Friday, May 16, 2014

It's all happening!

May 16, 2014.

The beginning of Star Wars Weekends at Disney for this year, but it has a bit more significance this time around. This is the first Star Wars Weekend since THE ANNOUNCEMENT; the one where Disney wrote George Lucas a HUMONGOUS check, and immediately announced work was already underway for the words I’d waited a few decades to see in print.


Also today, a few other things happened, to me personally and to the Star Wars community as a whole. This morning, one simple tweet gave me the goosebumps I’d not felt in a very long time. "Officially begun, production has." That was followed later in the day by an official picture of Pinewood Studios, with a very simple sign hanging outside.

But personally, something really cool happened to me, as well. The one and only Dave Prowse posted a tweet that read something like “Send me your pics of you dressed as Darth Vader and I’ll retweet them.” So I dug up a picture from the Cincinnati Reds Star Wars Weekend of me, on the field, during the national anthem. I'm pretty sure this was an AP photo or some other national news media outlet. But I posted it, and sent a tweet to Mr. Prowse. Half an hour later, while I was at work, I went back to see if I made the cut. Well...

I got retweeted by DARTH VADER. As I was dressed in my 501st approved, Lucasfilm sanctioned Darth Vader costume.

That’s gotta be a 10.0 on my Cool Sh*t-O-Meter.

So, here we are. A year and a half until a new episode of the movie franchise that has helped shape a generation, and continues to influence the generations since. And I am sitting right in the middle of the renaissance as a member of the 501st Legion, playing the biggest, baddest bad guy who turns back to good guy EVER.

With a little luck, maybe the next email I get from someone with Lucasfilm will start out "We'd like you to audition for the role of Darth Vader in the upcoming Episode IV.5..." (How do you write a half number in roman numerals?) But even if they never call or write, doing what I'm doing is incredibly cool and fulfilling. And the group of guys and girls that we troop with regularly, are an incredible bunch. And TK-Tim is fully back in the fold with us.

Who is TK-Tim, you ask? Well, that's another story...and one I've owed you, dear reader, for some time. He's the guy who got me into all of this, and that story is up next.

I promise.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Pitch Seen Around A Galaxy Far, Far Away...

Yup. That was me.

That was me all over the interwebs when you woke up on Saturday, May 3, 2014. Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith, apprentice to the Emporer, Darth Sideous (aka Senator then Chancellor Palpatine), taking the mound for the ceremonial third first pitch (more on that in a minute) during Star Wars Night with the Cincinnati Reds.

That was me, standing in front of 32,759 major league baseball fans, waiting on me to deliver a perfect force guided strike. Problem being, Lord Vader’s suit, armor, and helmet were meant to keep him alive and function as a living being. Mine was just meant to LOOK like his on screen. (Screen accurate, as a matter of fact. That’s what the 501st does.)

So there I am, right in front of that pitcher’s mound that a very well paid gentleman will be throwing from just a bit later in the evening. And I’m expected to deliver a perfect strike….to a mascot with an oversized 1,000 times baseball for a head. In the immortal words of Bob Uecker (who I SWEAR I saw in the bowels of Great American Ballpark earlier that night).

JUUUUUUUUST a bit outside.

Yup. I one hopped it to the mascot.

The result? Instant fame.

WORLDWIDE instant fame.

Here are some of the headlines:

Disturbance in the Force? Darth Vader tosses awful first pitch

Darth Vader Threw Out an Anemic First Pitch at a Reds Game

Watch: Darth Vader Sucks at Throwing Out First Pitches... Darth Vader throws just a terrible ceremonial first pitch

Darth Vader's lack of pitching skills is disturbing

Darth Vader" mostra falta de talento no beisebol em arremesso inaugural

I have NO IDEA what that last one said. No talent hack maybe? Anyway...

People were talking more about Darth Vader this past weekend than any time since Revenge of the Sith, at the very least. And these were mostly national media outlets, and ALL included the video. I have to say, my favorite description was “The Force was strong with Lord Vader’s pitch. That force was gravity.” Classic.

My one regret was that not one of those articles mentioned the 501st Legion ( I really wish one of the national media outlets had gone that extra step to actually get in touch to find out who we are, what we do, and why we do it.

Bad guys doing good!

But on the bright side, Lord Vader got their attention again. Star Wars Weekend was a huge success, from what I can see. Chewbacca threw a perfect strike on Sunday night. And a young man named Toby had a night he will cherish forever because he got to throw out the first pitch on Saturday night, dressed in his own TK armor. Toby is 10 years old, and has mitochondrial disease. He has been “adopted” by the ladies and gentlemen of Blue Sun Squad (a squad within the Midsouth Garrison of the 501st), and is one of us. The Reds were looking for “characters” to fill the remaining two slots for throwing out the first pitch for that weekend. I mentioned Toby to the promotions director, and he thought it was a great idea.

Toby has a memory he’ll not likely forget. And I’m happy that I was able to facilitate it. And yes, I would have gladly given up my spot for him to do it.

That kid rocks.

And then, once the weekend was over, we found a link making fun of Vader. And his Stormtrooper from Saturday night. Ok, hang on a second...

I'm a grown man. I grew up on Star Wars, and love it to this day. And I get to dress up as a character from that franchise and make kids (and their parents) very happy. And I threw a bad pitch that made national headlines, picking on me. AWESOME! BRING IT! Just spell the name right. I knew what I was in for, taking on that challenge. Ace it, nobody notices, and you got to do something you dreamed about since you started tee ball. One hop it, the world notices and Darth Vader is the talk of the town. A true can't lose, win-win situation. Obviously, the latter happened for me.

But of the national media talking heads decided to pick on Toby, too. Seriously? A kid with a disability who loves the Reds AND Star Wars, and got to combine the two.

Somebody is about to find out that Chewie ain’t the only one with claws.

That chapter is still being written. I’ll let you know, dear reader, how it ends.

To be continued...