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!