Monday, February 18, 2008

In search of Rusty Miller

==Important==
I've moved this post over to my new WordPress blog, you can comment on it here.




I was cleaning up and ran across a book I bought when I was 11 years old. It's called "The Jedi Master's Quizbook" by Rusty Miller. In case you don't know or have forgotten, this book was written in 1982 by an 11 year old author. He was a hero to all of us kids and knew stuff about Star Wars that no one else knew. I remember reading his book for hours and even trying to write my own with my friend Terry Blankenship. That lasted for one afternoon until I discovered that I couldn't think up anything new.



Here's an excerpt from a 1982 Time article by E. Graydon Carter on Rusty:

Luke, I have taught you many things, my boy. Don't tell shaggy Wookie stories, for one thing. Also, always be on the lookout for a hot book property. While you were off chasing Princess Leia, Rusty Miller, 12, a junior high school student in Satellite Beach, Fla., came up with The Jedi Master's Quizbook, a compilation of 425 intergalactic questions that will have Yoda himself scratching his noggin. After seeing Star Wars five times and The Empire Strikes Back six, young Master Rusty spent three months compiling his collection, which his mother typed up. George Lucas, 38, the father of us all, approved the project, and that means the Force will be with it upon publication in November. How many legs does a Probot have? Four—but even I, Obi-Wan Kenobi, had to run the films through my Betamax for that one. As to the others, Luke, you must search out the answers for yourself.


After rediscovering his book, I decided to see what Rusty was up to. To my astonishment, Rusty wasn't on the web. Matter of fact, no one seemed to know where he was. Just a week ago, Meta-Tainment.com asked the same thing.

One would think that Rusty Miller, now in 36/37 years old, would be an Internet celebrity geek for his early success. When the “Star Wars Page at Texas A&M” debuted (now theforce.net, it was the most popular (and nearly only) website for Star Wars fans. I would have expected Rusty to flock to it, to be found by leagues of fans who at one time wanted to be him. Also, when “the prequels” finally were released, what an opportunity to develop yet another quizbook and capitalized on previous fame. But Rusty is still unknown.


So where is Rusty? I began by googling his name and book. After a couple of hours, I stumbled across two posts (MrCranky.com and LP.org) that were penned by a "Rusty Miller" and were Star Wars related.




Hmmm. Better than nothing but still no proof. I then went back to the foreword of "the Jedi Master's Quizbook". In it, Rusty mentions some of his friends by name. I then googled everything again with the name "David Little". This resulted in one page from the Star Wars Role Playing Game Discussion Group and was posted on Oct 29 1996. He mentions Rusty for acknowledging him in his book.

I've emailed David with both the emails listed but I haven't heard anything back yet. I need to Google again with the names of his other friends.

I then went back to Google again and discovered the online portfolio of Lee Taylor. Listed in the awards section of his resume was PM Magazine Nat Reel 'STAR WARS QUIZ KID - Rusty Miller'. I emailed Lee last Friday night and he responded back the next morning.

Payton -
Hey. Yes, that was quite a while ago, I'll have to dig thru some stuff & find the original contact info. I'll get back to you as soon as I lay a hand on it. I do remember the original home address as being in Satellite Beach (sp?) Florida.

Talk with you later.
Lee


This was great news because I did a failed search for Rusty's parents in Florida. I emailed Lee back requesting more info on 'STAR WARS QUIZ KID - Rusty Miller'. Sounds like a news piece done for the TV show PM magazine. Here's the Google map of Satellite Beach.

I also discovered Rusty's name being mentioned on a couple of other sites. The first was a Homestead site for the Star Wars fan movie 'Too Much Star Wars'. On the site they said:

When it was all done, we showed it around school, and to Rusty Miller, 12-year-old
author of "The Jedi Master's Quiz Book". He liked it and was kind enough to send it
to his Lucasfilm contact. We were thrilled!



I need to take the time to email them and ask a few questions.

The second site that mentions Rusty is the satirical site Satiric Press. The article quotes Rusty as saying:

Star Wars fans seem much less concerned about the rumor that Lucas next plans to give the prequels the 'revisionist' treatment. "What's the real downside to tinkering with those films?" asked Star Wars aficionado Rusty Miller, author of the Jedi Master's Quizbook. "They were so bad to begin with, what could he possibly do to make them any worse?"


I need to email them to clarify if this a true quote or just something they made up. I think it's fake.

So that's where I am today. I haven't found him yet but I'm hoping that will change. Maybe with the help of fellow Star Wars fans, Rusty will be found. In the meanwhile, check back at this post for updates and please spread the missing banner of Rusty.

May the Force be with us.

--Update--
2/18/08 7:12pm

I'm having some difficulty finding the contact info for YodaMac, the makers of the fan movie 'Too Much Star Wars. I'll keep trying.

--Update--
2/20/08 1:37pm

My search for Rusty has been mentioned on the Official Star Wars blog.

In the comments section of the Star Wars blog, a "Rusty" posted:

Lee let me know that I am being hunted. Hello!


Here's a picture of his post.

I tend to believe that this post is actually from Rusty himself because he mentions Lee's name. It looks like my digging around has found Rusty. I left a post asking for Rusty to contact me and I also sent Lee an email. I wonder if he meant to post that here?

On a side note, I noticed a few things in the post on the Star Wars blog. The first I noticed is that they didn't use my Missing Rusty banner but did use the scan I did of the back of the book (the scratches match perfectly).

I also noticed an error in the post on the Star Wars blog. In it, they state:

Unfortunately, these revealed little more than we already knew from the short bio printed in the Quizbook, which basically listed his parents’ names (Edward and Nancy), his age (12), his dog’s name (Frodo) and place of residence (Satellite Beach, FL).


The bio in 'The Jedi Master's Quizbook' didn't list that Rusty lived in Satellite Beach, FL when he was 11 years old. We learned that from this post.


I hope that when the Star Wars magazine does an interview with Rusty, they'll mention that he was "found" due to my investigative work.

--Major Update--
2/20/08 9:12pm

Rusty contacted me tonight by email.

Payton,

Rusty Miller here. Am very touched at the effort you went to to find me. I am definitely glad that we have made contact. This is very cool. Hopefully in the next day or so we can speak by phone. I would enjoy that. Lee really blew my mind with his email this morning letting me know that I was being sought.

Cool, very cool. I'll post more after we talk.

--Major Update--
2/21/08 6:26pm


I just got the off phone with Rusty and he and I spoke for about 20 minutes. It was so cool getting to speak with him and find out what he has been up to since writing his book. He is just blown away with the surreal events of the past two days.

He also said that the Star Wars magazine has contacted him and will be doing an interview with him in the next couple of days. I questioned him if he had thought of writing a second trivia book and he said that he's been thinking about that and a few other options. One of the things he did say that he was going to do is set up a way for people to get their book autographed. How cool!

I asked him what made him decide to write "The Jedi Master's Quizbook" and he said that he was bored one summer afternoon in 1981 and just began writing down some Star Wars facts. He got most of his facts from what was printed and didn't own any Star Wars videos at the time.

It turns out that the posts on MrCranky.com and LP.org were penned by someone impersonating him. Really?! I guess someone was trying to cash in on his fame.

He and Lee Taylor have gotten in touch again and are happy to rekindle their friendship. I asked Rusty how he knew the guys of the fan movie 'Too Much Star Wars' and he said that they also lived in Satellite Beach.

Speaking of Lee, I got this email from him yesterday at 11:42 pm.

Payton -
I haven't been able to put my hands on the book or my info from the shoot.
I'm still looking & I posted a message to "RUSTY" on the blog.
CROSS YOUR FINGERS! for both...
Lee

and I got this one
today at 10:02 am after I had emailed him back to let him know that Rusty had contacted me.

COOL!
He has also contacted me in response to my post (on your blog?)
I'm still looking for the materials I saved from the shoot.
I'll get back with you with more info.
Great work!
Lee

Well, that's about it for now and I'll post more when something happens. I'm glad things are happening for him. By the way, he still has that smile.

--Update--
2/25/08 7:23pm

I received this email for Pete Vilmur of Lucas Online on Feb 19th but my spam filter got it.

Payton,

Thanks for sharing your blog. We've actually been trying to locate Rusty
as well, and pretty much followed the same route you took. Even located
one of the friends mentioned in the book, but he had no information.

I'll link your blog entry up on our official blog today and see if
anyone of our fans can help us out. If you hear anything, could you let
us know?

Thanks,

Pete Vilmur
Lucas Online


I also received this email form Pete on Feb 21st.

Hi Payton,

We've reached Rusty Miller and will be sending him some questions for a
story on starwars.com. Since your blog prompted us to seach him out,
we'd like to give you an opportunity to submit some questions for the
article and receive a shared by-line credit.

Let me know what you think!

I sent Pete an email back on Feb 23rd saying:

Pete,

I don't mind sharing the by-line credit but I do think you have a fact incorrect. Rusty was found not because you guys "searched him out" but because of my searching and your reporting about my search.

He then emailed me back saying:

Understood Payton -- we'll give you full credit for posting the search. We only meant to suggest we had done a pretty thorough search for him last year and come up empty-handed. Had we thought to post an all-points for him in our blog, we may have found him.
We've forwarded the questions you submitted below to him. Stay tuned for his response.
Thanks, Pete

As far as I’m concerned, it took a joint effort on both our parts to find him.

The questions I submitted to Rusty were from his own book. I thought it would be cute to test his memory.

YodaMac...I emailed you through your website and I would appreciate it if you would email me back. By the way, thanks for helping.

--Update--
3/1/08 12:33pm

Unrelated to Rusty but still Star Wars.

I'm looking for a childhood friend who I use to play Star Wars with. Maybe even went to see it with him. His name is Terry Blankenship and we use to live near each other in Lynchburg, Va from 1976 - 1981. I remember the both of us having a 22" Chewbacca plush doll and playing with them in his great grandmother's house. Her name was Cleo Sowell.

If anyone knows what happened to Terry, tell him that Payton is looking for him.


Images used from here.

--Update--
3/2/08 10:14am

I emailed Rusty yesterday to see if he had done the interview for StarWars.com and he replied back:

Payton,
Yes. Pete and I have done the interview. It should be going up on the website around Monday.

--Major Update--
3/04/08 10:49am

StarWars.com posted their interview on Rusty last night and I got a by-line credit. Pete did a good job interviewing Rusty (aka - Matt) and it was very informative.


I was surprised that Matt revealed as much about himself as he did. When we spoke, he was hesitant about me posting his real name. To help protect his privacy, I also didn't post where he was located or anything about his personal life.

It was fun to see him answer the questions from his own book and he did a great job answering them. I was surprised that he was able to name five of the eight ways that Han addressed the Princess. Way to go Matt! I found it interesting that Artoo's classification listed in Rusty's book is now considered an insult from Threepio.

I'll email Rusty later today and get that follow up interview he promised me.

8 comments:

Dan said...

Brilliant idea and execution! carry on, carry on!

Tom said...

Definitely cool. I wonder if it'll be another Photog situation.

FETTS said...

I will do my best to help find him!

Anonymous said...

Payton -- we sent you an email yesterday requesting your participation in a starwars.com interview with Mr. Miller. If you're interested, please let us know as we'll be sending our questions off shortly.

Thanks, Pete
Lucas Online

Anonymous said...

And regarding the bio info, we culled much of that from the multiple photo-copied articles we have about Rusty Miller, from People to Seventeen to World. Off the top of my head, I thought all the facts were listed in the book's bio -- guess I should have double-checked. Pete

Anonymous said...

Glad you found him. I was in the process of having my fellow "TMSW" filmmaker Adam, get back in touch with him for you, as I knew he had talked with him only a couple of years ago.

Sorry I wasn't able to get back to you sooner.

YodaMac

Mike said...

You should republish your starwars triva book, I would be interested in buying that.

Payton said...

I would like to see that happen also.