Star Wars Geek Represents New Era of Fatherhood

Photo of Rick Russo holding his son Reed. The baby is wearing a Baby Fett one-piece outfit.

Rick and Reed Russo.

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.

You know him as the faceless guy in a photo pushing a baby stroller modified to look like an AT-AT Imperial Walker from The Empire Strikes Back.

If strollers are status symbols—plenty of parents act like they are—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

What

How it was Made

Photo of baby Reed sitting in his AT-AT on a sidewalk.

Baby Gunner Reed terrorizes civilians in south Florida.

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 speeder—the sides facing the baby—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.

The Outcome

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 change—dads are increasingly expected to be labor coaches—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

Zoomed view of the snowspeeder mobile showing four dangling snowspeeders.

Zoomed view of the snowspeeder mobile.

Underside of the mobile showing the snowspeeders are painted in primary colors.

Baby’s view of the snowspeeder mobile.

First side view of the Imperial Walker Baby Stroller.

Side view #1 of the Imperial Walker Baby Stroller.

Second side view of the Imperial Walker Baby Stroller.

Side view #2 of the Imperial Walker Baby Stroller.

Fuzzy zoomed view of the crushed snowspeeder from side view #1.

Fuzzy zoomed view of the crushed snowspeeder from side view #1.

Baby Reed posing in his stroller with an Imperial Snowtrooper.

A fan authentically dressed as an Imperial Snowtrooper wanted to pose with Baby Gunner Reed.

First photo of damage to the AT-AT caused by the baby.

The Emperor failed to make the Imperial Walker babyproof.

Second photo of damage to the AT-AT caused by the baby.

The AT-AT head the baby kept kicking off.

Third photo of damage to the AT-AT caused by the baby.

Backside of the AT-AT head.

Rick, Reed Russo and Jay Laga'aia posing for a photo.

Rick and Reed posing with Jay Laga’aia (Captain Typho) at a second convention, Star Wars Weekends, at Disney-MGM Studios. The timestamp should read 06/23/2007.

Photo of an arm tattoo featuring Boba Fett and other Star Wars imagery.

Obligatory zoom in on Rick’s arm tattoo featuring Boba Fett, Yoda and other Star Wars imagery.

Photo of Baby Reed lying on his back smiling.

OK, one more cute baby photo.

Star Wars Blog interviewed Rick as well.

Comments

9 Responses to “Star Wars Geek Represents New Era of Fatherhood”

  1. Chris Heydolph says:

    of course the first thing i see as soon as i open up the website is your face. das good

    July 5th, 2007 at 2:52 pm

  2. BRETT LUFFT says:

    RICK THAT IS AWSOME BRO NICE WORK ON THE AT-IT

    July 5th, 2007 at 3:00 pm

  3. Kristy says:

    I am 100 % totally impressed!

    July 5th, 2007 at 7:41 pm

  4. Jacque' says:

    It was awesome, and you did a great job on the AT-IT. I really liked it very much.

    July 6th, 2007 at 11:08 am

  5. Bonnie Burton says:

    Thanks for linking to my interview with Rick about his AT-AT stroller as well. ;-)

    July 6th, 2007 at 4:30 pm

  6. Aunt Barbara says:

    Rick, I know you love Reed ,You can tell by the way you include him in all that you do.I know that we will meet someday.Keep up the good work.

    July 6th, 2007 at 5:26 pm

  7. HD Supply says:

    No wonder UPS deliveries are so slow. Toys & babies get the most attention. Nice job Rick!

    July 13th, 2007 at 11:25 am

  8. E.M.M. says:

    This is so cool. My wife would freak if I did this to my kids ride.

    May 25th, 2008 at 10:32 pm

  9. DMR says:

    I am totally building one for my next kid. I wonder how hard it would be to make a Death-Star? Hmmm…

    April 26th, 2010 at 1:46 pm