Here's Tony Piccolo unmasked. In addition to his TK-8702 stormtrooper
personna, he also appears in Imperial gunner gear as IG-8702.
What about scaring the kiddies?
And then there's always the problem of persons dressed
up as a Jedi...or a Rebel pilot...who risk being arrested as enemies of the Empire.
According to Piccolo, most
children don't run for cover at the sight of an Imperial trooper.
Both they and their parents enjoy the interaction and willingly
pose for a photo op with the designated bad guys of the Star Wars universe.
(As for the occasional encounter with a Jedi or Rebel pilot...they
have been known to flee from a stormtrooper detail.)
Looking back, Piccolo believes
the original Star Wars films may have been Rebel propaganda, making
all of the Imperial personnel out to be evil when the majority of Imperials
were probably no different in their hopes for peace and happiness than
the majority of the denizens under their sway.
"Sure, the movies made the
Imperials out to be the bad guys who just wanted to crush the Rebellion,
but I began to read other stories as I expanded my Star Wars knowledgestories
of Imperials who had just been recruited from their peaceful home worlds
into service to protect the galaxy."
"My definition of an Imperial
is not an evil soldier fighting to enslave the galaxy and destroy the
hero. It's quite the opposite," opines Piccolo. "Sure, they had
ruthless ways of doing things, but only because that was what their
training taught them to do. An Imperial to me is simply fighting to
protect the galaxy he knows and to maintain order so that his family,
wherever that home may be, can enjoy peace. By those ideals, I want
to live my life like an Imperialand so far I'm proud of what I've
Imperial trooper TK-8702, a.
k. a. Anthony Piccolo, should be proud of what he and his fellow
members of Garrison Carida have accomplished on their
home front. When he is not working full time or appearing in his Imperial
uniform, Piccolo works long hours as an Events Coordinator, scheduling
and fine tuning plans for his garrison's public appearances and, most
importantly, the numerous charities that enlist
the 501st to help out.
"Our garrison had an election
in which a new commanding officer was chosen," states Piccolo on how
he got the job. "At the start of his term he formed his command staff
and decided to create the position of Events Coordinatorwhich had
not previously existed within the group. He spoke to me over the phone
and asked if I would be willing to step up and fill the position. I
As an EC staff officer, Piccolo is
in charge of contacting persons who head a variety of organizations
sponsoring sci-fi/fantasy conventions, store grand openings, book signings,
local fairs, promotional appearances,
hospitals, charitable foundations and walkathons - all of whom have
requested the presence of costumed Star Wars characters from Garrison
"As far as charitable events
go, it usually falls upon me to contact a local hospital's public
relations director, director of child life, or a walkathon's chairperson"
explains Piccolo. "The two of us will work together finding a date
that best fits into the garrison's schedule as well as their event
Once the date and logistics
are fixed, Piccolo posts a message online to the general membership
of Garrison Carida, along with a poll so those who are interested can
vote on whether or not they will be able to attend the event. According to Piccolo, Garrison
Carida's favorite events are ones that involve children
"Our garrison just finished
doing a Make-A-Wish Foundation event in which we presented the child
with a Darth Vader FX lightsaber, an autographed Episode III poster
signed by Hayden Christensen, and a good many toysall of which were
graciously donated by Lucasfilm."
Piccolo adds, "We also had
a stormtrooper helmet, specially made, that one of our troopers wore,
(at the ceremony) took off, then dropped to one knee, and presented
it to the child."
During a Make-a-Wish Foundation event, Joshua receives
a custom stormtrooper
helmet by a 501st member of Garrison Carida.
"We do nine children's
hospital visits a yearand hand out hundreds of toys to the kids.
We are a very active garrison. I work my Imperial tail off to schedule
and coordinate close to sixty events a year," says Piccolo. "It's
hard work, but well worth it. I do it to make the children smile. It's
my way of both exploring my love for Star Wars and giving back."
Once an event date is secured,
volunteer members of Garrison Carida travel to the location to suit
up. An area to get in and out of gear is usually provided by the sponsors,
since driving in stormtrooper armor is not practical, nor advisablealthough
some of the Imperial officers and technicians have been known to do
so. Even with a private room at their disposal, getting into
a stormtrooper suit or other get up can be tricky and time consuming depending on how
each individual costume has been constructed.
"It all depends on the trooper,"
explains Piccolo. "Some take their time, some take awhile and need
assistance. Some are even quicker than me and I'm rather fast. It
usually takes me ten minutes from start to finish, including wiring
up the electronics for my helmet voice amplifier."
Marching about in full armor
can be tiring, not to mention having to deal with the heat generated
while patrolling events. Many stormtroopers head back to the dressing
room to get a swig of water or relax a bit before they return to duty.
Many have grown accustomed to the suit, developing a tolerance to any
"As far as wearing them for
long periods of time, you'd be surprised at how much endurance we
(troopers) have. At Celebration IV in LA, I was in my biker scout uniform
14 hours straight the first day. 10 hours straight the second day, and
for 13 hours straight on the third day," says Piccolo. "I exercise
regularly and keep up a good enough stamina to not let it wear me down."
Although the 501st
Legion is not officially affiliated with Lucasfilm, the worldwide
volunteer organization is the preferred costume group for Star Wars-related
events, film openings, and video game release dates. Legion members were featured prominently at
Star Wars Celebrations I-IV in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and London.
Garrison Carida's PR officer
has an excellent working relationship with Lucasfilm's Fan Development
Division, garnering Star Wars actor autographs and donated licensed merchandise that benefit
charitable events in the area.
"Lucasfilm has always been
great to the 501st," says Piccolo. "They continually
incorporate us into the Star Wars galaxy. Over the past few years, Lucasfilm
put the 501st into the Star Wars Databank as Vader's official
"They even got Hasbro to make
an action figure of a 501st Trooper, and had us march in
the 2007 Rose Parade 200 strong! The 501st is featured
in books, Star Wars Insider, and Bantha Tracks Online."
501st members from all over the world march in
the 2007 Rose Parade in Pasedena, California.
Out of uniform, Piccolo has
his own 'Imperial Chick' whom he loves very much. At present, he
and his girlfriend are trying to decide what 501st character
she would like to be.
In addition to his enjoyment
of making children happy and giving back to the community, Imperial
Chicks asked Piccolo what else he likes about being a 501ster.
"I've been an Imperial
all my life for far too many reasons to list," answers Piccolo. "A
few of the main ones are the armor is cool, the equipment rocks, the
ladies are the best, and I love doing my part to maintain peace and
order in this galaxy."
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