'Star Wars' speed-dating: A three-minute shot at the chance to stop flying Solo

By Alexandra Petri
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 21, 2010

ORLANDO -- Deciding not to wear my inflatable Jabba the Hutt suit was tough. But, I reasoned, I wanted guys to like me for my personality, not just my appearance.

So a week ago, I donned a skirt and "Star Wars" T-shirt and stepped into line with 54 other women at the entrance to a conference room on the third level of the Orange County Convention Center. We were among more than 250 fans of the sci-fi saga who showed up to participate in the first-ever bout of speed-dating at a "Star Wars" convention.

"Star Wars." Speed-dating. Together, they could rule the galaxy. It would be like the Death Star: too big to fail.

Originally scheduled for just two days of the Aug. 12-15 Star Wars Celebration V, the dating event was expanded to another day because of popular demand.

Getting to this room required walking past legions of stormtroopers, dodging roving droids and passing several competing Han Solo-Chewbacca pairs who were trying to avoid being photographed together, like girls wearing the same dress to prom.

The event was hosted by a plump, costumed Anakin Skywalker who went by Giganakin. His real name is Ryan Glitch, 23, of Gorham, N.Y. He had hosted a similar event before at a convention called Dragoncon, but the speed-dating had been unsuccessful, which Glitch attributed to the crowd being too heterogeneous. Darth Vaders wound up across the table from Captain Jack Sparrows.

"If you don't like 'Pirates of the Caribbean,' your date is over," Glitch explained.

Even here, someone had created a minor disturbance by showing up in a "Star Trek" uniform. Rules of geekdom have long specified that coming to a "Star Wars" convention dressed as Captain Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard is the equivalent of showing up at a Marine Corps barbecue dressed as Osama bin Laden (except there are international laws that would restrain the Marines in such cases).

The ages of the speed-dating participants at Celebration V ranged from 18 to 54, but most appeared to be in their mid-20s. The women were, by and large, attractive; most wore street clothes. Of the men, no more than three were openly carrying lightsabers, and in general, they looked less like Jabba the Hutt and more like Luke Skywalker than might have been expected.

"The women who show up are looking for someone to make a connection with," Glitch explained. "Most of the guys are just like, 'I get to talk to a girl! Fabulous!' "

This year marks the 30th anniversary of "The Empire Strikes Back," the second "Star Wars" film, and the first in which a love story features prominently. For many who showed up at the convention to celebrate it, this seemed to be a key part of its appeal; couples wandered the convention floor sporting paired T-shirts with Han and Leia saying, "I love you" and "I know."

'Women are picky'

At the start of the speed-dating session, a Darth Vader appeared and volunteered to stand in the back as "eye candy." In any other context, a man breathing heavily in the back of a speed-dating event would have been politely asked to leave. But we ladies were elated. "I want to speed-date Darth!" someone shouted.

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