ALL MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE ©2009 BY DENISE VASQUEZ
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My series "It's All About The Members" began June 2009. If you'd like to go back & read past interviews, be sure to browse through the archives beginning with 501st Legion Founder Albin Johnson on June 14, 2009!
This interview FEATURES all the way from Germany, 501st Legion Member
Andrea Rilli (TK8010)
-How did you find out about the 501st?
My first encounter with the 501st was pretty strange. I am a shift worker and my way home leads past my favourite club. One monday night after late shift I drove along, my mind already half asleep, and saw that there were some weird things going on. I couldn't really believe what I saw, Darth Vader and a couple of Stormtroopers? Here? My curiosity was stronger than the need for sleep, so I went in the club. It turned out that the club hosted a release party for Episode III, they had troopers of the German Garrison and raffled off free tix for the movie. It was a fun evening, I got to talk to the guys and girls in plastic and won tickets for the movie. The next day I registered at the public boards at the German Garrison
homepage and started to work on a costume.
-What inspired you to want to join?
I loved the movies since I saw them first as a kid and I love costuming for carneval here. After meeting with troops in the club I saw that I'm not alone and that you are never to old to "play dress up". The pictures of events on the homepage and the conversations with the members in the boards were great. The stories they had to tell from conventions and other troopings were so much fun, I wanted to be part of it. Guess thats when I realized that I am a geek.
-Which Garrison are you a part of?
I'm part of the German Garrison (Arma Candida Squad)
-When did you join? How long have you been a member?
I did join in September 2005. Those 4 years were great!
-How did you decide on your costume?
That was the hardest thing to decide! Star Wars provides so many great costumes that chosing one to start with is really hard. I didnt want to scare the kids off so it
had to be a costume with a helmet. My first "loves" were the Biker Scout and the Royal Guard. The fact, that a Garrison member sold his Royal Guard helmet soon after I joined the forums fixed my decision. By now I own 6 costumes with one more on the way. The guard was followed by a Stormtrooper, a Biker Scout, a (never worn) Officer, a female Tusken Raider and a TIE Pilot. The latest project is Jango Fett, but this will take some more time to be finished.
-Where did you get your costume? Did you make yours?
That is quite different for the various costumes. There are members out there who make their costumes completely by theirselves, by sewing or working with fibreglass or vacuform, they all have my deepest respect. I tried to sew the cloak of my Royal Guard, I really tried... well, my tries are now serving as big shapless kind of bag to save the helmet from scratches. I do smaller repairs and assemble some of the plastic stuff and I made the bracelets for the Tusken from Fimo, but thats as far as it goes. My Royal Guard helmet is from a Garrison member, the cloth parts were made in cooperation with local tailors. They helped me again with the female Tusken. The plastic parts of the Stormtrooper are from the internet as
is the Officer. I bought my Biker Scout used from an other Star Wars Fan and a 501st member in the US was the source for my TIE-Pilot.
-Where have you traveled to participate in 501st events?
I love travelling and meeting 501sters from all over the world. That is a big part of the fun for me. I've been to a lot of countries to troop, which is easy to do in Europe. I have been in Italy, France, the UK, the Netherlands, the USA and Belgium with the 501st. The plans for next year include a trip to Denmark.
-Where’s the farthest you’ve traveled?
That would be the trip to the USA for Celebration IV. With two garrison mates I spent 2 weeks in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It was great! We brought our costumes and trooped the Celebration in LA and theBay to Breakers run in SF. That 12 km right through the town were long but a great experience. My feet hurt whenever I think back, but it was worth it.
-What’s your fondest 501st memory?
So many to chose from... there were many kids that started smiling and hugging the troops, there were many fun moments at every troop and a lot of great feedback we got from the public. But one of my all-time favourite memories is from the trip to San Francisco. I was in contact with Sarah from the Golden Gate Garrison before we left here. We were talking about meeting and having dinner while we 3 Germans were in town. I thought it would be an evening with Sarah and her boyfriend (now husband) and good food. I was right only about the good food. The evening started with us arriving at the hotel, we were all 3 jet-lagged and just wanted to take a short nap. Long story short: We slept to long and Sarah and Josh already waited for a while in the hotel lobby. When we finally were ready to go (half an hour or more late) they told us, that there would be some more GGG members. I thought about 5 or 6. That was so wrong. When we came to the mexican restaurant, there were more than 40 GGG members waiting for us. It became a great evening, I met some dear friends. GGG+GG=G5. It was so embarrassing that we slept to long and had this great bunch of people waiting.
-What’s your favorite thing about being a 501st member?
Trooping is cool and never seems to get boring, but the camaraderie and the friendships that you can find in the 501st is my favourite aspect of the Legion. I met some of my best friends in my Garrison, I would have never met them without the club. On top of that I know, that the 501st is everywhere. It is cool to go to Florida and party with the Florida Garrison in Orlando. It is fun to travel with 10 garrison members to Italy and spend a weekend with the Italica Garrison. It is great to have dinner with members of the Neon City Garrison in Las Vegas and visit an R2D2 letterbox somewhere in the city for a group pic. I hugged a letterbox, can you believe that? But it works the other way as well: When we know that legion members are coming to Germany, we try to meet them and show them round. Kim and Cris from the SoCal Garrison are regular guests in many of our livingrooms ;)
-What’s the day like for you as a 501st member preparing for an event?
Preparing for an event depends mainly on the kind of event. A convention is different from promotion in a store or a visit in an amusement park. At my favourite annual event in Germany, we troop in a small theme park and are allowed to set up tents in a meadow that is part of their parking lot and have BBQ in the evening, so there need to be tents packed. At events in malls it is necessary to look shiney, so the armor might need polishing before trooping.
We have mainly events that take a whole day, so it usually starts with rising at some unholy time way to early in the morning, followed by the question why the heck I am doing this... and how I can punish the one who promised this would be fun. I am no morning person. But after shower and coffee it starts to get exciting. I usually prepare my costumebox the day before, but rip everything apart in the morning again to check if I didnt forget anything. The annoyance about having to rise early is gone as soon as I see the guys and girls of the Garrison, we meet, hug, make some clean or dirty jokes and eventually get into our costumes. After trooping day-long events we usually go out to have dinner together, so we dress back in earthling clothes, and enter the restaurant or pub that was unlucky enough to be chosen as our Cantina. The rest of the evening is garrison confidential, sorry ;)
-Does the 501st have ranks or positions? Do you have duties you have to adhere to during events?
Whenever a group has more than 10 members it needs to have a certain order it seems. It is no different in the 501st. My garrison alone has more than 300 members, which means that we have to have people who take care for events, for the homepage, the boards, merchandise and so on. If everyone would do as he wants we'd have pure chaos. To prevent this, we vote for someone to represent the garrison officially and call that poor guy Commander. He then can chose all staff he needs, usually that is a XO, as his deputy when he is not available (holidays, sickness, deployment to polish the Death Star Hangar). Then there is one who takes care about checking new costumes, someone dealing with the homepage and costume pictures, someone who deals with making patches or shirts for the members and a spokesperson. I have been the spokesperson (we call them GPR) for 2 years until earlier this year, I did a lot of what could be called internal PR. I kept in touch with other garrisons, wrote Mission Reports, worked in the Legion PR team etc.
There are not many duties during events besides the ones that the host sets. In amusement parks there is a timetable for group pictures, parades or lunchtimes, thats it. The main rule for us all is: Don't behave like a jerk while being in armor. Easy enough.
-Any upcoming events?
Many small ones are coming up during the next months like for example birthdays. My next big one is visiting the FACTS convention in Gent/Belgium. I'm really looking forward to this because not only my german buddies will be there, but also troops from France, Belgium, the UK and the Netherlands. I didn't see a lot of them since earlier this year.
-Anything else you would like to add?
I just want to send out greetings to all troopers I met in the last years, you rock! I hope to see all of you again, maybe at Celebration V or if I ever make it to Dragon*Con. Keep on trooping!
WHO LET THE TROOPS OUT?!