Flagstaff Bookmans return of the record

Illustration by Blake Fernandez

Flagstaff’s Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, a trading marketplace for entertainment merchandise, located next to Sprouts in the shopping center on Milton Road, has been a topic of conversation. It could even be said that it became one with the force. Bookmans was able to return a copy of the “Star Wars: A New Hope” score on vinyl, signed by renowned composer John Williams, to “Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill. The actor played Luke Skywalker in the film series.

Williams has been composing scores for TV and film since the late 1950s. His memorable work has been featured in a wide variety of films, such as “Jaws,” the first three “Harry Potter” films, “Indiana Jones” and all nine “Star Wars.”

Bookmans’ general manager and NAU alumnus Micheil Salmons has been a lifelong “Star Wars” fan. He has been the general manager for eight months after working his way up from other store positions. Salmons said the shop acquired the record during summer 2018.

“There was a woman who brought it in and she was cleaning out her father’s storage unit because he had passed away,” Salmons said. “She brought in a bunch of boxes containing a lot of different ‘Star Wars’ memorabilia and autographed pictures. The record just happened to be one of the items we wanted.”

Salmons said the signature was authentic due to the other autographed items the woman had brought in and because the record was labeled as a prerelease not available for distribution. Music department supervisor Brandon Hart bought the record for the store.

“I didn’t think it was made up,” Hart said. “I thought how cool is that. I then started image searching John Williams’ autograph to see if it was comparable to what it’s supposed to be.”

Salmons said he also went through various online sites, such as auction house data, and compared Williams’ other proven authentic signatures to the one on the album.

Despite having had the record since 2018, Bookmans’ employee Nick DeVries, who was present when the record was brought in and currently takes care of the store’s music section, said that it mainly sat in the back after it was purchased.

“We didn’t delve into it too much until a year or so after we got it because we weren’t sure what to do with it,” DeVries said.

Salmons said they finally put the album out on shelves a few days before Christmas. He said he posted about the store having the album on Reddit and that another user had ended up sending the link to Hamill via Twitter, where he confirmed it was his record. Hamill explained in his tweet that the record had been taken from his apartment by housekeeping and he never thought he would see it again.

After seeing Hamill’s response, Salmons said Bookmans was able to get into contact with him via direct message where they exchanged information on how to mail the record back to him. On Jan. 10, Hamill tweeted his thanks to the Bookmans staff for returning the record, which he hadn’t seen since the early ’90s.

“Over the years in life, things go missing. Meet the staff of @bookmansflag- They found & RETURNED a record signed for me by #JohnWilliams,” Hamill tweeted. “I’m so grateful to them & hope you consider spending lots & lots of $ at their store. Many thanks, Mar.”

In his tweet, Hamill made sure to include photos of the staff in “Star Wars” apparel, the record and John Williams’ signature within the context of the tweet. In another tweet, Hamill said he offered to sign any “Star Wars” items the staff sent him.

Salmons got a copy of “A New Hope” signed by Hamill, whereas book department employee and longtime “Star Wars” fan Kevin Iannone got a replica of the medal Luke Skywalker and Han Solo received from Princess Leia at the end of “A New Hope” signed by Hamill.

Since Hamill’s tweets regarding the return of the album, Bookmans has received an increase in media attention not just from local news outlets, but from larger news outlets, such as The New York Times, The Japan Times and Fox 10.

“It’s been overwhelming in a really cool way,” Iannone said. “We really get to be on the front lines of the collectible world since we’re a store that sees really interesting stuff all the time, though not quite on this level.”

Apart from finding this item, Bookmans also features other forms of entertainment for their customers. Customers may never know what they may find on a Bookmans shelf.