Sunday, October 28, 2012

Kanye Finally Lets Me Finish

A long time ago, on this very blog, I posted something nebulous about rapper Kanye West. Bear in mind that was prior to his notoriously career-killing racist rants and his "Imma Let You Finish" interruption of Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Music Video Awards.

Some four years later, I can finally reveal what that was all about. Admittedly, this will be somewhat anti-climactic. Back in 2008, Kanye's stardom was something that the 501st Legion Star Wars costuming organization felt could be leveraged. Historically, any alignment with celebrities meant more publicity for the group, more legitimacy for the art of costuming and more interest in any charitable efforts. As such, when Kanye West's representatives approached the 501st with a request for a suit of Stormtrooper armor, we wanted to jump at the opportunity to associate our name with that of one of the best-selling and most-awarded musical artists of the time.

Once we had all of Kanye's measurements (5' 8" with size 12 shoes?!), Legion Commanding Officer Mark Fordham (SL-096) led the effort of acquiring all of the necessary components for a respectable Stormtooper suit, requesting donations of parts and funds from the volunteer membership on a very tight timeline. (Note: My personal contribution paid for the gloves.) Mark succeeded in delivering the armor on time and worked out an agreement by which the 501st would get the used armor back so that it could be auctioned on Ebay with proceeds going to a charity of Kanye's choice (the ill-fated and somewhat suspicious Kanye West Foundation). To recap: the 501st pays for and supplies the armor, Kanye wears said armor and autographs it and the 501st auctions it for charity. Aside from the fact that it was a complete Stormtrooper costume valued at around $1000 US, we figured it would fetch considerably more after it was worn by hip-hop superstar Kanye West, right? Fate, however, had a different plan.

Kanye toured and we did get the armor back with an autograph and some stickers indicating it was part of the production. Still, an auction like this would perform much better with some photographic evidence of Kanye in the suit. Despite numerous requests, no pictures were sent. Over time, our contacts with the West camp slowly dissolved until months of waiting turned into years of silence. Kanye's charitable foundation flopped with a bad rap (no pun intended). The man made a fool of himself in the media. The fans turned against him. At this point, we'd be lucky to give away the armor.

After letting the dust settle for a few years, the 501st decided there was no real reason to hold back the auction any further---the value of the armor had clearly already peaked and we needed to monetize it for charity as was the original intent and we chose our good friends at Make-A-Wish as the beneficiaries. Mark once again picked up the reins and posted the listing on Ebay in August of 2012, with hopes that Kanye would stay out of the public eye until the auction ended:

To promote the auction, we posted about it on Facebook. Public opinion was swift and to the point with comments like "Honestly I think him wearing it devalued the armor," "I have never wanted to destroy a piece of stormtrooper armor more than I do right now" and "Does it still smell of douchebag?" Fortunately, a single bid just prior to the auction's conclusion met the reserve of $1000 and this infamous piece of history went quietly into someone's personal collection, with proceeds going to Make-A-Wish.

Up until recently, we really had no idea just how the armor was used, except that he wore it on stage a few times while touring with N.E.R.D. back in 2008. However, an October 2012 tweet by Kim Kardashian led me to find that the armor was also (partially) used in the pilot episode of a failed "hip hop Muppet Show" titled Alligator Boots. Weird.

Hey, I bought those gloves for Kanye! Here's a link to the some behind-the-scenes video. Enjoy! Or not....

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Asheville Tattoo Fest

Time for a confession.

Today was the first time I've trooped in more than a year. If it weren't for the good graces of my Carolina Garrison CO, I'd be on the inactive list.

While my family and work are still the number one priorities in my life, trooping at the First Annual Asheville Tattoo Fest reminded me that I still immensely enjoy suiting up in the white armor to bring smiles to kids of all ages---even the ones with kids (or grandkids) of their own. You might wonder what a tattoo convention has to do with Star Wars, but you should know that Star Wars-themed skin art is a genre unto itself as demonstrated by books like Shane Turgeon's The Force in the Flesh. Either way, the organizers were thrilled to have Boba Fett (BH-4413), a Tusken Raider (DZ-6975) and a Stormtrooper (me) walking the floor and taking photos with the guests. They even offered us moonshine---but troopers don't drink on the job.

As I mentioned before, it had been a while since I attended a 501st appearance, but the reactions were the same as always. Awe from those who remember you from their childhood...

Excitement from those who can't wait to tweet about who they saw at the show...

Fear from those who aren't quite sure if you intend them harm...

And then there's the silent acknowledgement in passing from those who think they're a little too old to still love Star Wars. Quite a few of those. But as limited as my vision might be inside that Stormtrooper helmet, I saw you taking a picture of me from across the room. It's okay, bro, Star Wars is for everyone.

As far as highlights from this event, two moments stick out in my mind. One was when Mamie White of The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia stepped off the stage to take a photo with us. The other was when Boba Fett stumbled across a guy getting a tattoo of Boba Fett. Meta, dude.

A big thank you to my wife (DZ-4009) for acting as our handler and photographer for this event.

Some sage advice: Whether you run into troublesome kids who want to jump on your back or just a fan who needs you to take a photo with their camera, a handler is invaluable to any 501st appearance. Thanks to TK-7404 for getting us into the show! Keep on troopin'!

Monday, August 1, 2011

More Lucas v Ainsworth

Here's the Reuters article from July 27, 2011, that gives us an update on the lawsuit between Lucasfilm and Andrew Ainsworth's Shepperton Design Studios surrounding the rights to replicate Stormtrooper armor and helmets. Lucasfilm won in California courts, but was recently ruled against in the UK. This essentially means that SDS can't ship to the States, but will continue producing armor.

The thing that bothers me the most is the fact that the High Court doesn't consider movie props and costumes to be works of art. That's just a slap in the face to everyone in the film industry including Andrew Ainsworth.

It also bothers me (to a lesser degree) that the media likes to use stock images/video of the 501st Legion to illustrate these articles, although SDS armor makes up a very small percentage of the suits worn by Legion members, mainly due to the price point of SDS's unlicensed product.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Uptown Charlotte "Flash Mob"

Okay, so the term "flash mob" is a bit of an exaggeration. This early-morning 501st event in uptown Charlotte, NC, was a planned promotion for Star Wars Celebration V on behalf of Lucasfilm and Reed Expositions (the folks running the big summer 2010 Star Wars fan gathering). We were asked to help drum up some media coverage in regions outside of the Florida market to ensure that fans in the Southeast USA were aware of the August event. I created some picket signs with relevant phrases like "TO ORLANDO...HAVE BLASTER WILL TRAVEL," "THIS IS THE VACATION YOU'RE LOOKING FOR" and "STAR WARS CELEBRATION OR BUST!" David, TI-1626, even went shirtless as a vacationing TIE Pilot complete with swim shorts.

Jon Wilson of the local FOX Charlotte television early morning show, who has helped the 501st promote various events over the years, met us in front of the Omni Hotel at 6 in the morning with his faithful cameraman and we amused and confused passers-by and commuters on their way to work. The end result was about 10-15 minutes of teasers promoting Celebration V and the 501st Legion. Lucasfilm was pleased and I squeezed in another event for 2010. Not a bad result for a last-minute Friday morning troop. Thanks to David, Andy, Cher, Hope, Ken and Ryan for showing up!

Click here for video (not sure how long they keep the link active).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Museum Replicas Stormtrooper Prototype Revealed

It's been a few years since Museum Replicas acquired the license to produce Star Wars costume replicas, but we finally got a gander at the new original trilogy Stormtrooper armor this past week at San Diego Comic-Con 2010.

Bearing in mind that some costumers are very particular about the accuracy of their reproductions---sometimes down to the inclusion of what are clearly shortcomings/errors---this armor is the best licensed offering of white armor we've seen thus far (one could argue that the Shepperton suits are more accurate, but he's not officially licensed by Lucasfilm to sell anything). Sticklers will immediately call foul on parts like the one-piece molded right knee "ammo belt" or the grommets in the webbing belt or even the lack of a separating strip down the backs of the calf armor...or the funky abdomen buttons...or the lack of sharpness on certain get the idea.

Still, the armor isn't set for release until 2011 and there will likely be changes and improvements between now and the time these hit the market. Maybe fans can offer up some suggestions that might result in a better end-product. No word on price-point or accessories (like the blaster or the special storage crate) at this time.

Click here to see the full-size detailed photos of the prototype. Photos courtesy of the very generous Lesley Farquhar.

Friday, April 23, 2010

eFX Releases PCR Helmet

The company known as eFX Collectibles acquired the license to produce certain items that were being made by the now-defunct Master Replicas. While the Master Replicas Collectors Edition (MRCE) Stormtrooper helmet is still available though a number of online retailers, eFX is now releasing an Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back version that appears to be made from the same molds as the MRCE. The paint scheme is a bit different---most notably the black vs. gray frown---and the manufacturer is now calling this a Precision Cast Replica (PCR) made from injection-molded ABS (same as the MRCE).

Click here to pre-order from or here for $159.99 US. Both sites offer free shipping. They claim these will be a limited edition (as were the plentiful MRCEs) shipping in early July 2010.

Essentially what we're seeing is a $40 jump in price for the same helmet which still requires modifications to meet 501st standards, but at least this style of fairly-accurate TK helmet won't be in short supply.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Star Wars: In Concert Promo

Rain or shine, the trooping must go on. Trooped in armor for the first time in more than a year and was glad that that suit still fits, albeit repairs are in order. The Carolina Garrison was helping to promote the Star Wars: In Concert tour which will be at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville, SC, on Thursday, November 5th. Ticket sales are suffering from some high priced seats and a weeknight event (not geared towards school kids), so the 501st was out at the Greenville Saturday Market to help get the word out. On a side note, I am an advocate of the local food movement in general...I even sell fresh eggs at our own farmer's market. Despite a constant but light rain, attendance wasn't too bad and we handed out flyers offering a $10 discount on tickets and interacted with the public. Being Halloween, a lot of kids came in costume and it's nice to see that Star Wars is still popular. The event hosts (Bi-Lo Center's marketing team) were kind enough to provide complimentary admission for all of the attending 501st plus up to 5 guests---a wonderful gesture that was much appreciated by the Empire. Due to my work schedule, I won't be at the November 5th concert, but the rest of the family will enjoy a night of live music from that galaxy far, far away. I did get to see the show in Los Angeles, though, and I have to say it's very cool to see and hear the music you've grown up with performed live in front of you. Be sure to catch the show if you telling when you'll have another chance like this!

Friday, September 11, 2009

CowTrooper Victorious!

Amazing! Sensing the huge amount of support for the top two entries in the Chick-fil-A Cow Appreciation Day contest, the food chain decided to award TWO grand prizes. Both the Jobe Family of Boone, NC, and Noel (TK-8541) Green will receive a year's worth of meals. Noel, of course, has pledged to donate his winnings to his local New Mexico food bank to assist those less fortunate. As an added bonus, Noel reports that his local Chick-fil-A restaurant will be hosting a special day where a percentage of their sales will go to the same food bank charity! Thank you to all of you who supported this fun and worthy cause---it's astounding that people can make a difference like this when they combine their efforts. Here's the winning announcement from Chick-fil-A's official facebook page:

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Vote for TK-COW...and Do It Now!

The competition is pulling out all the stops in the Chick-fil-A Cow Appreciation Day competition and the 501st Legion's very own Noel Green (TK-8541) needs your daily vote from now through Monday, August 31st! Although fans were able to push Noel into the No.1 spot late last week with a surge of votes, the outcome is now uncertain. The CowTrooper respectfully requests that you do your part for the Empire (and remember that Noel has pledged his grand prize of a year's worth of food to feed those in danger of starvation through his local food bank charity)! Click here then click 'vote' and 'highest rated.' This is our most desperate daily and spread the word!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Testing Google Calendar

Been playing with Google Calendar for a quick way to get the word out on international 501st Legion events. While it's easy to use, customization seems a bit limited.

If anyone's got a better collaborative calendar option, please let me know!