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NY Fans Waiting in <i>Star Wars</i> Lines Help Raise Money for Charity


Group of people dressed as Star Wars characters pose for photographers outside New York's Ziegfeld Theater
Outside New York's famed Ziegfeld Theater, Star Wars devotees are counting down the final hours until the latest Star Wars film premieres at midnight Wednesday. Some have camped out since April 30 to be among the first to see Episode 3. But these fans are doing more than waiting to the see Revenge of the Sith; they are raising money for a children's charity.

In the city that never sleeps, a loyal band of Star Wars fans have set up camp on the sidewalk, trying to catch some shut-eye in sleeping bags a few feet from midtown Manhattan's rumbling traffic. Others crouch near tents or sit on inflatable chairs shaped like aliens from the faraway galaxy of the Star Wars universe.

With just hours to go before the premiere, Janette and Kris Laird are among these fans, wearing brown robes and carrying light sabers.

The married couple flew in from northwestern England to be part of the New York Line experience, and have been waiting outside the theater they affectionately call "The Ziggy" for three days. "We've just been sitting here on the pavement. We've had about seven hours sleep since Sunday. We're running on excitement and I think after we've seen the movie tonight, we're going to drop and that'll just be it, a couple of days in bed," the fan said.

More than 250 people who have been camping out in shifts since April 30.

A Briton named Michael explains why people from nine countries have flocked to this midtown theater when the film is being shown throughout the world at midnight Wednesday. "We could have seen the film earlier in the U.K., but we decided since it was the last one we're going to make a big thing out of it and come spend time in New York with these mad guys, raise a bit of money for charity and see the film at the end of the day," he said.

The fans collect pledges for every hour they wait on line, with the money donated to the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation, a charity that benefits seriously ill children.

This NY Line is the second for Kris Laird, who raised money as he waited to see Star Wars Episode 1 back in 1999. It's the camaraderie and charity-aspect that brought back this Star Wars buff, who says he has seen each film more than 1,000 times and even has a room devoted to Star Wars memorabilia in his house.

There are also "newbies" -- first timers in the waiting line. British friends Barry and Michael, are among them and they were not sure what to expect. "To be fair, when you first arrive and see some of them, you are a bit judgmental and think, 'God they really are comic book guy nerdy types,' but generally they are pretty nice people," Michael said.

Jan, a massage therapist from upstate New York, enjoys the films, but says the greater purpose is the charity. "There will be some people who'll walk by and say 'You're such losers, get a life.' And so what happens then is it'll be an opportunity to educate and I've taken it upon myself to track them down and say what it is we're doing here, rather than what you assume we're doing here, and it's amazing how many donations that turns into, once people understand because they bought this whole 'loser Star Wars fat guys living in their parents basements' thing which is absolutely not true," she said.

New York Line organizer Suzanne Sousa says the group raised a total of $33,000 while waiting outside the Ziegfeld Theater for the first two Star Wars sequels. The total raised during the Revenge of the Sith vigil will be announced at the premiere.

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