A long time ago, in a suburb not that far away, Jimmy "Mac" McInerney first saw the movie that would become a lifelong obsession.
McInerney, a veteran Chicago radio professional who now works as production director at 95.9 FM "The River" in Aurora, was 8 years old when he saw "Star Wars" at the long-gone Edens Theaters back in 1977.
Wizard World Chicago Comic ConWhat: A weekend-long pop-culture convention featuring dozens of comic-book creators, movie and television stars, and comic-book dealers from all over the Midwest.
When: Noon to 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9, and Friday, Aug. 10; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12
Where: Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, 5555 N. River Road, Rosemont
Tickets: $35 per day, autographs and some special events extra. For full schedule, go to wizardworld.com.
The experience turned him into a junkie, just like it did millions of other children around his age.
He indulged his new addiction however he could -- trading cards, action figures, comic books. His "Star Wars" mania would quiet down from time to time as he got older, but it never disappeared completely.
"When (1983 'Star Wars' sequel) 'Return of the Jedi' came out, I really thought it was the end," McInerney said. "I figured it was time to focus on things like girls and guitars and sports. But 'Star Wars' kept creeping back into my awareness."
Today, McInerney's as committed as ever. He co-hosts the Weekly ForceCast, a popular "Star Wars"-related podcast. He travels to conventions every year, interviewing the key players behind the "Star Wars" saga. And he maintains a "Star Wars" shrine in his West suburban home that would get most die-hard fans drooling.
McInerney will be on the floor this weekend at the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con in Rosemont, interviewing fans and the contingent of "Star Wars" professionals that will be on hand. The Chicago Comic Con will also include comic-book creators and dealers, panel discussions and appearances by movie and television stars.
"I still love talking about 'Star Wars' as much as I ever did," said McInerney, a Northbrook native. "And going to conventions is really fun. This year, I'll be acting more like a reporter at the one in Rosemont, carrying a portable unit around. I really love doing this kind of thing."
The ForceCast, billed as the official podcast of the "Star Wars" websites theforce.net and rebelscum.com, comes out every Friday. It can be found at forcecast.net and on iTunes. (It also airs at 1 p.m. every Sunday on WJJG 1530 AM.)
McInerney got involved with the podcast in 2006, shortly after producing a "Star Wars" radio special for WCKG 105.9 FM.
"I loved doing that radio special, because it kind of combined my fandom with my radio skills," he said. "So I was looking for other ways to do that kind of thing."
McInerney admits with some embarrassment that he wasn't expecting much when he first looked at the podcast. He was, after all, a seasoned broadcaster and producer who'd worked with some of the biggest names in Chicago radio -- people like Jonathon Brandmeier and Kevin Matthews.
"I figured it would be amateur hour," he said of the podcast. "I was probably a little snotty about it -- 'I'm a radio broadcaster.' But I was so wrong. They all knew what they were doing and were very professional. I was honored to join the staff. And it's almost become an obsession for me now. I treat it with the same seriousness I do my 'real' job."
The podcast offers discussions about anything and everything related to "Star Wars." It's also become known as a key source of interviews with the actors, artists and filmmakers behind the saga.
McInerney has interviewed everyone from actor Mark Hamill (who played Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy) to the mastermind of it all, George Lucas.
"There's a big 'Star Wars' convention every year called 'Star Wars Celebration,' and that's where I often get some great interviews," McInerney said. "Mark Hamill is always a fantastic interview -- he tells great stories and is still really into the whole thing. I liked talking to Carrie Fisher, too."
McInerney and his wife, radio personality Wendy Snyder, have two sons, ages 9 and 13. Both are "Star Wars" fans, though McInerney said their passion for the films doesn't come close to his.
"I try not to hit them over the head with it," he said. "I love that so many younger kids are fans, though for many of them, it's the (computer-animated television series) 'Clone Wars' that hooked them. But I think there's something unique about being a fan for those of us who were there when it all started. I mean, I can actually remember a world without 'Star Wars.'"