Before she served up barbs and quick comebacks to Rose and Blanche on Golden Girls, Bea Arthur served up drinks to the likes of Han Solo and Chewbacca.
Arthur played Ackmena, a bartender in the Star Wars Holiday Special at that “wretched hive of scum and villainy,” the Mos Eisley Cantina in. For reference, that’s the bar where Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi hire Solo and Chewey to smuggle them off of Tattooine in the original movie.
Though the cantinas might as well be Jedi and Sith they’re so different in each version. In the Holiday Special, Arthur sings a fun little tune that basically amounts to “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”
It makes the place seem like Cheers. In Star Wars, Obi-Wan cuts a guy’s arm off, and Han Solo kills Greedo at that same bar.
For her part, Arthur didn’t know anything about Star Wars (neither, it seems, did the producers of The Holiday Special). But she received a lot of fan mail about the role.
“I didn’t know what that was about at all. I was asked to be in it by the composer of that song I sang—”Goodnight, But Not Goodbye,” she told the Portland Mercury. “It was a wonderful time, but I had no idea it was even a part of the whole Star Wars thing.
“It’s odd,” she continued “I’ve gotten so many letters and requests for autographed photos from that thing. I just remember singing to a bunch of people with funny heads.”
The ‘Star Wars Holiday Special’ is Awful
CBS had hoped to tap into the Star Wars mania when it commissioned the Holiday Special. It was less than a year after audiences got their first glimpse of a galaxy far, far away. The special follows several disconnected scenes that somehow all tie into a Han Solo getting Chewbacca back to his homeworld for Life Day. It’s basically Wookie Christmas. Whacky hijinks ensue — as well as some possible Wookie pornography — as Han and Chewey race to make it home in time. By the way, there are A LOT of scenes where Wookies speak to one another without subtitles. So even if you wanted to know what was happening, you couldn’t.
And the gang is all here, sort of. Each of the main characters makes an appearance in the movie, but none seem too happy about it. This isn’t a so-bad-it’s a good movie, it’s more a so-bad-it’s nearly unwatchable movie. How it came to be is also a matter of contention, Mental Floss wrote. Star Wars creator George Lucas said the studio made it without his input while CBS said producers showed Lucas videos of the production every day.
Regardless of how it happened, Lucas’ stance on it now is clear. He hates it.
“If I had the time and a sledgehammer,” Lucas once said about the Holiday Special, “I would track down every copy of that show and smash it.”