Panic at the Loews 

Star Wars, Smokey and the Bandit fans celebrate anniversaries with near riot; ‘Sheriff Buford T. Justice’ smote with lightsaber

Both Star Wars and Smokey and the Bandit were released 30 years ago, providing a ready excuse for devotees of each movie to dress as favorite characters and meet with like-minded obsessives.

Both Star Wars and Smokey and the Bandit were released 30 years ago, providing a ready excuse for devotees of each movie to dress as favorite characters and meet with like-minded obsessives.

But things turned ugly last Saturday night when a scheduling coincidence placed Chewbacca-dressed Star Wars fans and Burt Reynolds doppelgängers in the same place at the same time.

“We see a lot of unusual groups meeting here,” says a source at the Loews Vanderbilt Plaza hotel. “A couple of weeks ago we had a urinal manufacturing group. But these Star Wars and Bandit people…in hindsight, we never should have had them in side-by-side ballrooms.”

Apparently, things started off amiably enough: before the meetings, a C-3PO was seen drinking in the bar with a well-padded Sheriff Buford T. Justice. But during a break in the meetings about 90 minutes later, a lobby dispute about which movie hero was more manly, Han Solo of Star Wars or Burt Reynolds’ Bandit, began to get out of hand.

“They were yelling and taking sides, and then somebody got out a plastic lightsaber and it got really weird,” the hotel source says. “One of the Buford T. Justice look-alikes got whomped over the head with it.

“Then one of the Bandit people said Sally Field [who plays Bandit’s girlfriend in Smokey and the Bandit] was way better-looking than Carrie Fisher, and somebody else said, ‘At least Princess Leia isn’t doing osteoporosis drug ads,’ and a melee nearly broke out.”

The fans—who, witnesses say, were almost exclusively male—were eventually persuaded to return to their respective ballrooms with the promise of trivia contests and action figure giveaways.

Meanwhile, the Annie Hall fan group, which was in a suite observing the 30th anniversary of that film’s release, sipped white wine and gathered around a screening of the Woody Allen comedy on a large screen plasma TV, and seemed to really enjoy calling each other “Max.”

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