The Greatest Christmas Presents Ever, Chapter 4!

It’s the scariest time of year. The time of year when we, the Christmas lovers, become lulled into that familiar and false sense of security.

“Oh, it’s barely mid-December, there’s still plenty of time left.”

Okay, but that “plenty of time” sure has a habit of feeling like two seconds. Make the mistake of blinking, and Christmas will already be over.

If you’ve been going about your Christmasing in a lazy way, it’s time to pick up the pace. Buy your gifts, watch your classics, and light at least one hideously overpowering pine-scented candle. If you don’t do it now, you might have to wait until 2012. That’s risky business. Remember what the Mayans said.

Taking my own advice, I noticed that I still have three more chapters in The Greatest Christmas Presents Ever series to get through. If I don’t want to be singing Santa’s praises in January (and I don’t), I better open the rest of these old ratty toys soon.

Let’s start now!

This is one of the big ones. Maybe the biggest.

If nothing else, it’s certainly the oldest. I received it on Christmas Eve in 1983, which would’ve made me just slightly under five-years-old.

I know, I know. You’ll never believe that I remember something from when I was that young, that long ago. I swear, I do. It’s the only thing I remember from that Christmas, but I swear, I do.

It was Christmas Eve. The big party at our house. Thirty people and thirty courses. As usual, my parents’ bedroom had been repurposed as the “coat room,” and what seemed like 500 jackets were piled on their bed.

I was drawn to Mount Coat in the same way kids can’t resist freshly raked piles of leaves. But this was even better. Instead of dirty wet leaves, I was swimming through fake fur and nylon. Just absolute glory.

Somewhere in that pile, I felt something. Something way too hard and bulky to be anyone’s jacket. Call it a sixth sense, but I knew it was going to be one of my presents. Since I was four-years-old, and Christmas was all about me, there could be no other explanation.

Under all of the coats, there it was. Unwrapped and still in a shopping bag.

I couldn’t have known it at the time, but I’d go on to value it as one of the greatest Christmas presents I ever received, even over 25 years later.

Get ready. Get set. Bo!


Oh, sweet Jesus. The vintage Star Wars Jabba the Hutt Action Playset. Ten bucks’ worth of plastic. Two hundred well-spent afternoons. This is one of my favorite toys of all time.

Upon locating the treasure, I didn’t bother asking for permission to open it. Hey, it wasn’t wrapped. The normal rules did not apply. Fortunately, my mother was way too busy boiling crab legs to care if I started playing with Jabba the Hutt five hours earlier than I was supposed to.

Jabba and I already had some history. By then, I’d endured two absolutely horrifying movie theater experiences, owing exclusively to my fear of this giant slug and his depraved hobbies. Somehow, Jabba seemed far less scary as a nine-inch action figure. He was immediately promoted to one of the elite “bosses” of all of my toys – a position he would relish for many years.

As a kid, when I heard “Star Wars,” I thought “Return of the Jedi.” The first two films weren’t foreign to me, but it was ROTJ that ignited the fire that still hasn’t gone out. Jabba was a big part of that.

Kenner really outdid themselves with this one. It had everything. Jabba, his throne, his little monkey – hell, they even threw the damn pipe in there. Plus, when matched against Kenner’s normal Star Wars figures, Jabba was completely to scale. Whoever designed this really had their finger on the pulse of the realist.

Oh, how I loved this Jabba. The red eyes. Those little squid suckers, dotting his bulbous mass. The way his tail swung back and forth when you shook his head.

Jabba was the star, but there were other highlights…

Meet Salacious Crumb – Jabba’s pet and court jester, who spent most of his onscreen time eating C-3P0’s eyes. For a while, I carried that little guy everywhere. I can distinctly remember trips to my grandparents’ house in Brooklyn, where I had absolutely nothing to do but let Salacious Crumb go exploring.

“Look, Salacious Crumb! Plushy pillows in a zebra print design! And what’s this over here? Well I’ll be! A statue of Stan Laurel!”

Even he was bored.

One of the playset’s odder additions was Jabba’s slave chain. It made sense at first, since Jabba did have one in the movie. Thing is, he used it to demoralize scantily clad concubines. If you used it on any figure but Leia – the only female figure in the entire vintage line besides the no-necked “Sy Snootles” – you were creating some decidedly non-canonical twists on the Star Wars universe.

This isn’t what Boba Fett signed up for. Boba Fett doesn’t dance. I’d hate to be the Gamorrean assigned to fitting him with fishnet stockings.

After balking at Jabba’s advances one time too many, Fett is thrown into “the dungeon” – which, conveniently, is built right into his throne.

Jabba did have a “normal” dungeon in ROTJ, but I always took this to represent the Rancor’s domain. Of course, no Rancor would ever fit in there. That’s fortunate for Boba Fett, or at least, it is until you remember that his replacement punishment is to lay awkwardly, exactly one inch from Jabba’s ass, for all of eternity.

Added bonus: Look close, and you’ll spot random dungeon bric-a-brac peppered into the mold. Bones, rats, lizards and the like. Once the pressure makes Boba crack, he’ll be eating bones and talking to rats. Eventually, he’ll switch, eat rats, and call the bones by formal names. At least, that’s how it worked when I was four.

The instruction manual lists helpful suggestions on what to do if your Jabba the Hutt Action Playset breaks.

“If Item X pops off, stick it back in.”

“If Item Y pops off, stick it back in.”

I guess I wouldn’t have been able to read these gems back in ’83, right? I can’t say that I was ever a candidate for skipping a grade. Good thing the manual had so many illustrations.

Oh Jabba, you sicko. We had such times together, making slaves out of everybody with small necks. And throwing all of the skinny figures into your ass jail. And smoking alien pot. You deserved every hour of the attention I gave you, and I’m so sorry for breaking your head off in a fit of kids-do-stuff-like-that.

I’m not sure if this my earliest Christmas memory, but it’s gotta be the oldest one that still feels like yesterday.

Thanks, Jabba. Even today, there is no one I’d rather find under a pile of coats.

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79 Responses to The Greatest Christmas Presents Ever, Chapter 4!

  1. Star Wars was my first movie, and it was at a drive-in. I was too young to remember it, but that’s what my parents tell me.

    I can only imagine how much you had to pay for that Jabba playset, in the box with the manual. When I lived in a bigger city, there was a store that had a mint/complete one for sale and it was well over any price range that I would ever be able to pay.

  2. Teddy Ray says:

    I, too, had and loved Jabba and his playset. I remember several of my Star Wars toys, but no real recollection of when I got them. I had Jabba, the Rancor, the Ewok village…I also seem to remember having a rubber Yoda hand puppet. “Puppet” is used very loosely, considering all you could really do was move his head around, because he was rubber.

  3. Nicole says:

    I would’ve LOVED to get that set as a kid. I had Castle Greyskull but never Jabba and his sweet, alarmingly close to his ass dungeon set-up. You gave me a smile during a rough xmas season. Thanks! :)

  4. Paul says:

    Holy cow! I’m just catching up on some XE reading now and this one blew me away! I thought I remembered a ton of my childhood including all of the best presents I got but I totally forgot about this one. Man I had some great times with this toy!

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