee as I was getting coffee from Java the Hutt. He looks exactly how I pictured, baseball hat and all.
bonniegrrl: (photobooth)
From Defamer:
Basic cable news has never enjoyed a prouder, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!"* moment than when MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski, soul-sick over the prospect of tainting journalism with yet another update about Paris Hilton, shredded her script in protest, plunged a handy letter opener into the heart of nearby instigator Joe Scarborough, then finally defenestrated herself, restoring dignity to a noble profession debased by obsessive celebrity coverage.

From E! Online:
Anchor Mika Brzezinski, live on the air during MSNBC's Morning Joe, categorically refused to cover Paris Hilton's liberation from the L.A. County gulag in her top-of-the-hour news report. "I'm about to snap," she says, as she tries by any means necessary to eradicate the story: be it by burning, shredding or simply begging the TelePrompter operator to "scroll up."
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It may be a low-fi way to promote a book, but actor/artist/director/author Miranda July has a interesting and fun web site waiting for you to check out....


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