Ohio businessman loves to play Star WarsWritten by Jim Beard | | email@example.com
Passionate “Star Wars” fan Lee Seigel came to love the famous film series from a unique angle than most other fans.
“My first experience was my parents showing me ‘Spaceballs,’ the classic Mel Brooks spoof of Star Wars, when I was probably about 8 or 9,” he admits. “I had no idea what it was mocking and wouldn’t find out for several years after. The earliest time I can remember seeing the ['Star Wars'] films was early 1997 when they re-released them in theaters for the 20th anniversary. I was 13 and I finally got what the jokes in ‘Spaceballs’ were about.”
Despite that sideways introduction, Seigel’s gone on to make “Star Wars” a large part of his life. The Columbus-area Ohio Wesleyan University graduate and English literature major runs his own computer and electronics sales company, but moonlights as a Jedi Knight at splashy events like the upcoming Star Wars Day at the Toledo Mud Hens. Part of an organization known as the Rebel Legion, Seigel has taken his fandom to a new level of costumes and personal appearances.
“While it is not sponsored by Lucasfilm, they recognize the Rebel Legion as a premier volunteer costuming group,” he said. “Which pretty much means that because we are a volunteer organization, we can use elements from the Star Wars universe to promote it. Events will contact us and request our presence and we do our best to oblige with as many members as we can. Our local chapter is the Great Lakes Base and encompasses Ohio and Michigan Rebel Legion members. In 2013, our local groups ‘trooped’ at 109 events in total and we expect that number to steadily increase as we get closer to the release of the new ‘Star Wars’ movies.”
Choosing the chivalrous Jedi as a role to play at events came easily to Seigel.
“I have always been a fan of the Jedi as opposed to various alien races or the Sith,” he said. “Some costumes are frankly just far more complicated and too much of a hassle. The Jedi costume is simple, all cloth, easy to wash and maintain, and my wife made the whole outfit for me. If anyone is interested in putting one together you can actually just adapt one of several patterns you can buy at your local craft store and find tips and instructions online at www.rebellegion.com/costuming.
In addition, the enterprising businessman also builds and sells his own lightsabers, the classic energy-blade weapon of the Jedi.
“I am by no means as skilled as many of the members in our community, many of whom build lightsabers for a living,” Seigel said. “It always shocks people when they ask how much a really good lightsaber goes for and I say, depending on quality, you can pay anywhere from $100 to $2,000. The truth is, they are each a piece of art, and if you think about it that way, it’s much easier to come to terms with.
“I am a sword collector actually, and that is where it started. Some people are gun fans, or knives, but for me ever since I was a child it was about the swords. He-Man, Thundercats, King Arthur, they all had these magnificent magic swords. So naturally I had to have a lightsaber of some kind. I started looking online to see what options were available and found thousands of people who were also passionate about lightsabers. This led to learning how to build them myself and ultimately selling the parts to my fellow fans. It was a pretty short trip from that to the rest of the costume, so why not go all out?”
Going “all out” has led Seigel to his other life in the Star Wars universe, one where he feels he has not only been able to fulfill a dream of his own, but bring a few smiles to the people he meets at events. That alone seems to please him the most.
“We do so many different kinds of events all throughout the year: library reading days, festivals and conventions, parades, and of course charity events,” he said. “Those are the most special, seeing sick children smile for the first time in a long time is the best thing I think we can do. Seeing a face light up when Luke Skywalker asks them if they would like to take a picture is priceless. My favorite is how big their eyes get when I fire up the lightsaber and they see how bright and loud it is. But it’s not just kids; adults sometimes get a bigger kick out of it because they remember what it was like to see the movies for the first time.”
Tags: Columbus, costumes, Great Lakes Base, He-Man, Jedi Knight, King Arthur, Lee Seigel, lightsabers, Lucasfilm, Luke Skywalker, Mel Brooks, Michigan, Ohio, Ohio Wesleyan University, Rebel Legion, Spaceballs, Star Wars, Star Wars Day, Thundercats, Toledo Mud Hens