Thursday, July 5th, 2007
Star Wars Geek Represents New Era of Fatherhood
There was a time when seeing a man push a baby stroller would draw surprised stares. Today we have a father, Rick Russo, who went out of his way draw attention to his status as a dad.
If strollers are status symbolsâ€”plenty of parents act like they areâ€”then what is Rick saying about himself? He is proud to be a dad, and excited by the prospect of raising his child with cultural experiences he enjoyed in his own youth.
Rick encapsulates new fatherhood. I’m not saying so because he’s a Star Wars geek. No. There is a revolution occurring and it simply isn’t about dads taking on more childcare responsibilities and some dads even becoming full-time care providers. The root change is that men are excited about being fathers, at the time of birth and all along the way.
Rick’s interest need not be Star Wars. It could be a love for music, sailing, Nascar or whatever. Any way you slice it, I see Rick taking an active role in his kid’s future, as glimpsed in a Star Wars craft project.
I was fortunate to reach Rick when friends called him up after seeing his photo online, due in large part to a DaddyTypes to BoingBoing connection that cascaded the mystery dad onto hundreds of blogs and Star Wars forums. Here are answers to some lingering stroller questions raised by the initial photos.
- Dad: Rick Russo
- Occupation: UPS driver
- Baby: 7-month-old Reed Russo
- Occupation: AT-AT Gunner
- Mom: Lisa Russo, proud, and perhaps a little embarrassed
- Location: south Florida
- A Baby Trend Trendsport Lite baby stroller modified into an AT-AT Imperial Walker.
- A crushed snowspeeder under an AT-AT foot.
- An overhead baby mobile with four snowspeeders.
How it was Made
Rick cut templates from cardboard to create a proof-of-concept mock-up showing how the panels and legs fit together. Incidentally, Jeremiah McNichols of Zrecs has since speculated about making an AT-AT version with swinging legs using Mr. McGroovy’s Box Rivets.
Some of Rick’s chief concerns included whether the baby could see over the AT-AT body, that the AT-AT feet cleared the stroller wheels and that the AT-AT didn’t jut out too far from the stroller.
Rick’s wife pointed out that the baby would be growing before their trip to a Star Wars convention in Los Angeles, so room should be left for baby legs poking out the front of the stroller. These holes also provided extra ventilation.
Rick recut new templates from foam board and connected everything with zip ties. Exterior details were drawn by hand using three reference materials as guides: a Kenner AT-AT toy, game pieces and the book Incredible Cross-Sections of Star Wars, Episodes IV, V & VI: The Ultimate Guide to Star Wars Vehicles and Spacecraft.
Panels for the head were glued to “spongy-foam stuff” that Rick said is similar to green floral brick. A tube from a roll of shrink-wrap served as the neck, inserted into the head foam and through a hole in the front body panel.
Rick went through two tries before perfecting the snowspeeders, crafting them from foam and using BBQ skewers for the laser cannons. Four speeders hung from the mobile with floral wire to give them some movement, but not the crazy swaying you might expect with string.
The underside of each speederâ€”the sides facing the babyâ€”were painted in different primary colors, suspended from a piece of foam cut in the shape of a Rebel logo. The mobile was engineered to swivel away, facilitating the baby’s entry and exit from the AT-AT.
A crushed snowspeeder was placed under one of the AT-AT’s feet, along with cotton painted to look like smoke.
In all, Rick estimates he put in 30 to 40 hours of work, an hour or two at a time over two months, each time starting after 11 p.m. when both baby and mom were asleep. Some of the delay was due to using normal glue and waiting for it to dry. In hindsight, Rick says next time he’ll buy a glue gun and use Velcro straps instead of zip-ties to secure body panels. Next time?! He said he may recreate a different vehicle from the Star Wars universe.
About his taking the stroller to Star Wars Celebration, Rick writes:
“Lots of people seemed to like it, but I was at a Star Wars convention, so that’s expected. The best part was people asking where I bought it. I didn’t think it looked that good, but good enough to be in the ‘neat’ category.
Once the baby found his footing, he just pretended he was Vinnie Paul and double-bass drummed the AT-AT head right off. We would stop so someone could take a picture of the stroller and the head would come shooting off! The baby’s giggles are worth it though. We went back over to the Endor Diorama Builders Area to borrow a glue gun. After we fixed the head, we ended up going back, because he kept kicking and tore the whole front panel off. I tried to glue that, but to no avail. So I used tape to hold it until we got back to the hotel.”
Now, I ask you: are these the actions of the type of father we knew growing up? The fathers from the ’60s and ’70s who didn’t even witness childbirth due to lack of interest or outright banishment by medical staff? As societal expectations changeâ€”dads are increasingly expected to be labor coachesâ€”we see men’s attitudes changing. And once in a while we see dads, such as Rick, who jump into their new roles with excitement.
“When Reed was born, I stayed home for three weeks, so my wife had some help until she got mobile again. New role, yes. No lie, she didn’t touch a diaper for the first two weeks. Even that tar stuff!!! Now he’s starting solids and I try to be the one that feeds him as often as I can. Challenging? It’s like I’m the Indiana Jones of suburban dads and I love it!” -Rick Russo
Star Wars Blog interviewed Rick as well.