Aircraft Carriers, Star Wars, friends and turkey sandwiches.

FYI:  I saw some Senator taking crap this morning on the news for sharing an innocent Halloween costume with his staffers, which kinda inspired the mini-rant at the beginning of this.  I’m sure they had something else on him, but I didn’t listen long enough to find out.   Before I saw that clip, I was just going to post a simple summary of yesterdays events on the USS Intrepid… Indulge me for a few paragraphs, and I’ll get right into that.

Outside of my home and work life, there are a couple of aspects to my life lately that people who don’t know me well are surprised by:

The biggest thing right now of course is that I’m the author of “Lost Boys of the Bronx: The Oral History of the Bronx“.  Other things that I do/have done are that I have an MBA (but who cares right?); I’m also a filmmaker who wrote, shot & directed the documentary “Out of Our Dens: The Richard and the Young Lions Story”; and I’ve done music videos for artists such as The Grip Weeds, The RiffSurfers, and Shelly Riff.  If you scroll thru my blog and/or Facebook page, you will find lots of references to those aspects of my life.

But what people who only know me from the aspects of my life above REALLY get shocked about is the aspect that this blog entry will cover.

I am a Star Wars costumer.

Now, yes, I do realize that is a really geeky thing to admit.  Some folks have even told me that I should minimize the amount of publicity I give to that aspect of my life if I want to be taken seriously as an author, etc.

But it’s not really something I am ashamed of or embarrassed about.   Which is probably the smartest thing I could do.   If I were embarrassed about doing this and didn’t post the costume stuff I do, you know that if my book did take off (praying daily for this), some idiot would come out of the woodwork and try to publicly embarrass me for this hobby by showing pictures of me in costume.  Now if that happens, all I have to say is “Well, Duhhhhhh!” LOL

The costuming groups I belong to (the 501st Legion and the Rebel Legion) are full of regular people who enjoy dressing up in screen quality Star Wars costumes and going to events.   We have George Lucas’s seal of approval as long as we don’t portray the characters in a negative light.  There are plenty of rules to make sure we don’t do that, but we don’t usually need them – We have done so many great things as a group – which makes Mr. Lucas’s creations look even better.  As a matter of fact, both of these groups have helped raise millions of dollars for charities across the world, and regularly visit hospitals and other places to raise the spirits of kids who need it.

I’m not gonna say that members don’t enjoy the geekiness of it all (we do), but every time we do an event, my spirit and moods are elevated for days.  Seeing the kids faces (and their parents – especially the FanBoy Dads who grew up loving Star Wars) when they see a character from Star Wars come alive is one of the most powerful good feelings you can have.

FYI: I may be talking about Star Wars costumers now, but the same goes for the superhero costumers, as well as any other popular genres.  If it weren’t for the spandex thing, I’d be right there along them as Green Lantern or Shazam!   (Sorry for putting that image in your head if you know me LOL)

Yesterday was one of those events.  We were asked to appear at the Kids Week / Puppetry Art Day celebration kickoff held at the Intrepid Air & Space Museum in NYC.  Due to the high-profile location, and it being Presidents Day, we had a huge turnout even with the morning snow.   We had screen-perfect Darth Vaders, Chewbaccas, R2-D2, The Emperor, CloneTroopers, Stormtroopers (all varieties), Boba Fett and other bounty hunters, Anakin Skywalker, Princess Leia, and a whole lot more!

I was there too. Because there were a lot of planes around, I went as a Rebel X-Wing Pilot. I also have a Tie Pilot and a Stormtrooper costume, but I couldn’t resist the photo opportunities for a Rebel Pilot around all those wonderful planes!

Jackie (my wife for those of you who don’t know) made her second official (and third overall) as an Imperial Crewman (or woman) and was awesome.   I do have to take this moment to mention that when I first started doing this a couple of years ago, she swore she’d never wear her own costume. She’d go to the events and help out as a spotter/photographer, but having her own costume was out of the question.   At the 2010 Tom’s River Halloween Parade, she agreed to go as an unofficial Imperial Crewman, and she loved the feeling so much that she made it 501st approvable and is now an official member of the 501st Legion.   And SHE LOVES IT!   (I definitely deserve a Geek Spouse Conversion award for that feat if anyone from the Legion is reading LOL) – I’m sure Jackie will post her own blog about the event, and I’ll link to it when it’s up, so you can hear her take on it directly.

UPDATE 2/24/2011
Jackie has written her blog of the Intrepid event and it is at:

It just goes to show that it may seem geeky, but try out wearing a costume (either Star Wars, superhero, or whatever) for one of these kid oriented events, and I bet you’ll find it actually is a pretty great feeling that can hook you – AND you can do some good in the world while having fun.

We started trooping at around 10am and I took at least 200 pictures with kids.  I give my trading card to every kid I take a picture with, and yesterday, I gave away over 200 cards!.  The kids loved my costume.  I was hanging around with Jackie and Riffsurfer bandmate John Kraemer (who was a Sandtrooper), and while he naturally got the lions share of popularity, many of the kids were afraid of his character (because of the mask) and would be more relaxed when they took a picture with either Jackie or myself.

One of the coolest parts (for me anyway) is that not everyone there knew what Star Wars was (blasphemy in my eyes LOL), but because of my Pilot costume, they still wanted a picture of me with the planes.  I got asked numerous times if I was part of the Intrepid Pilot’s exhibit.  Especially when up on the flight deck.

Which brings me to a funny story from yesterday.   At one point during the troop, Jackie, Ed O’Connell (Imperial Crewman), and I found out that they cleared the snow off the flight deck and people were allowed up there… Not many people heard this update at the time, so we weren’t sure if the news was actually true – but we headed up the stairs to the flight deck anyway – By the way, aircraft carrier stairs are very narrow and steep. (i.e. climbing down backwards is much easier if that gives you an idea).  Jackie chickened out and said she’d stay downstairs, so Ed & I climbed up.   Being that Jackie bailed, I was feeling pretty badass and ninja-like climbing the stairs up… We get up to the flight deck (which was empty except for a few badasses like Ed & myself) and checked out a few planes and got some really cool pictures.  (see below)

We started walking towards the bow of the ship (note the nautical term used LOL) and we see a familiar person taking pictures with her phone…   It was JACKIE – I was confused – she was deadset against climbing those stairs… So I asked how she got up there, and in her sweet voice she said “the elevator” and pointed to a little door where a grandmother and grandkid were coming out.  So much for Ed & I being Badass Ninjas LOL

We stayed up there for about a half-hour taking pictures with the kids (and of me and the planes) – and it was FREEZING up there. I had regular clothes on under my flightsuit, and I was still freezing.  But it was a rare opportunity to be in my pilot costume by all these great planes, so we just sucked it up and did it.   But when I walked into work today, people asked me how I got sun on my face…   I was confused, and had to look in the mirror…  It wasn’t sunburn, but WIND burn!

We kept trooping in costume until about 12:30pm when it was lunch time – And they had tons of turkey sandwiches.  For those that don’t know me, I have a very strange diet, but Turkey Sandwiches are high on my list of approved foods, and it was really nice to be able to actually eat lunch with everybody else and not have to answer the inevitable “Why aren’t you eating?”  questions. Major props to The Puppetry Arts Theatre for providing a great (and James-friendly) lunch and inviting us to attend this great event in the first place!

After lunch, the second crew of costumers took over while we changed and into our “civilian clothes” to check out the USS Intrepid on our own.   The ship is REALLY cool and has a lot of history behind it.  There are also a lot of cool planes, helicopters, and exhibits on board.  If you ever get a chance, it is open year round, and its easy to get to, so you should really check it out.  When it gets warmer and we’re not freezing, I’d like to go back and check out more of the outside exhibits in more detail.

Jackie, John Kraemer, and Gary Bernhardt (the awesome “Revenge of the Sith” Darth Vader from the first crew) and I spent a lot of time exploring and taking pictures (see below) – Its funny in a geekish way, but when we were up on the Intrepid’s bridge, we were behind a father and his son. The dad told the son that they were going back down to see the Star Wars guys – We kinda chuckled in that WE were the Star Wars guys… LOL   OK, maybe you had to be there, but it was amusing to us at the time.

As we were walking around the main exhibits in our civilian clothes, we all noticed that it was really weird to walk freely around the exhibits without getting stopped every few feet for a picture.  Maybe we’re all egotists, but we kinda missed that LOL

By 3pm, we were pretty tired, so we just decided to head home, but we really had a great time.   The Puppetry Arts Theatre and the USS Intrepid really treated us great, and I hope that this will become an annual event because I would love to do it again.

So that’s the blog from yesterday’s event. Hope you enjoyed reading it… Feel free to click the “Like” button above or the “Share” buttons…

If you’d like to become a member of the 501st or Rebel Legions, check out these links.  There are a lot of good people on these sites that can help you figure out a good first costume for you.

The USS Intrepid website is:

The Puppetry Arts Theatre (the nice folks who invited us) website is

The website for Chris Feehan who got all of the Star Wars folks together for this and made a really cool Emperor costume

Now for my sites (since as we all know it’s all about James)

My main site:

My blog (in case you are reading this on a different site)

Feel free to join my Facebook group for my book at:

My Twitter page

Thanks for reading – Enjoy the pictures below!

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