Hi there everyone, I’m extremely excited about this post as I’ve been promising collector interviews for a while now and the moment is finally here! I’m a huge fan of Alex’s research on Luke Bespin variants and an even bigger fan of him as a bloke – perfect mix for my first victim. I am a collector of Lukes so maybe I’m being a touch biased with this interview but that’s the great thing about writing your own blog – there are no annoying board members to please!
Firstly, if you haven’t seen it, here is the link to Alex’s Luke Bespin research page, check it out:
I was planning to keep this blog profanity free but Alex (aka ‘General Kahn’ on TIG) promptly blew that fanciful notion right out of the water. I usually swear like a trooper myself (I’m Australian after all) so it has been tough keeping it clean. I guess I can live vicariously through Alex for at least the duration of this interview.
Grab yourself a beer, sit back and soak up a bit of the great general himself.
Vintage Star Wars Collectors (VSWC): Hi Alex, Thank you so much for joining me. You and I have crossed paths many times on The Imperial Gunnery Forum (TIG) and I can honestly say it was always a pleasure. I’m looking forward to dismantling your Luke Bespin focus piece by piece – three down, about a thousand more to go! Your Luke Bespin research and subsequent limelight is absolute Star Wars geek gold and I can’t even begin to count the amount of hours I’ve spent studying it in order to categorise my own collection. I may be wrong, but I haven’t seen research of this scale conducted on one single loose figure alone. A big part of this interview is to find out a bit more about this research but I’m sure my followers would also love to hear about the man himself.
Just in case the photo above scares you, this shot of Alex as a kid and his early collection might coax you away from cowering in the corner. Actually you know what? A little kid wearing a scary Gammy Guard mask freaks the hell out of me.
If you closely at the second picture, little Luke Bespin’s legs are popping out.
Okay so to the questions.
1. Alex you have a magnificent beard! How long did it take you to grow it? Is there a specific philosophy behind it?
I was never any good at shaving and generally hated the practise, so one day I just thought ‘Fuck it!’ That was about 12 years ago. Mine stopped growing a long while ago, every beard has its ‘terminal length’ unfortunately. I was hoping for some ZZ Top, bollock length thing, but it just wasn’t meant to be 🙁 As for a philosophy, it’s simple, if you are a generally hairy person (chest, back, shoulders etc.) then you will almost certainly be able to grow a huge beard, there is a heavy price for this though, and an ironic one at that, you will almost certainly be going or have already gone bald on top! It’s true! I’ve seen it time and time again, all over body hair, great beard, bald as a coot! I ain’t hairy and have a lovely head of hair, and this is my beard downfall.
2. Before we did this interview, I actually stalked your Facebook profile (we weren’t Facebook friends at the time) to check out some photos of you. How does that make you feel?
I’d prefer it if you were a hot chick stalking my FB page, but I guess any attention is good attention right??? Anyway, there are only two types of people who haven’t ever stalked someone on facebook, 1. People who aren’t on facebook and 2. Fucking liars!
3. Okay now that the most important questions are out of the way, let’s find out a little bit about you. Where abouts in Britain do you live?
I live in North Yorkshire in England’s first seaside resort…. Scarborough or as Luke would put it ‘if there is a bright spot in this Country then I live furthest from it!’
VSWC: Nice, I actually once watched a documentary about Scarborough and its role as a seaside resort. It actually seemed pretty cool, at least you have beaches!
Pretty cool??? Sure it was the right one, there are like 17 world wide or something 🙂
4. So do you get the chance to connect with other vintage collectors?
I have made a lot of very good friends in the hobby and am in regular contact with several of them.
5. What do you think is the stereotype of the vintage Star Wars collector? Is there much truth in this image?
I assumed the geeky uber nerd was the general stereotype for a Star Wars collector and I always assumed I was the odd exception 🙂 That was until I eventually became part of the Star Wars collecting community, at which point I realised that half of them are tattoo covered, long hair crazy rockers or some shit. There really is a bit of everything in this hobby, and I have still not managed to find one single geeky uber nerd stereotype guy.
6. Other than Star Wars, what interests do you have? You’ve mentioned a couple of times to me \that you were on your way to see live music. What music are you into? Are you in a band yourself?
I’m a big music fan and I play guitar and piano. I have played in several bands over the years, nothing successful, just local bands. I am currently not in a band, but it is something I would love to do again and me and a friend of mine jam together and are ultimately hoping to put a new band together at some point.
I love music of all kinds (apart from your manufactured pop shit). Anything from classical right through to death metal, but my true love and goal for the band will always be hard rock/metal stuff 🙂 The louder and noisier the better…. it helps cover up my shit playing!
7. So how long have you been collecting, what got you into it and what do you focus on?
There really is no simple and fast way to tell this story. My collecting is essentially down to a fine tuning of somewhat random events, deep breath…. and go!
I have been collecting as an adult properly know for about 16 years. I collected as a child and like most people my age, my childhood collection was the victim of the carboot sale boom of the early 90s. Well almost. All my stuff went to a friend of the family’s second hand brick-a-brack shop and was apparently lost forever. Skip forward a few years and one day I saw something on t.v. about how valuable Star Wars stuff had become and I used to hassle my mum about it big time, as I had always been highly reluctant to let it all go. Over the years I reminded my mum of this on numerous occasions and her response was always the same “I didn’t sell it, it’s in the attic somewhere.” Each time this came up it was followed by an attic search, but nothing was ever found. Now my childhood collection (shared with a brother) wasn’t something you could hide in a corner, it was pretty big, almost all the figures, numerous doubles and lots of vehicles including most of the big ones.
Anyway one day in 1996 I was home alone and bored and I guess the Star Wars thing was playing on my mind. I couldn’t help but think, why would my mum so adamantly keep saying the same thing, there must be some truth in it, Jesus my mum was as honest as they come, so I did an extensive search, and sure enough, tucked away in a black sack between some insulation was my childhood Star Wars collection… well not quite, a bunch of figures – 54 in total, mostly beaters and unarmed. Turns out that the guy had sold most of the stuff and returned the left overs that hadn’t sold, better than nothing I guess and this also included eight of the last 17, from this EV-9D9 and Lumat still exist in my current collection as they were both perfect. This was in some respects when I started collecting, as I would add the odd beater here and there if I found one.
VSWC: That’s fantastic, what a story! You are really lucky. Every single one my figures (except for a Hoth Leia – whose head my dog had chewed off) was stolen outside of my classroom. My mum still swears blind the thief (Nhi Hi I know it was you!) was sexist.
Well that’s the first part down. Now as kids my friend and I used to make home made videos in our spare time with my friend’s video camera, little five minute horror flicks and stuff. Anyway, completely unrelated to that a friend of my brother’s was a bit of a Sci-Fi geek and used to always buy the newest technology that came out and when he got bored of what ever it was he would try and palm it off on my brother. One day my brother brought home a video camera that his mate had lent him hoping he would buy it, now my brother wasn’t into that sort of shit so it just sat around at home for a while. I on the other hand was all over it, as I had never owned a camera. One day I was off work and bored to tears and everyone else was at work so I decided to make a short film, which is very hard when you’re on your own, camera man/actor all at the same time! So instead I made a short film using my childhood Star Wars figures. It was hilarious and when I showed my mate we decided to both have a go and make it better, so we did. We only managed two scenes but it started something that became almost cult in our local town. The short film we made, gave us the idea to remake all three Star Wars film but with a ‘silly’ story line (mostly revolving around drugs :). The camera had been returned by this point, but everyone would always ask us when the film was gonna be made. One problem….. cast! We only had a handful of characters and no vehicles, so it remained an idea only.
Anyway a couple of months later the guy who lent us the camera found out his wife was pregnant again, they already had twins from IVF treatment and had tried again for another child with IVF and ended up with a second set of twins which is apparently quite rare, they even went on morning t.v. about it (trust me starting to collect is complex stuff!) Anyway, because of the imminent arrival of another two kids, they needed to free up some house space, so he had to clear out his man cave with all his gadgets and his Star Wars and Star Trek collection, turns out he had been buying all the modern Star Wars stuff since its first release up until then (which was early ’98). Now he had obviously seen the little film we had made on the camera when he got it back so he knew I had Star Wars stuff and also that I wanted to do the full films, so he asked me if I wanted to buy his collection. I said yes and suddenly had hundreds of modern figures, loads of characters and vehicles for the film!I had just left college at this point and started full time work and loads of money kicking around, so I carried on his modern collection constantly with the film in mind.
VSWC: So did you ever make that film?
Well that was a bit of an anti climax, the film never happened and last year I sold all the modern Star Wars stuff. The thing is though it started me collecting, and in 1998 a little shop which specialised in vintage Star Wars opened in Scarborough, they also sold modern stuff so I would go in and buy for the collection. They had loads of vintage beaters in the shop for £1 each so one day I came up with the idea of trying to complete my childhood beater collection and having a full set of beaters, so I would buy a few here and there. The nostalgic buzz I got from buying the vintage figures far outweighed the buzz I got from getting the modern stuff.
VSWC: Did you manage to snag any Bespin Lukes from that store?
Well one day I walked into the shop and sitting on the shelf were two mint condition and complete Bespin Lukes, a blonde and a brown, I couldn’t resist so I bought them and from that point on beaters were not gonna be enough, it had to be mint and complete. This was not only the exact point when I started seriously collecting vintage Star Wars, but also basically the start of my Bespin Luke focus I guess.
Sorry for that book length answers! But there is no short way of explaining it!
VSWC: No worries, it really is a great story. I love hearing how people got back into collecting. So I have to ask – do you still have the famous video? I’d love to see it!
Unfortunately not 🙁 Back then it wasn’t as easy as just transferring files, you needed leads and all sorts. The film was never transferred to VHS and went back with the camera. It pains me greatly as it was funny.
We did make a brief film using Star Wars figures again to keep us busy, it was a parody of a T.V. show we have here called Countdown, I still have this. At some point I will get it onto a file and let you know.
8. Why did you choose to focus so intensely on Luke Bespin?
Luke Bespin has never been one of my favourite figures, Han was always my favourite character so I got Hans and my brother got Lukes, there were a couple of exceptions and Luke Bespin was one of them. I played with him a lot as a kid but he was never a full favourite and still isn’t. After I bought the two mint ones from that shop I thought I had Bespin Luke covered for variations, back then I only knew about the obvious ones you see in books. I can’t remember exactly when it fully started, but I saw a picture online of a Luke with dark ginger hair, it was so blatantly different. I began the search and it took a long time… years! By the time I finally found one, I’d come across so many other variations along the way, then there was the discovery of the COOs and before I knew it, I had nearly 60 of them!
VSWC: Wow 60! That’s amazing. I have about 20 and everyone who visits the house, including my wife, thinks I’m a freak. I guess we are in a certain way.
Bah, what do women know… go buy some shoes or some shit!
9. So why not collect the MOCs as well?
In a word… money. I ain’t got much of it 🙁 I’m hoping to set up my own buisness in the next year and if it takes off then MOCs will inevitably be on the cards. I do actually have two Bespin Luke MOCs, a ESB 47A (massive thanks to Jay Psybertech for that) and a beater Tri-Logo which I bagged on ebay for 17 quid 🙂
VSWC: Nice, they are two pretty good cards. I’m still hunting that trilogo, When are you going to sell me that one as well?
Never! Funny thing is, I won it on ebay for £17.75 just 10 minutes after I sold you a Caramel Boots Luke for £17.50. The figure in the bubble is a Caramel Boots Luke! Funny how things happen sometimes 🙂 The Caramel Boots is definately one of the harder ones to track down as well.
VSWC: It’s kind of ironic that I helped fund your purchase of an MOC I’m chasing. I guess it was my unconscious way of thanking you for all your research!
10. You are a mainstay on the TIG forum but I haven’t seen you on the other forums. Have you ever given them a go?
I am on all the main forums that I know of, but TIG was the first and will always be home to me. TIG is the most educational of all the forums and the most friendly 🙂
11. I don’t post often on TIG but I am a long time lurker and I absolutely love it there. There is a massive camaraderie and the sharing of technical knowledge is outstanding. I’ve rarely seen an argument there. What is the secret ingredient to this atmosphere?
Good people, I’ve met some really great people through TIG, people I actually consider as genuine good friends, people I hope to meet in person one day.
VSWC: No doubt the people there are great. But Rebelscum for example has some of the nicest people in the business yet there are frequent blow-ups there, although things have calmed down a bit lately. So what is the key difference with TIG? Is it that you guys are all pretty similar in your views or that respect is paid to differing stances?
Hard to say really, that was one of the reasons RS never took off for me, no matter what, every thread desended into chaos and arguments, that just drained me. Plus, if so much as a mouse farts on RS the thread or comment gets taken down.
TIG is a lot more laid back and a lot more focused on the hobby for me, if I want to find out about Lili Ledy, Poch, Droids, Glasslite etc. there is a dedicated thread for it, with extensive detail and research.
Don’t get me wrong, I like the other forums and do visit them, but TIG is home for me 🙂
12. Do you ever get the chance to meet the guys from TIG face to face?
Not yet, but I would certainly like to and I don’t doubt that at some point I will.
13. I’ve seen on TIG that someone once made a custom figure of you? Can you elaborate a bit on this?
There are two custom figures of me, one which I made to satisfy my unquenchable ego and the other was made by James (ourchickenshack) probably because I’m his hero or something, infact I’m pretty sure that’s the reason 🙂
14. How realistic is it?
It’s very realistic, it has long hair, a beard and looks like a double hard bastard, that’s pretty accurate I guess.
VSWC: Wow, they’re great! Maybe Hasbro should have used James to do the POTF modern sculpts then…
No, they are just way too butch!
15. What do you think of the vintage star wars Facebook groups?
I’m a member on several, but they just really drain me to be fair. The forums are different. Any old Tom, Dick and Harry doesn’t just join the forums, they are all serious collectors. Facebook is huge and just about everybody is on, they see ‘Star Wars’ and think, oh I like that sign me up, several of the groups seem more bothered about how many members they have, even if half of them are total idiots who don’t even collect or collect the ‘wrong’ Star Wars stuff. That said, it is often good entertainment.
Joe’s bootleg site is by far the best, even though I only really have Bespin Luke bootlegs so I don’t post often, but its full of bootleg collectors and no idiots so it runs smooth and serves the purpose that it’s meant to serve. Hats off to Joe 🙂
VSWC: Yeah I agree that Joe has done a great job there, he really runs a tight ship. I’m a member under my real name but he’s yet to approve membership for my pseudonym – ‘Bobby Bobs’. He has mentioned before that he won’t allow people in the group using obvious pseudonyms so I guess I can only blame myself. Really shows though that he cares about quality over quantity.
Definately, and that’s how it should be, Joe’s a top bloke.
VSWC: If our readers don’t know about Joe Y’s page, here is the link:
16. Is there any way these Facebook groups can improve?
Kick out all the idiots, but that’s unlikely to happen as the numbers seem more important. Facebook is an angry place in general.
17. Okay I’ve been itching to ask you some questions about your Luke Bespin research. How long did it take you to collect, collate, analyse and present your research?
Well the research started with a lightsaber. I was curious to find out where one of the lightsaber variation originated and was forever trying to find out. Then one day I thought, wait a minute, forget the lightsaber, where the hell did all these variations originate and so I began finding out. The general research has been slowly accumulating over the many years of collecting Luke, but has only really taken shape and been presented in the last few years. It’s been a long time since I’ve updated my Limelight and Research page and several things need adding to, changing and just generally updating, but it’s finding the time, but it is on my ‘to do’ list.
18. The photography in your limelight is stunning. Did you take the photos? I spent about two hours the other day with my wife trying to take one decent shot of my first 12 action display stand and we ended up with nada. We used blankets, pillows, books and even a large mirror. In case you’re wondering, yes I’m still talking about photography…We need some tips desperately! And again, yes I’m talking about photography…
Haha, it’s easy. The true key for me is natural light although I am planning on experimenting with a light tent. It doesn’t have to be outright sunlight either. You can get a half decent picture on even the shitiest day weather wise, which is good as England’s weather is so utterly shit most of the time. I simply sit in my bay window and put a bit of a blue card on a little table and stand the figures on it and snap away, that’s it! The picture below is of how I do it and the other picture is the exact picture I took in that shot 🙂
VSWC: Fantastic, thanks for the tips. I need to start putting my own limelight together.
19. So how many Bespin variations have you found so far?
My total number of unique variations for Bespin Luke is 23.
Gee that really is something. I’ve only found 16, those last few are really painful to find aren’t they.
20. Are there possibly more?
I would say, probably not, but then again I said that at 21 and 22, so I guess anything is possible 🙂
21. How did you find so many variations of the one figure? Did you just buy them randomly and hope for the best?
A lot came from my search for the illusive dark ginger Luke, but once I gained a better understanding of the COO families it became easier to focus the variation hunt and figure out what was out there.
22. What in your mind is the hardest to find variation?
The Poch variations are pretty hard to find, and the Lili Ledy variations are not common, but to me the hardest and rarest Bespin Luke to find is the dak ginger haired variation (Small Hong Kong COO – COO I in Wolff’s guide).
23. Can you tell us a bit about the dark ginger haired variant? You’ve mentioned it to me before but I don’t think it’s such a well-known variant at the moment. Did you discover it?
This figure is what started off my focus quest really after seeing a picture of a Luke that cleary had dark ginger hair. It took many years to finally find one, funnily enough it was by accident. I had bid on a Luke that looked in good shape and appeared to have real weapons, the picture was pretty poor and taken from his feet looking up so you could barely even see his hair and the camera had focused on the sticking out lightsaber, making his head blurry. I won him for 99p, when he arrived it was the one! I was so pleased, probably my greatest purchase buzz to date… the weapons were real as well 🙂 At that point, I had to have his COO counterpart, it was another three years or so before that happened and a couple of years later I found another which I gifted to Wolff as I knew he needed one and has helped me greatly over the years.
In total I have only seen four for sale that were absolute definites in all the years I’ve collected Lukes. I should point out also that I search eBay on pretty much a daily basis for Luke Bespins and have done so for years. During this whole time, any other figure that you can think of that is a known and accepted rare variation I can pretty much guarantee I’ve seen more of them turn up. Hell, I’ve even seen three carded DT Bens go up for sale within this time. The other thing here is… all these other rare figures, I haven’t been actively searching for so I’ve probably missed loads as well.
I genuinely believe that this figure is a rare variation not just as a rare Luke Bespin variation but as a figure in general.
I have seen two carded examples of this figure, both on ESB 41 D cards. The ESB 41 backs where the change from yellow hair to brown hair was made. Unlike Luke FB where yellow and brown hair can be found all the way from SW to ROTJ cards, this was not the case with Bespin Luke, he started with yellow hair and when the 41 Backs arrived the change was made to brown. Yellow haired Lukes can be found post 41 Back, but they are not common and are most likely a result of overstock being used.
It’s my belief that the dark ginger Luke is a kind of transitional figure between the yellow and brown. A decision was obviously made to change the hair colour, was the dark ginger the new colour but very quickly discredited as also being inaccurate, and then changed again? Who knows, but that’s what I think was the likely scenario.
VSWC: Wow that’s fascinating, particularly for a variant collector. I don’t think people realise how hard it is to work out what variant came on what card. Thanks for all of your hard work on this.
It’s my pleasure, do I get paid now? 🙂
VSWC: You’ll get paid when I get paid for doing this blog!
24. Have you ever made any custom Bespin figures yourself?
Yes, I made a custom Bespin Luke a while back with a removable hand and a more accurate paint job. I recently took him to pieces though so I could make a better attempt. I’m currently working on two, an upgraded Bespin Luke and a Dagobah Luke. They only exist as a few parts at the moment though. I did make a Sith Luke from a Luke Bespin a well.
25. You have recently started thinning down your focus? Is this the end of the love story between you and Luke Bespin?
No, I doubt it, I am still hunting down cardbacks and hopefully one day I will go for an MOC run. In terms of the loose run though it’s slowing down a bit now and has been for a while. I’m mainly wanting bootlegs, factory errors and upgrades now.
The thinning down was basically me deciding that I didn’t need every variation with every COO combination, the COO#3 MIHK has nine potential COO combinations for every variation that has the stamp, that’s all the Ledys (Blonde & Brown) all the six different dark boots Lukes and one Poch!!! Seriously!!! That will not only never happen in terms of cash, but also in terms of actually finding all nine for each, you could spend a lifetime buying just one of those figures and still never find all nine.The other thing is, although having nine blonde Lili Ledy Lukes would look impressive, it would also be very selfish and essentially deprive eight other people of a rare and desirable figure. So I settled for one of each. After that, I decided to do the same with the other two COO families. It was quite liberating to be honest.
VSWC: Well up until reading that answer I was still planning to collect all of the variations. I guess I should give up now!
It’s not that bad when you stick to the basics like I have now done, here’s the current collections:
VSWC note: Please contact me if anyone would like further details of each variant in the below photos. The final thumbnail is actually Alex’s childhood Bespin.
26. Before we sign off, I’m sure everyone would like to know what is next for General Kahn in collecting?
Hard to say really, I just keep picking away at variations in general, but this year is more about setting up my business, which will hopefully put me in a better financial situation to further extend my collecting 🙂
Well that’s it, thank you so much for giving up your time to us Alex. I feel that I know you a bit better after that and I hope our readers do as well. I look forward to seeing you again on TIG and I hope to continue buying pieces of your famous limelight. Hopefully you’ll be back on the blog in some capacity. Keep up the great work and keep doing what you’re doing.