Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Star Wars Reads 2016:
Rancho Cucamonga Vintage Roadshow Part II

One youngster pointed out that the non-present Vinyl Cape Jawa was worth $53,000 in today's market.

Enjoying the Empire Strikes Back Pop-up Book

"Was the Mongo Beefhead Tribesman figure edible?"

Though there weren't many questions posed following a panel I presented on vintage collecting at this past weekend's "Star Wars Reads" event, there were some great ones. While the unproduced Mongo Beefhead Tribesman from the proposed 1986 Star Wars expansion line wasn't edible, he certainly should have been!

Sponsored by the Rancho Cucamonga Public Library, the annual event was expanded to two days for 2016 and saw thousands of attendees of all ages congregate to celebrate Star Wars, reading, and the sense of community that a public library epitomizes. CAVSWCC had an expanded vintage display in the Victoria Gardens Cultural Center lobby, once again bringing old toys and collectibles to the attention of many young fans while bringing back memories for those from the original Star Wars generation.

While the majority of the activities were taking place outdoors in the courtyard and thoroughfares of the adjacent Victoria Gardens mall, our set-up was located in the Cultural Center lobby connecting the library and the Lewis Family Playhouse, where none other than Billy Dee Williams would be interviewed on Sunday afternoon (more on that later).

Just around the corner from our display was an area for kids to take pictures with their favorite characters from the 501st. As they lined up for photo ops, their eyes often wandered to our table, which more often than not coaxed them to dash over for a closer look. With countless parents endearingly stressed about their kids grabbing every object on the table, the genuine curiosity that vintage items raised among the young ones was palpable. Luckily, the handy-dandy MovieViewer was at the ready and immediately provided a hands-on exercise that proved to be more than enough to keep crowds of kids (and plenty of nostalgic adults) fascinated. Others enjoyed flipping through a set of Kenner cardbacks, with the kids pointing out characters they recognized and their parents proudly delcaring which figures they once had (and as so many childhood toys were, lost to the ebb and flow of growing up).

The MovieViewer once again proved to be a big hit.

One of the creepier Don Post masks from the collection of Mark Enright
One-hand Yoda

To kick off the second day's festivities, I presented a panel on vintage collecting which covered the basic history of the vintage line and its major product categories, from the primary 93 figures to the Droids & Ewoks lines, 12" figures, Micro Collection, and Kenner's 1986 proposed line extension. Food collectibles and offbeat items such as the Ewoks Talking Telephone and the "Darth Vadar" Fun Poncho were  highlighted as well.

The panel also included a handfull of audience polls -- one of which was a rarity guessing contest pitting the Vinyl Cape Jawa against the die cast TIE Bomber and Bondo from the series of unproduced Ewoks figures.

When one has the chance to describe a "Travling Jinda," one must capitalize.
Shakespeare was appropriately armed for the weekend.

The weekend's main event was a special appearance by everyone's favorite smooth-talking scoundrel, Lando Calrissian himself, who participated in an on-stage discussion in the Lewis Family Playhouse and also read Where the Wild Things Are to a group of rambunctious youths in the main courtyard. In typical Star Wars fan fashion, a pre-line for the ticket line began forming early in the morning and was well populated when we first arrived to the Cultural Center around 8:30am. Luckily for us (and several others), there were still seats available as the event drew nearer in the afternoon. Having never seen Billy Dee Williams speak at a Celebration or any other such event, I was definitely intrigued as we entered the theater only to see "Jedi Elvis" -- who had sung the National Anthem at last week's Quake's game -- warming up the crowd.

"Jedi Elvis" got the audience primed for Billy Dee.

Billy Dee began by joyfully acknowleding that his career had come full circle now that he was "hanging out with librarians," and would go on to discuss his self-described "ecclectic" life that would see him transition from an aspiring painter to a successful actor and above all, a "personality." He discussed the atypical process of being cast in The Empire Strikes Back, with Irvin Kershner seeking him out, visiting him at his home, and discussing their mutual apprecitation for Buddhism and Eastern philosophy. Williams was also particularly fond of being choked out by Chewbacca. Though he may have been... let's say "somewhere else" a few times during the conversation, he seemed sincerely appreciative of the love the audience was giving him.

Williams was joined by friend of the club and event organizer Allen Callaci, along with a local reporter.

Williams' reading of Where the Wild Things Are was complete with dramatic (and less dramatic) pauses and additional commentary ("they're all just having a good time...being wild"), all under the watchful eye of Darth Vader's finest. That being said, I don't think the Stormtroopers were forcing him to read to children against his will, as he seemed to have a decent time with it.

"Let the Wild Rumpus...START!"

New member Darren Gin also joined the crew on Sunday and did an awesome job distributing CAVSWCC swag and demonstrating the MovieViewer.

The past two weekends in Rancho Cucamonga have been a ton of fun and I hope we'll be back for these events in the years to come. We owe a huge thank you to Allen Callaci from the R.C. Public Library for reaching out and inviting us to take part!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Quakes Win! Quakes Win!

Star Wars and Minor League Baseball are two things that are awesome in their own right -- what could be better than the two of them together? On Saturday May 21st, CAVSWCC had a vintage roadshow at the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes' annual Star Wars Night. The Quakes are a SoCal minor league team affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers (my other lifelong passion/curse), so to have been invited to set up a display of vintage Star Wars items in the stadium's concourse was an incredibly fun experience, to say the least.

Minor League games have a unique charm -- from the quaint and cozy stadium's more intimate atmosphere to its absolutely carefree spirit (epitomized by the dancing-till-the-sun-rises Dewback-like mascot "Tremor"), there's a quirky sense of fun that exists nowhere else. When you bring costumed Star Wars characters and grandstand lightsaber vendors into the mix, the wonderful strangeness is made all the better.

"You know, I could go for a beer and a Dodger Dog..."
"Lightsabers, get your lightsabers here!"

What really made the night was to be able to share a sampling of vintage items with the cross-section of people attending a baseball game. We were told that "Star Wars Night" was without question the most popular game of the year (aside from those featuring rehabbing Major League stars), so the game's attendees were generally quite receptive to our little set-up. The Sigma C-3PO Tape Dispenser pleased and disturbed with regularity, while the Kenner 3 3/4" Millennium Falcon seemed to bring back the most memories for passers by. Others reminisced about building some of Mark E.'s model kits that were on display.

Setting up shop.

The cross-generational impact of Star Wars manifested itself perhaps no more satisfyingly than with a series of hands-on demonstrations (led by Tessa) with a Meccano MovieViewer. Parents remembered fondly while their kids were overcome with curiosity about the strange analog device, all the while recognizing the moving pictures inside as being from "the first" Star Wars movie.

A 501st Trooper appreciates his vintage ancestor.

After the 4th inning, we packed up and secured everything in the administrative offices upstairs, sharing a lift with none other than the Dark Lord himself.


We then took our seats to take in the rest of the game, which turned out to be a "dandy" (as Vin Scully would say), with the Quakes defeating their rival San Jose Giants by the score of 4-3.

The home team sported jerseys inspired by a Galaxy Far, Far Away.

As a Dodgers fan, seeing the Giants players' photos replaced with Star Wars villains (and Jar Jar Binks, just because) was particularly satisfying!

Jar Jar sports an impressive batting average of .500

All in all, it was a blast and I hope we'll get to be a part of it next year. Until then, go Quakes!

Friday, April 22, 2016

CAVSWCC Rancho Cucamonga Events - May 2016

Baseball and Books! Here's a rundown of some upcoming events in Rancho Cucamonga.

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes
Saturday May 21st
Pre-game: 5:30pm
First Pitch: 7:05pm   

Like baseball? Like Star Wars? Then come out and join us for a ballgame on Saturday May 21st between the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Dodgers Minor League Affiliate) and the San Jose Giants (well, you can guess which team they're affiliated with)! It's the Quakes' annual STAR WARS NIGHT, which from what I've been told is one of their most popular games of the year filled with plenty of Star Wars wackiness. Plus, minor league baseball is just awesome.

And come out early! Prior to and throughout the game, CAVSWCC has been invited to have a display of vintage collectibles and we'll be there to provide outreach about the club.

If we can get a group of 20, we qualify for a group rate of $8 per ticket. We're about 10 shy, so if you're interested in attending, send me an email at cavswcc@gmail.com ASAP. If we don't have 20, I'll still arrange for the tickets for confirmed attendees at regular cost.

May 28th (1pm-9pm)
May 29th (10am-4pm)

The club will also have a vintage display and outreach table at the Rancho Cucamonga Public Library's annual "Star Wars Reads" event over Memorial Day Weekend! This 2-day event will see thousands of fans of all ages congregate to celebrate our galaxy far, far away.

We'll also be presenting an introductory panel on vintage collecting on Saturday May 28th from 7:30 - 8:30pm, and again on Sunday May 29th from 11am -12 noon, and 12 noon - 1pm.

 If that's not enough, none other than Lando Calrissian himself, Billy Dee Williams will be a part of the program! From the official press release:
"On Sunday a limited number of people will have the opportunity to see him during “A Conversation with Billy Dee Williams” at the Lewis Family Playhouse. Then he will read to the crowd outside the theatre."

It would be great to see everyone there sometime over the weekend (and perhaps grab dinner Saturday night prior to the panel). If you have any questions about the event or would like to participate, send me an email at cavswcc@gmail.com.

I owe a very special thanks to Allen Callaci from the Rancho Cucamonga Library for reaching out and helping get us involved in these two fantastic events!

See you all soon,

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Stand By for Justice (and Brisket)!
CAVSWCC's 2nd Trip to Rancho Obi-Wan

It had been a long time in the making, but the club finally made its second pilgrimage to Steve Sansweet's Guinness World Record-holding Star Wars collection at Rancho Obi-Wan. Vintage collectors from throughout the state converged on the quaint and quiet town of Petaluma, forming the group's largest gathering yet with many familiar faces reunited and several newcomers joining in on the festivities. Though this was a return visit for many of us, the museum's collection is full of surprises and simply necessitates repeated attendance to even begin to appreciate its scope. The end-of-tour reward of authentic Texas brisket (with all the fixins) prepared by Rancho's General Manager Anne Neumann was more than worth the trip all on its own.

For the SoCal contingent, arriving the evening before the big tour was a good decision. As usual, the CAVSWCC traveling troupe found itself once again seemingly lost on a dark road (no cows, fortunately) -- this time on the way to the Lagunitas Brewery, which was conveniently located near our base of operations at the Quality Inn. After stumbling in the dark for what was beginning to feel like a worrisome time and distance, we found our way to the brewery's manufacturing area and shipping yard, which was reassuring but not quite where we needed to be. The lights and sound of live music were not far off, and we eventually made our way to the tasting room for a good meal and several fine brews.

The next morning, we paid a visit to Brian's Comics in old downtown Petaluma to meet up with some of the Northern California collectors arriving in town. Located adjacent to the famous alley where Curt Henderson rigged the bumper of a police car in American Graffiti, the shop is owned and ran by a man named Brian Christensen, who also volunteers at Rancho Obi-Wan. This subterranean comic lair was full of character and was as welcoming of a space as any comic book fan could ask for; it almost felt as if we were guests in Brian's decked-out den rather than a place of business, which made it all the better. It was here that we met up with the club's official R.O.W. liaison Dwayne Smith and a few of the newcomers.

Phidias and Mark E. browse at Brian's

Once everyone had made their purchases, the contingent increased ranks with a rendezvous at nearby Mary's Pizza Shack to fuel up for the main event.

As the clock struck 2pm, the full caravan descended upon the museum and the tour began. One of the first things we had noticed were the machinations of our future feast: the magnificent R2-BBQ. Along with a brief history of the property itself, Anne gave us a brief glimpse of the two blocks of brisket which had many of us salivating. As rain started to fall, the group b-lined it for a section of the museum that represented its newest expansion and hustled indoors. We became quickly aware that we were surrounded by a recently delivered mixture of high quality display fixtures and a full-sized Jabba the Hutt that were being temporarily stored there -- all of which are planned to be integrated into the museum in the near future.

Making our way towards shelter

As our above-average-sized tour group shuffled into the museum's stairwell entrance, Steve greeted us with his usual enthusiasm and we were well on our way. With all of the hoopla for The Force Awakens (including the aforementioned display pieces from a Target-sponsored event that had recently arrived), the museum is in an understandable state of transition. Nevertheless, the tour experience was as dense as ever in terms of the range of items highlighted and the stories behind them. To take on a brigade of 19 collectors as a one-man-act had to be somewhat daunting for Mr. Sansweet, so I'm incredibly thankful that we were all able to stick together.

Stop 1: the restroom equipped with every Star Wars bathroom product imaginable, including British Bubble Bath (for Space Freaks)

One of the most fascinating sections of the museum is the Library containing a comprehensive collection of Star Wars print publications from throughout the decades and around the world. In terms of vintage items alone, we were shown Steve's first official Star Wars collectible pulled from a trashcan at his workplace (another example of which can be seen here), a book of sheet music for children depicting Chewbacca sipping on a martini, and even more bizarre, unlicensed 1980s comic book adaptations from Asia (one of which depicting R2-D2 wearing bright green pants). To give an idea of the depth of awesomeness held within this cozy space, one of my collecting grails sat on a lower shelf behind a box of other volumes: the original novelization in Icelandic (which tells of the saga of "Flame Spacewalker," if it wasn't already cool enough).

From here, the photos mostly speak for themselves, but I'll add some commentary throughout...

One of the rarest Star Wars posters produced caps off a hallway adorned with original one sheets: the 1985 "Triple Bill" for a one-time showing in 9 American theaters (each theater received only 2 of these posters).

The above warning is adhered to the entrance to the first main exhibit space.
"No Bargain Prices" strictly enforced.
One of many vintage-infused display sections.

Trevor is overwhelmed by Uzays.

Carded Hungarians galore
Peculiarly hairy wookiee customized in Mexico
Vintage Japanese Food Items
Prototypes, Sigma Ceramics, and Other Rarities

As the official tour wound down in the third gallery space, wet had worked up a considerable appetite. Lucky for us, we were just in time for Anne's brisket dinner which was flat out delicious. In fact, it was so delicious that no pictures of the entire spread exist! Soon thereafter, folks began unloading their vintage wares for the traditional CAVSWCC Swap Meet held in some form at each gathering. This time around was particularly bustling and saw a number of great items materialize.

Stairwell view of the Swap Meet

Turkish Uzay Cardback
Mark E. (of Mortar Heads fame) unveiled his most spectacular piece yet.

Is Dwayne the man behind the mansuit? Evidence suggests...

Any trip to Rancho Obi-Wan isn't complete without some quality time spent in the arcade. The gang tested their skills with a myriad of games to choose from.

Mark H. and Trevor crank up the Atari versions of Star Wars (how many Death Stars do these guys have?!) and The Empire Strikes Back

Meanwhile, Melissa maneuvers her speederbike through the forest moon of Endor.
Phidias tries his luck.
Tessa flips some pinball with some slick vintage backglass.
Just because Don loathes the film doesn't mean he has to loathe its pinball incarnation.

With that, the evening came to a close and everyone started making their way home. Though I wish it had happened much sooner and that we could accommodate everyone who had missed this round, these events are always worth the wait and there will most certainly be other opportunities in the future. I'd like to especially thank Dwayne Smith for helping coordinate the tour, Anne for going the extra mile to fit in and feed so many of us, and our host and tour guide Steve for another memorable Star Wars collecting journey.

We unfortunately missed a few folks for the group photo: Katie & Loyal, Matt M., and Shawn B.

For a small group of us, the adventure continued on the way back down south the following day. Having never been to the Presidio National Park in San Francisco, we decided there was no better time to pay a visit to the current home of Lucasfilm and ILM. The company's offices at the Letterman Digital and New Media Arts Center are among several on the impressive campus. Though the interior production offices aren't open to the public, a pleasant stroll around the exterior and main entrance courtyard still provides a nice Star Wars stop if you're ever passing through.

C-3PO gazes innocently from a Lucasfilm office window.

This Stormtrooper guards his office more menacingly.

A fitting end to a Bay Area Star Wars trip: one of Lawrence Noble's bronze Yoda statues topping the fountain outside the main entrance to Lucasfilm's Headquarters