Bea Arthur as the owner of the Mos Eisley Cantina. Long scenes entirely of Wookies bleating at each other, without subtitles. Harvey Korman, in drag, as a four-armed Space Julia Child. Six minutes of Jefferson Starship performing for Art Carney and a bored Imperial Guard. Mark Hamill, fresh from his near-fatal motorcycle accident, slathered in pancake makeup. A salacious holographic burlesque from Diahann Carroll.
Even by the standards of the 1970s, even compared to Jar-Jar Binks, the legendary 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special is a peerlessly cringeworthy pop-culture artifact. George Lucas, who completely disowned the production, reportedly has said, “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.” Just how on earth did this thing ever see the light of day?
To answer that question, as Steven Kozak shows in this fascinating and often hilarious inside look into the making of the Special, you have to understand the cultural moment in which it appeared—a long, long time ago when cheesy variety shows were a staple of network television and Star Wars was not yet the billion-dollar multimedia behemoth that it is today. Kozak explains how the Special was one piece of a PR blitz undertaken by Lucas and his colleagues as they sought to protect the emerging franchise from hostile studio executives. He shows how, despite the involvement of some of the most talented people in the business, creative differences between movie and television writers led to a wildly uneven product. He gives entertaining accounts of the problems that plagued production, which included a ruinously expensive cantina set; the acrimonious departure of the director and Lucas himself; and a furious Grace Slick, just out of rehab, demanding to be included in the production.
Packed with memorable anecdotes, drawing on extensive new interviews with countless people involved in the production, and told with mingled affection and bewilderment, this never-before-told story gives a fascinating look at a strange moment in pop-culture history that remains an object of fascination even today.
Steven Kozak is a veteran of the television industry who has worked behind the scenes at shows such as Whose Line Is It Anyway?,You Gotta See This, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He is currently director of research and clearances at Jimmy Kimmel Live.
"A riveting look at an oft-maligned piece of Star Wars history."—Library Journal
"No man alive is better equipped to chronicle the history of Chewbacca-related holiday television than Steve Kozak."—Jimmy Kimmel
“Steve Kozak can always be counted on for finding bizarre videos and answering obscure questions about Star Wars, no matter how trivial or banal. Steve, please get a life.”—Jay Leno
"There are no words for how much fun this book is, so I will just quote something I wrote for one of the Wookiees: Urgh oofa ghooba bhutt floote! [followed by a howl]."—Bruce Vilanch, Emmy Award–winning co-writer of the Star Wars Holiday Special
"Anyone can poop on the Star Wars Holiday Special, but Kozak meticulously examines the poop itself, guiding us through Chewbacca's family, the Jefferson Starship hologram, and every other undigested kernel of corn."—Triumph the Insult Comic Dog
"Absolutely perfect. Funny, intelligent, and surprisingly informative, Kozak covers the inside stories of the Star Wars Holiday Special."—Tyler Merritt, author of the bestselling book I Take My Coffee Black and creator of The Tyler Merritt Project
"Steve Kozak unwraps the Holiday Special the way Peter Jackson unwrapped Let It Be, but with fewer beards."—Dana Gould, comedian, writer, and former co-executive producer, The Simpsons
"Thanks to Steve Kozak’s fascinating deep dive into the Star Wars Holiday Special, the world will now fully understand why George Lucas refuses to acknowledge the existence of the infamous musical misfire. A Disturbance in the Force is filled with jaw-dropping first-hand accounts and interviews, brilliantly chronicling the creation of the biggest flop in Star Wars history."—Adam F. Goldberg, creator and executive producer, The Goldbergs
"It took the guts of a guy like Steve Kozak to meticulously dig through the enormous trash heap of history surrounding the Special and make some sense of it. And he has done so tremendously! All the stories that Lucasfilm doesn't want you to hear come to life in this book. From the music to the wardrobe to the stars of the Special itself, this book has it all. Highly recommended to fans of Star Wars, pop culture history, or genuine television disasters!"—Jimmy "Mac" McInerney, host, Rebel Force Radio
"Well researched and cleverly written, Steve Kozak’s funny account of a tiny footnote in entertainment history reveals a lot about the whole crazy, foolish, hilarious world of show business."—Nick Castle, director, The Last Starfighter; co-writer, Escape from New York
"A compelling inside story of how a bunch of highly qualified people pooled their talents to produce the Titanic of the Star Wars universe."—Jack Campbell, New York Times–bestselling author of In Our Stars and the Lost Fleet series
"There are still a few great mysteries left in this world—the Yeti, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster… But perhaps the greatest is this: What were they thinking when they made the Star Wars Holiday Special? Steve Kozak has written a fun, fast, but in-depth investigation into what really happened, and dug up some fascinating answers. It’s a marvelous read that proves the truth is sometimes stranger than science fiction."—Simon R. Green, New York Times–bestselling author of the Nightside series
"The history of this Special may even be crazier than the show itself. A fast, fun, unbelievable read!"—Del Howison, Bram Stoker Award–winning editor and author
"Anything that George Lucas wants to destroy is something I have to see. And Steve Kozak's book turns the spotlight on how a television variety show nearly destroyed one of Hollywood's biggest franchises."—Dave Thomas, SCTV's Doug McKenzie
“An exemplary treatise on why some TV failures were good ideas—and why many were credible viewing experiences.”—Jeff Altman, co-host of the revered TV failure Pink Lady and Jeff
"Steve’s tome is a humane and sympathetic treatment of most of those involved, suggesting that, although it's both mocked and enjoyed, most people universally love that Star Wars exists much more than they laugh at the Special, and feel genuine compassion for those creators still plagued by it."—Lance Guest, star, The Last Starfighter
"A must-read autopsy of a famous made-for-TV train wreck! Grab some popcorn."—William C. Dietz, author of the Star Wars: Dark Forces trilogy
"As the operator of R2-D2 during the Special, I was unwittingly thrust into the weird madness of what was to become an infamous chapter of Star Wars.I couldn’t believe what I saw in the whirlwind that swirled around me. Now Steve Kozak has dug deep—and I meant deep!—into what heretofore has only been legend and rumor. Dig in, but don’t expect the Force to be with you!"—Mick Garris, creator, Masters of Horror; director, Sleepwalkers
“If you’re a Star Wars fan, or just interested in the ragged but often compelling pre-digital television age, Kozak reveals a Hollywood TV culture at odds with George Lucas’s groundbreaking film techniques. Worth a read.”—Pete Sears, keyboardist, Jefferson Starship
"I must admit that while I did enjoy reading the book, my pleasure was diminished greatly by the shot of Harvey Korman in drag. That image will stay with me forever… but so will the memory of a very amusing literary semi-masterpiece."—George Schlatter, creator of Laugh-In
"A Disturbance in the Force perfectly chronicles how one of the most notorious pieces of media came to be. Filled with insider information, stories, and even tidbits that are sure to cause people to cackle—it's hard not to keep reading with intense focus as more and more bad decisions are made by very smart people."—Nick Martell, author of the Mercenary King series
"A fascinating glimpse into the machinations of Lucas and his colleagues in the early days of Star Wars. A great read for any fan."—Dan Koboldt, author of the Build-A-Dragon Sequence
“Come with me, fellow Padawans, on a journey to discover the stinkiest skeleton in the closet of the franchise that raised us.”—G.S. Denning, author of the Warlock Holmes series
“From Kazzook to Carney, Steve Kozak charts a fascinating hyperspace course through the making of this infamous piece of Star Wars history, a route filled with more twists and turns than any Kessel Run."—Dan Moren, co-host of the podcast A Complicated Profession
"Kozak not only answers our biggest questions about the infamous broadcast, but also provides a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era of television and Hollywood. The story behind the story is so compelling I almost want to dig out my old VHS tape and re-watch the Special with a kinder perspective. Almost."—Eugene Myers, Nebula Award–winning author
"This is a book for not just Star Wars fans, but fans of film and television writ large. A sprawling and exhaustive account of what it takes to produce art and how even the best intentions and talent don't always make a hit. A story of the importance of taking risks, even if they don't pay off."—Auston Habershaw, author of the Saga of the Redeemed