Sunday, June 14, 2009

501ST LEGION~PART I~INTERVIEW WITH FOUNDER ALBIN JOHNSON by Denise Vasquez




I've been wanting to write a blog about the 501st for some time now! 

I've met and hung out with 501st members from all over the world & have come to feel like family with many of them! 

Thank goodness for the internet! It makes it easier for us all to stay connected...

Who are the 501st...Well, You might have seen them at "The Rose Parade"...at a Sci-Fi Convention, at a charity event...

I've met and hung out with 501st members in different parts of the world at Comic Cons, Conventions & Star Wars Celebrations (California, Texas, Japan, Germany, London...) and I have to say, there is something REALLY special about seeing them in uniform worldwide...

It goes beyond what lies on the outside...

Perhaps it is the reminder that we are all connected in some way...

I had the privilege of meeting & hanging out with Albin Johnson, Founder of the 501st during Star Wars Celebration Japan, and have been wanting to do an interview with him ever since!

I approached Albin & he was kind enough to take a moment and share his thoughts...

-Albin, What is the 501st Legion?
Officially speaking, the 501st is a costuming club for anyone who's into the 'bad guys' of Star Wars. A more detailed answer is that it's a worldwide fraternity of SW fans who enjoy costuming, conventions, and doing charity work. Another definition (my favorite) is that the Legion is the biggest ongoing net-based Star Wars party where friends get together online and in person to rock the Star Wars community.

-How & why did the 501st start?
In 1997 the Star Wars trilogy was announced to be remastered and re-released on the big screen. At the time my buddy, Tom Crews (not the same as the movie actor, sorry) and I were talking up how much we loved the movies as kids and when stormtroopers came up all we could think of was somehow getting armor (which was impossible at the time, so we thought). But we somehow scored armor and hit the theaters for the premieres. No sooner did we do that and post the pics on the web (on a site we called Detention Block 2551) than people from all over the world began to send in pics of them in armor. I took a page from my dad's old WWII pilot graduation book and made up a website that looked like we were a fictional bunch of troopers in a unit in the Empire. I thought of a cool name "501st Squad: Vader's Fist" and a backstory to explain we were the troopers you always see in the trilogy always on-hand when Vader had a job to do and voila - it just took off!

-What is your goal with the Legion?
Ostensibly our goals are to excel at costuming, celebrate Star Wars, and spread the fun and joy to our local communities. My personal goal is to do the same, but to make it so much fun and bring so many people together, fans and celebrities alike, that it is a celebration of enormous proportions. That, and get Uncle George's seal of approval - which we got in 2007 when he invited 200 of us from around the world to march in the Pasadena Rose Bowl parade.

-How long has it been in existence?
Twelve years and counting.

-What charities does the 501st support?
Make-A-Wish Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, Toys-for-Tots, Candlelighters, the Jimmy Fund, the American Heart Association, and others.

-How can someone join? Are there requirements?
Anyone can join, as long as they're 18 and have a good-quality Star Wars costume from the 'bad guys' of the films.

-Where do you get your Armour/costumes? Are they made by members? Do they have to be approved?
Costumes are all hand-made by our members. Some members are better at it than others and help one another out. All costumes must be reviewed by our Membership Liaisons and approved.

-What events does the 501st usually attend?
The 501st is at every single sci-fi convention in the world, and that's not an exaggeration. If we're not at a con, it's because the cons is so small we likely didn't hear about it. Our favorite hits are DragonCon in Atlanta, ComicCon in San Diego, Big Apple Con and NYC Comic Con in New York, every Star Wars Celebration event, and every year's toy drives around Christmas.

-Where have you traveled with the 501st? What's the farthest place?
I've been all over the U.S. and to Germany, London, Holland, Belgium, France, and Japan. Japan is likely the farthest I've been in my journies. I've been very fortunate to meet so many of our members and fellow fans.

-What is your fondest 501st memory?
Probably my fondest memory is meeting George Lucas and having him congratulate me on what we've achieved with the Legion. Me. Mister nobody. Being thanked for what thousands of fans have accomplished. It was the single most humbling and gratifying experience in the club. 

-How do you select who will become honorary members?
Anyone who contributed to the Star Wars saga - the actors, the crew, the authors, the artists, the voice talent - anyone who's been in on the saga's ongoing journey. We also induct Honorary Friends who happen to be big supporters of the Legion - whether they're celebs who don't necessarily have anything to do with Star War but support the Legion

-Upcoming events?
Celebration V is coming up soon and we're just waiting for the announcement of when and where! Be ready to see the Legion take over the scene (in a good way!).

-Anything else you would like to add...
I'm just glad to be free to suit up and troop with my friends, see a smile on a child's face, share a beer with the royalty of Star Wars, and know by day's end we've done something regular society wishes it was brave enough and foolish enough to do.


To find out more about the 501st, be sure to visit http://www.501st.com

I interviewed some members of the 501st from different parts of the world, so be sure to subscribe & check back to read PART II of my Interview!

To be continued...


3 comments:

  1. We are raising money for the Make-A-Wish foundation in memory of Katie Johnson, Albin's late daughter. Our campaign is called "Kilometers 4 Katie".

    Please visit www.Km4KT.com

    Thank you.

    Joe Schönberger
    Garrison Tyranus, TK-3699

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have been with the 501st since Celebration II, April of 2002. I have seen many members of my local garrison, the Midwest Garrison, do a great many charitable events, including the Chicaho walk for hunger, Make a wish, and visiting sick children in hospitals. One that I have attended over the past 5 years, is the American Cancer Society's "Relay for Life" cancer walk, with my team the "Imperial Walkers". I enjoy getting suited up, and seeing the look on kids faces, similar to the one I must have had when I first saw Imperial Stormtroopers blast their way onto the rebel blockade runner in Star Wars, A new hope.

    Please visit http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR/RelayForLife/RFLFY09IL?px=3678017&pg=personal&fr_id=15092

    Barry Benecke II
    Midwest Garrison, TK-0523

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi, Just thought I'll drop a comment to say hi. Am a proud 501st member myself. ^^;

    Gordon
    TK/TD8316
    Singapore Garrison

    ReplyDelete