I know some people who are searching for their WHY. Your WHY is what defines you, gives you purpose and drives you to live your life to the best of your abilities. It’s a big thing to know your WHY. I am sure many people go through their lives without thinking too much about their WHY. I believe we can have many WHYs in our lives and that they can change according to our continuing change in life.
I would like to share WHY I will at times dress up in costumes even though I am a fully grown man. In order to do this I need to go back a number of years.
When I was a child the original Star Wars trilogy served as a kind of ‘proto-therapy’ helping me find security in a fictional world where people stood up against tyranny and hostility. The Star Wars world was my security blanket. It made me feel special, and provided me a sense of belonging since I had become so disillusioned and alienated with the world in which I actually lived. The original trilogy was where I learned to define good and evil, the power of conviction and the importance of standing up for what is right, not just for the individual, but rather for the whole.
As I became an adult I was not merely content with the accumulation of Star Wars merchandise. T-shirts and collectibles were great, but I wanted to find things not many others had. I wanted to create a Star Wars reality beyond that. When the announcement came that Lucas was going to create a new Star Wars trilogy (episodes 4-6) I purchased a stormtrooper costume kit. It arrived in a huge box and I had to make the helmet and trim the armor. When I was finished I knew I had to do more than let it sit on a mannequin. I had to show it off.
My favourite radio station back then was Z95.3. I loved the morning show with Janice Ungaro and Darren B. Lamb. Episode I was soon to be released and I had no desire to wait in line for the movie (at that time there was no such thing as advance sales or assigned seating) so I contacted Janice Ungaro and left a message for her at the radio station. Since I was an improviser with the Vancouver TheatreSports League I thought I could offer an appearance in my suit in exchange for some preview passes. Janice returned my call later that same morning. She and Darren had no passes to the film (Lucasfilm was not giving them out) but they really wanted to do something with my stormtrooper costume. We decided that one of the radio people “Freeway Frank” would pick me up and take me to downtown Vancouver. He would help me suit up and I would wear an earpiece and mic in my phone to call Darren and Janice at the station. They would give me direction and I would follow it. That morning the bit we did was called “What can a Stormtrooper get for free?” I went to the Hotel Vancouver and asked for a room for Lord Vader (and abruptly left as security was called. I did end up getting free coffee at Starbucks and a few other things. At the end of the morning Darren and Janice asked Frank to drive me back to the radio station. I was paid in “swag” (free promotional items as payment for my morning with them). That same morning they asked me to join the Waking Crew. My radio persona was to be called “Nick The Guy” and my career as a morning stunt guy began – all thanks to my stormtrooper costume.
Here is a link to a video I did when I had a short-lived television show “The Nick the Guy Show” on Shaw. This piece was titled “The Lonely Stormtrooper” that I created with my co-creator Jean Paul Carthy:
“Nick The Guy” would go on to live on radio in Vancouver for sixteen years. Not a bad run and all because of my love of Star Wars. The Nick the Guy character was a bit of an idiot man-child who loved dressing up. That job really got me into putting together costumes – yes it was radio but I was the front-line person on the streets – essentially the face of the Waking Crew. I was “interactive’ and did hundreds of bizarre stunts – possibly the most famous – riding a bicycle through an automated car wash. Yes, things I did were insane.
Costuming to me was part of my job, and I enjoyed making people happy or annoyed. By the time Nick The Guy was played out in 2014, I had amassed an impressive costume collection.
Finally able to go back to my Star Wars roots, I began working on more Star Wars costumes, eventually completing a screen accurate Darth Vader. The internet was an amazing source of accuracy and found several groups dedicated to screen accurate costuming. I ended up becoming a member of the Rebel Legion and the 501st. The 501st is an amazing group that raises money for children’s charities and are known as “The Bad Guys Who Do Good”. Appearing with them is a rewarding experience. Since I am “friends” with Darth Vader, I am able to experience “trooping” on a whole new level. There is a structure to my cosplay now. Darth Vader has a humor reminiscent of my Nick The Guy persona, but he is gentle and though towering, always engages the children he meets with genuine interest and kind-heartedness (never tell Vader that).
Not long ago Vader was invited to meet a very special friend of the 501st Legion prior to her birthday party. The appearance was approved and so Vader and two troopers appeared at her home. Prior to appearing I decided that Vader should bring this girl a birthday gift – I mean as a Lord he would be aware of such protocol. So, with a Darth Vader Tsum Tsum in hand, Vader and two of his troopers visited the girl on her Sixth (or Sith) Birthday.
The young girl was so happy to have her favourite Star Wars character there and she happily showed her house off to him. She saluted Vader and the troopers, made him a lightsaber from her craft table, and even had Vader and the troopers have a dance party with her. The morning was filled with magic, and as Vader would have said this day “…will be a day long remembered.”
Time on our planet is short. We all have pasts. Our past does not define us, but it can shape who we are today. If I can continue to create magic in people’s hearts, then when I leave this world I will have truly fulfilled my WHY.