In this series, we ask each of the five subjects from Our Star Wars Stories, five questions about what it means to them to be a Star Wars fan!
This time around we spoke with FJ DeRobertis, New Jersey native, class of ‘77 Star Wars fan and lifetime collector!
“I was about to become a part of Star Wars and Lucasfilm, sharing my story about what I love most in life, my passion for Star Wars.”
Tell me about the moment when you found out you’d be one of subjects of the series?
It was the beginning of July and I had just started a workout at the gym when I got the call from Jordan. I still remember the exact message he left verbatim, "Hey buddy it's Jordan. Well, you're in. We're doing the thing on you. Give me a call when you get a chance. I hope you're doing well. I will talk to you sooooon!" I kind of shouted out "NO WAY!" and got a few odd looks from people working out around me. I stopped my workout dead in its tracks; which is not like me, and I ran to my car to call Jordan back. And then I just called a ton of people to let them know that it was happening. I honestly can't remember being this excited about something before. I was about to become a part of Star Wars and Lucasfilm, sharing my story about what I love most in life, my passion for Star Wars.
What’s your most valued piece(s) of Star Wars memorabilia? The piece(s) that you would save in the event of a fire, assuming all your loved ones were safe?
While the thought of losing my collection is terrifying, there are two things that I would save if there was a fire in my house. The first thing I would save is a loose vintage Darth Vader figure, which is even missing the lightsaber. After seeing The Empire Strikes Back I loved the dream sequence on Dagobah where Luke cuts off Darth Vader's head. I remember saying to my dad that I wish they would make a figure that did that. My dad went out and surprised me by buying me a second Darth Vader figure. He cut the head off the figure, drilled a hole in the bottom of the head, and put in a wooden dowel for its neck. I could take Darth Vader's head on and off and play that sequence from the movie, over and over. So, this figure is not worth anything, but to me it is priceless!
The other item I would save is my 21 back Luke Skywalker “farm boy” figure which is signed by Mark Hamill. I met Mark Hamill in 1995 at the Virgin Mega Store in NYC where he was signing autographs, for FREE, to promote a CD-ROM game. I remember that day so vividly, meeting my childhood idol. When I got up to the table, being the klutz that I am, I bumped into his table spilling his water and knocking over his cup of markers. I was so embarrassed. I apologized profusely, and he said, "Stop, don't apologize, you are just like me." WOW! Hearing Mark Hamill/Luke Skywalker say that I was just like him was beyond incredible! I had two figures to get signed, the 21 Back vintage carded Luke and the 1995 Power of the Force Luke. The security guy said to me in a stern voice, "He is only signing one item!" but Mark replied, "I will sign whatever he has, no limits." Man, he was just the nicest guy! He took both figures and signed them, "Best to FJ, Mark Hamill” He then held both up to the crowd and said, "Look, me before steroids, and me after steroids." I thanked him and said I was glad to meet him, and he said, "And I am really glad to meet you too FJ." I am sure Mark has zero memory of this, but it has been ingrained in my mind since that day.
Do you still get a rush from collecting in general or when you pick up a specific figure or set you really wanted?
I still and will likely always get a rush when I get a new vintage figure. I received a vintage AT-AT in its original box for Christmas this year. It was the one toy Santa never brought me and that I always wanted. When I saw it under my tree last year, I ran to it immediately and jumped up and down like a 5-year-old! Nowadays, I still treat myself a few times a year to a carded vintage figure or vehicle/playset. When I get them into my hands for the first time I am brought right back to my early days of collecting and my childhood. The difference being this time I don't rip them open like I did in the 70s/80s!
What was the first action figure you owned and/or purchase for yourself?
At a very young age I was fascinated by the cantina aliens in Star Wars, so because of that, the first figure I ever got was Greedo. But, the first figure I remember buying with my own money was a 12 Back Princess Leia Figure from the Starlog Sci-Fi store in the nearby mall which was being managed by Jordan (Hembrough). It was around 1995 and was the first time I had seen a carded Star Wars figure since the early 1980s. My grandmother had just passed away and I used her last $100 birthday gift she gave me to purchase it. It felt great to buy my own Star Wars figure for the first time, and it opened the floodgates to my carded vintage collecting passion.
To this day I don’t collect anything else, I only have room in my life for Star Wars. But, believe it or not after over 25 years of collecting there are still vehicles, playsets and figures I’m after!
What piece of advice would you give to a collector just starting out or looking to step up their collecting game?
To a collector just starting out I would probably to tell them to start with a focus, otherwise it can get extremely daunting and overwhelming. Maybe start with loose figures then move to carded ones or maybe just do one movie at a time. Whether it’s vehicles or playsets, I think having a focus can be very helpful when collecting. Once your comfortable, you can step up your game and maybe go for the rare variations that are harder to find.
Bonus question...what is your favorite Star Wars film and character?
It's hard to pick my favorite Star Wars movie because I truly love them all. My first love is the original trilogy, but I do like the prequels, and all the new stuff. I just love seeing anything Star Wars. But if I had to pick one movie that stands out for me the most, it would probably have to be The Empire Strikes Back. It was the first Star Wars movie I went to with friends and we immediately began playing different roles, re-enacting the movie and adding our own spin.
My favorite character is Luke Skywalker because growing up, he was my hero and I really looked up to him. It really felt like we were on this journey right along with him.
For more Our Star Wars Stories, go to StarWars.com!
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5/13 - Milton Johns
5/14 - George Lucas
5/16 - Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones (2002)
5/19 - Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith (2005)
5/19 - Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace (1999)
5/19 - Peter Mayhew
5/19 - Claudia Karvan
5/21 - Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
5/23 - Star Wars 10th Anniversary Convention (1987)
5/23 - Barrie Holland
5/24 - Star Wars Celebration IV (2007)