Long time no see everyone,
This past September the Empire City Garrison celebrated it’s first ever Heritage Month on Facebook. we decided to sit down with one of our longest active members, Bob DeSimone aka BH-4703 and ask a few questions. Here we go!
- What drew your interest to Star Wars?
Well, given my age (48), I got to see the original Star Wars in the theater. My Dad was not one for crowds, so we had to see it months after its release, I believe in September of 1977. Needless to say, I sat there with my brothers and was totally in awe as to what was unfolding before me. I had no idea that that what I was watching would be such a big part of my life so many years later.
The character that impressed me the most was Han Solo. But, I do remember exiting the theater with my brother Rich, and talking about how cool it would be to have Stormtrooper armor. lol
- How did you discover of the 501st Legion?
Shortly after the “special editions” of the trilogy came out in the theatres, I decided to try my hands at making a Boba Fett outfit. While researching for parts on line, I stumbled upon the 501st legion. Now to make it even more of a “fate” I was introduced to a fellow Star Wars fan at my job. That person was Fred Modesto, who at that time was one of ECG’s Darth Vaders. He told me that the garrison was going to be trooping the “Attack of the Clones” Imax release at the Palisades Mall. I showed up and met some of the guys and the rest was history.
- Why did you choose your costume(s)?
While I always wanted (and actually started) a Han Solo costume, one of the most impressive looks to me have always been that of Boba Fett. The idea of intergalactic bounty hunter was always so cool to me. I have always been a fan of westerns and Clint Eastwood, so I guess that aspect of the character really got my attention.
- What your first troop was like?
In all honesty, I don’t recall which was the first event. There were a few in the beginning that really had an impact on me and made me realize how important these iconic characters are to some people. I was at the Javitz Center for a show called “Digital Life”. This was the first time I had met some of the ECG folks, and I was anxious to get suited up and go out into the crowd. Well, I changed and made my way to the escalator and as I traveled downward, I noticed the stares and more importantly, the smiles on people’s faces as they saw, to them… Boba Fett! When I got to the bottom, a young woman approached me, and very nervously asked if she could take a picture with me. As she put her arm around me, I noticed that she was shaking. She then told me how excited she was to see “ Boba” there and that “I” was her favorite character. I realized then, that these costumes and what we do with them, have the power to make people happy. J
- What has been your favorite troop/memorable experience in the ECG?
Well, I have been fortunate to have been chosen to be part of many great events throughout the past 10 years. From opening the New York Stock Exchange as Darth Vader to being Boba Fett on the red carpet of the Ziegfeld Theater in NYC. Of course, the visits to the various hospitals throughout NY and fundraising events through the years are all very memorable.
One that stands out though was the one time a few of us were asked to attend the West Point volunteer appreciation luncheon. When it was over, they asked us if we wanted to go out to the parade grounds and watch the cadets drill. Once we got out there, I noticed that several of the cadets were starting to notice our presence and seem a bit distracted. A few minutes later, an officer approached us and I thought that we were gonna somehow be in trouble. I was shocked and excited to hear him say that Lord Vader presence was requested at the front of the parade grounds. Once there, the cadets saluted and lowered their flags as Vader received an “Eyes Right” as they passed.
I tried to maintain the air of arrogance and power that is Vader, but inside I was wide eyed and in awe as I realized that cadets of the United States Military Academy were presenting colors to ME! LOL!!! What an incredible honor this was and an event that I will NEVER forget.
- Some founding members of the ECG retired, what made you stay active in the Legion?
I guess the people. I mean, I never had a set time limit that I gave myself when I first joined. I mean, I will ALWAYS be a Star Wars fan. It is those that I have met and formed friendships with, that really add so much enjoyment to this hobby. Sure, people have their differences, but that is OK. I didn’t join to make friends, that just happened to be a great bonus. In the past 10 years, I have seen people come and go, get married, have kids, and unfortunately, have a few pass away. While I am not as close with some as others, I am still glad to call them brothers (or sisters) in the ECG family.
- Do you ever foresee a time you’ll stop trooping?
NOPE, I enjoy it, AND the people in the Garrison too much.
- How has the Legion changed since you first joined (pre/post Disney, increased size, more recognition from the public, etc.)?
Well, I think that Disney has certainly helped in revitalizing the legacy of Star Wars and will certainly help in keeping it fresh and energized. It will also introduce it to a whole new demographic, and that is the non Sci-Fi /DISNEY fan.
- What is next for you in the ECG/501st? What else would you like to accomplish?
Just seeing it continue to thrive and grow is a great feeling. I will always be there for the garrison in whatever capacity I can. Personally, I would love an Imperial Officer, but who knows what characters the next few movies will present to us. lol
- What you think others might gain from the 501st?
ANYONE who is a Star Wars fan has so much to gain from the 501st Legion. First off, you have the costuming aspect. I have seen some incredibly creative ideas and props come from fellow members. So many of them are always willing to lend their advice and help to assist others in their builds, as well. Then you have those that just LOVE Star Wars. The level of passion and enthusiasm is like nothing I have ever seen/witnessed from a fan group. And of course you have the friendships and camaraderie from your fellow garrison/legion mates. I have come across so many members from all over the planet and it is like we are all part of one big GEEKY family!