Interview with Robert DeSimone

Jen Gunnels

New York Review of Science Fiction, Yorktown Heights, New York, United States

[0.1] Abstract—Interview with Robert DeSimone, conducted by Jen Gunnels.

[0.2] Keywords—Star Wars; Fan studies; Oral history; Ethnography; 501st Legion; Empire City Garrison; Identity; Community; Performance

Gunnels, Jen. 2011. "Interview with Robert DeSimone." Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 6.

1. Introduction

[1.1] This oral history project grew out of my work in comic cons and fans' costumed representations of characters—in particular, those in Star Wars fandom. I examine how fan practices may, or may not, affect the performance of social identity. The logical extension of my prior TWC article, "'A Jedi like my father before me': Social Identity and the New York Comic Con" ( would be to conduct further, more detailed interviews with participants in an international fan organization.

[1.2] I wanted to do an extended, in-depth interview with someone deeply involved in Star Wars fandom, specifically a member of the 501st Legion. Robert DeSimone was chosen for his five-year involvement with the Empire City Garrison (New York) of the 501st Legion, where he has served as commanding officer. Currently, he is second in command. DeSimone has always been heavily involved in public relations and appearances for the group, and his efforts have propelled the Empire City Garrison into occasional close work with Lucas Arts. He typically appears as either Darth Vader or Boba Fett, a particular favorite of his.

[1.3] The uncut interview is approximately two hours long and covers a range of questions, including, but not limited to, DeSimone's original exposure to the Star Wars franchise, his past involvement in fandom outside of the 501st Legion, his experiences within the organization, what the 501st does and its relationship with Lucas Arts, and the perception of fans by both the public and scholars.

[1.4] In the interview, DeSimone refers to "the City." This is a term used by New Yorkers for New York City. He also uses the term "trooping" or "to troop." This is a group-specific term used by the 501st Legion when speaking of making appearances at events in costume.

[1.5] Robert DeSimone was born on February 9, 1967, and is the second youngest of five children. He holds an associate's degree in marketing and is currently employed as a sales supervisor. DeSimone is married with no children. His wife does not participate in the 501st Legion, or any other fandom to my knowledge.

[1.6] This interview was conducted on July 26, 2010, at the Panera in Mohegan Lake, New York. Venues for taping were scarce, and the sound quality may not be the best in some portions of the interview, for which I apologize.

2. Interview

Vid 1. Interview with Robert DeSimone.

3. Acknowledgments

[3.1] I would like to thank Bob DeSimone for sharing his experiences, reference librarian Maureen Davis for introducing me to Bob, and finally, Nicole Fellows for her assistance in taking care of other ancillary concerns so I could do this.

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