May 23, 2008

TK 9066 Makes Local Paper

TK-9055 and the Cloud City Garrison made their local paper, the Spotlight Living:

Bad guy.....good work
Scappoose resident David Hamm lives out his childhood fantasy appearing at fundraisers and social events dressed in movie-authentic bad guy "Star Wars" costumes

By Gini Bramlett

David Hamm and fellow storm troopers take prisoners at OMSI last year during the "Star Wars" exhibit.

As an impressionable 10-year-old boy, Scappoose resident David Hamm watched his first “Star Wars” adventure in wide-eyed wonder on the big screen. Now, 30 years later, Hamm, a husband and a father of three young sons, is living every “Star Wars” fan’s fantasy.
Hamm is a member of the 501st Legion, a worldwide “Star Wars” costuming organization made up of and organized by “Star Wars” fans who get a kick out of dressing up like their favorite characters. Although getting together in screen-accurate costumes and sharing a love of the ‘70s-genre science fiction movies sounds like a great escape from reality for the child in all of us, the true purpose of the group is nobler than that.

The organization, which consists of more than 3,300 volunteers in 40 countries, was founded in 1997 as a forum for “Star Wars” enthusiasts to have a collective identity and to celebrate the films through wearing authentic costumes. But, most importantly, the volunteers contribute to the local community through charity and volunteer work. “It exists solely for the charity aspects of it,” said Hamm, who is down-to-earth and works as a graphics designer in Lake Oswego.
The Portland and Southwest Washington chapter of the 501st Legion, of which Hamm is a member, is the “Cloud City Garrison,” portraying the villains of the “Star Wars” universe. Volunteers appear at various charity events, social functions and fundraisers, such as the Starlight Parade, Race for the Cure, March of Dimes, Toys for Tots and many other local charitable causes. They also visit Doernbecher Children’s Hospital twice a year. Cruising up and down the hallways with kids in wheelchairs, the costumed storm troopers, with weapons in hand, visit bedridden kids in their hospital rooms. “The thing that surprised me the most is to see the parents balling their eyes out because they haven’t seen that much life in their kids for a long time,” said Hamm. “It’s a good thing I have a helmet on because I’m crying, too. It’s just worth it when you can make a difference. It brings the world of ‘Star Wars’ to life.”

Hamm became interested in the organization when he took his three young sons to a “Star Wars” exhibit at OMSI last year. “It was an absolute blast,” said Hamm. “The kids had eyes this big. It was a day I’ll never forget. I joined right away.”
Although Hamm isn’t as obsessive as some of his fellow group members who have rooms full of “Star Wars” memorabilia, he does have three empire costumes that he’s built with kits obtained through a special Web site. He doesn’t have “Star Wars” figurines or spaceships and doesn’t collect posters or own any signed photographs. He does it for the enjoyment he gets out of it. “I just love the looks in the kids’ eyes,” said Hamm. “I totally live it through them.”

Hamm is presently working on building his fourth costume, a relatively unusual sand trooper costume. In addition to his storm trooper costume, he has an imperial gunner costume and a black hole trooper costume. The costumes are usually made of ABS plastic, vinyl or fiberglass and have all the bells and whistles you would expect to see in the real thing. A flick of the wrist activates a built-in fan in the helmets or the voice activator.
The detailed costumes are costly. Hamm paid $650 for the kit to build his storm trooper costume and that was because of a deal he found on eBay. “The guys say to stay away from eBay but I got lucky,” said Hamm. “It was a real good deal.” Hamm says costumes can cost thousands of dollars, citing a price tag of $3-4,000 for a Darth Vader costume.

Hamm’s also built life-like weapons out of material scavenged from around the house. He even confiscated one of his kid’s toys, modified it and painted it to look real. Before the costumes can be worn in public, a photograph of the completed costume has to be sent to the 501st Legion to be approved.

Professionals from all walks of life participate in the group, including police officers, teachers, and others in public service. “It’s a real draw for people to be involved,” said Hamm.

Last year, Hamm showed up at Family Fun Night at Otto Petersen Elementary School to the delight of parents and kids. “It’s guaranteed they broke out the toys when they got home,” said Hamm.

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