Meet the Docents of Rancho Obi-Wan!

When you take a tour of Rancho Obi-Wan your guide will be one of our amazing docents. They have interviewed each other so that you have a moment to get to know them.

Jon Nagel
Dan Norgan
David Buckley
Dwayne Smith
Michelle Norgan
Marc Morita
Lucas Seastrom
Michael Wistock

 

Jon Nagel interviewed by Dan Norgan

Dan: When did you first become a Star Wars fan?
Jon: I became a fan when I first saw Star Wars in September, 1977. It blew my 9-year-old mind away, and part of my brain has been constantly playing in that universe since.

Dan: What do you think makes Star Wars something special to be preserved?
Jon: Star Wars is a fantasy mythology that, while borrowing from many cultures, is loved by many (and many disparate) cultures. There are few subjects/properties/what have you that are so adored throughout the world.

Dan: Who is your favorite character from the Star Wars universe?
Jon: I used to say “Boba Fett” but I’ve been leaning towards Finn lately. He has the wide-eyed wonder that Luke did in the Original Trilogy, but Finn travels the galaxy with an honest determination and tail-wagging goofiness that is hard to not completely love.

Dan: Why are Porgs your space spirit animal?
Jon: A. They are undeniably cute. B. So many people are unjustifiably annoyed by them, so – therefore – they MUST become my special spirit creature.

Dan: Do you collect any particular type Star Wars merchandise or item?
Jon: I primarily accumulate TIE fighter and TIE fighter pilot items.

Dan: Which Star Wars film is your favorite?
Jon:Star Wars,” or “Episode IV: A New Hope” — It’s the one that I fell in love with, and the one that still, warts and all, contains that initial spark of wonder.

Dan: What is the one concept or impression you want guests at ROW to walk away with after a tour?
Jon: I want guests to walk away with a sense of awe at what has been created for Star Wars, and – hopefully – an infusion of the love we feel for Star Wars as well.

Dan: Did Han shoot first?
Jon: Han shot. Period. There was no “shoot first,” because Greedo never got a round off in the first place.

Dan: In what other areas of Star Wars fandom do you spend your time or energy?
Jon: I spend a lot of time and energy with the leadership team of the Golden Gate Garrison, our local chapter of the 501st Legion, a worldwide Star Wars costuming club that focuses on the Imperial-type of costumes.

Dan: If you could give a ROW tour to anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
Jon: I would love to give a tour to Patton Oswalt. Apart from being a favorite comedian and brain of mine, he’s also a huge nerd, and would – I would hope – appreciate the collection.

Dan: What Star Wars character has had the largest impact on you?
Jon: As strange as it may sound, the Kal Skirata character in the Karen Traviss’ REPUBLIC COMMANDO novels has probably had the most impact, because he hammers home the notion that family is not so much about blood, but about who you keep close to you to care for, and who cares for you.
 

Dan Norgan interviewed by Dwayne Smith

Dan Norgan was born and raised in Southern California in the small town of Hemet. Much like Luke Skywalker’s home on Tatooine, if there was a bright center to California, Hemet is the town that its furthest from.

Dan’s entry into Star Wars fandom started when he first watched Return of the Jedi on television back in the mid-1980s. Seeing Luke Skywalker embark on a hero’s journey with the yearning to become something greater than who he was and go places greater than where he had been is what really attracted him to the films. As Dan grew older, he gravitated to the worlds built around Star Wars with all its vastness and exciting possibilities.

Like all Star Wars fans, Dan has his favorite characters, both in the spotlight and the blink and you miss ’em guys. So who’s at the top of his list? No surprise here, of course it’s Han Solo. That’s right, the guy who shot Greedo first in the creature cantina. Also on his list of favorites is the real hero of the saga, the imperial crew member who decided not to fire on R2-D2 and C-3P0’s escape pod. “He basically, could have ended the entire rebellion right there. That’s rough!” Says Dan.

Dan is most passionate about what goes on behind the scenes of Star Wars. He loves the stories and artifacts of the creation. Of all the great creative forces, Dan feels Dave Filoni, Director of Clone Wars and Rebels, has had the greatest impact on his fandom. Filoni’s teams’ development of characters has offered up a whole new appreciation for different levels of story telling possibilities in the Star Wars universe.

Today Dan Lives in the Bay Area where he works as an IT manager for a chain of nationwide Rock Climbing Gyms. When he’s not working he enjoys rock climbing and scuba diving. Dan is also a talented artist who has created some amazing Star Wars themed sketch cards. He’s no stranger to wearing armor and not just any armor; I’m talking about Stormtrooper armor. Dan is a member of the 501st, the world’s largest Star Wars costuming group. But that is not Dan’s only avenue of volunteering. Dan has been volunteering at Rancho Obi-Wan for several years now and has been part of the docent program since its inception.

Dan’s first experience at Rancho Obi-Wan was much like everyone else’s–overwhelming! The most pronounced affect that Rancho Obi-Wan has had on his fandom is an appreciation and reverence for all the effort that goes into Star Wars. Not just the films and TV shows, but all the countless people and hours that go into designing, producing, marketing and distributing Star Wars items and products. Dan says It is really humbling to be a part of preserving the vast legacy that has grown up around the franchise.

Dan’s love and knowledge of Star Wars along with his dedication and great sense of humor make him an asset to the Rancho Obi-Wan docent team. Like all docents, Dan has a favorite piece in the Rancho Obi-Wan collection and that object currently resides within a display case inside the Treasure Room. Is it the Rocket Firing Boba-Fett? “No.” Is it one of the actual pieces of the Death Star prop? “Nope.” Is it the Sigma ceramic C-3P0 tape dispenser? “Still no.” Dan’s favorite piece in the collection is, in fact, a brown paper bag crafted to look like George Lucas. The hand made puppet was made by a Lucasfilm Employee back in 2007. Like many Rancho Obi-Wan treasures, it’s one of a kind, just like Dan.
 

David Buckley interviewed by Jon Nagel

Jon: How did you first get interested in Star Wars?
David: I was thirteen and my father, who had given me a love of science fiction, took us to the lastest sensation, I had seen an interview on Merv Griffin that had footage from the Death Star escape and was really intrigued.

Jon: If you can remember, what was your initial reaction to that first film?
David: Jaw dropping. Such an obvious difference from previous sci-fi films in it’s approach to special effects, and a easy little hero myth story helped by a tremendous musical score.

Jon: How did you get involved with Rancho Obi-Wan?
David: I wanted to make a special X-Wing helmet for Steve’s retirement but the kit arrived waaaaay after it happened. When I finally did make it I hand delivered it, Anne found out where Kim and I lived, and the next thing I knew…….

Jon: Do you collect? If so, what?
David: Mostly books, I do have some figures (mostly Luke pilot) and of course, costumes. I consider my collection extremely small and it grows incrementally. I don’t have the room nor the desire for mass amounts of stuff, especially as I age.

Jon: Can you remember your first response during your first Rancho Obi-Wan visit? What was it?
David: I first toured ROW before the expansion, and I had a hard time fathoming how one man collected all this stuff. I can literally put my entire collection on two or three of his shelving units.

Jon: What is a tour with David Buckley like?
David: Hopefully breezily entertaining. I hate boring tours and I do not want to give one. Most people absorb information far faster than we can give it. Move along.

Jon: Do you have any favorite sections, or items, in the collection that you emphasize in your tours?
David: Besides the obvious need to cover items, I like telling the story of the crashed x-wing, something I don’t think most people have ever heard about.

Jon: Do you have a favorite “tour story” yet? If so, could you please tell it?
David: The last tour I gave had a repeat customer. He had done a Steve tour a couple of years back and he really loved my tour as it covered different things.

Jon: Is there a person you would love to give a tour to (anybody currently living on the planet)? Who?
David: I wish my father could have seen it. Someday I’m going to walk my grandaughter through it, but that’ll take five minutes.

Jon: What do you want guests of Rancho Obi-Wan to walk away with after a tour you’re a part of?
David: The overwhelming desire to tell others that they must see this place.
 

Dwayne Smith interviewed by Marc Morita

I was sure there were going to be some moments of awkward silences. I was sure I was going to say something ridiculous like, “I don’t know, Jar Jar is kind of my jam” and I’d receive a look of disdain and have to scramble and talk about the weather. I was prepared with Rebel Force Radio podcasts and Spotify playlists to fill the void.

But I didn’t need any of it. The stereo system in that rental Ford Focus was totally unnecessary because Dwayne Smith is a really interesting, entertaining, and friendly guy. Let’s go on a brief detour to go over his Star Wars stats.

  • Member of the 501st trooping as Darth Vader, Tie Pilot, Stormtrooper, and Tusken Raider
  • Member of the Rebel Legion
  • Member of the Vintage Star Wars Collectors’ Club
  • Docent at Rancho Obi-Wan
  • Has the BEST Hammerhead costume ever

Okay, let’s get back on the road. While the majority of our conversation focused on Star Wars, one thing that was always connected to his fandom was his family. It was Christmas 1985, and Dwayne’s mother purchased every Kenner Power of the Force figure except one…Luke Skywalker in the Imperial Stormtrooper Outfit. For ten years, Dwayne and his mother scoured the galaxy to find that treasure. Then one day, after a tip from a friend, Dwayne located this prized possession in a Santa Rosa toy shop. Dwayne brought Stormtrooper Luke to his mother first. His mother opened the brown paper bag, saw Luke, and tears of joy flowed down her cheek.

While his vintage collection is vast, you can tell that his true prized possession are his kids. At most events, he has one of his four kids with him. He might be trooping as a Tusken Raider while his son is a Jawa. He took his daughter to the Season 3 finale of Rebels but made sure there was time to go to the mall beforehand.

With all his Star Wars shenanigans, it is obvious that Dwayne has an incredible wife. With every entertaining story, Shannon was always a part of the tale. Just like Leia, Shannon happens to like nice men like Dwayne. Married for over twenty years, Shannon supports Dwayne’s collection and love of Star Wars.

If you book a tour at Rancho Obi-Wan, be sure to request a tour with Dwayne. You’ll find he’s full of surprises.

Post Script: Every Tuesday, the kindergartners and my 6th grade students read books together. Right before The Last Jedi, I mentioned to the kindergartners that I know Darth Vader, aka 501st member and Rancho Obi-Wan docent Dwayne Smith. In between books, I asked the kids, “If you could ask Darth Vader a question, what would you ask?” Here are the questions, and here are Lord Vaders’s responses. Enjoy.

Kids: What’s your favorite color?
Vader: Black…shiny black.

Kids: How do you sleep at night?
Vader: I’m told I snore and wheeze a bit.

Kids: What are your buttons for, and can I touch them?
Vader: Classified information and no.

Kids: What happens when you have to go potty?
Vader: Just like everyone else, except I have to hang the cape up first.

Kids: I have a cat named Becky. Do you have a cat?
Vader: I have asthma, so no, I don’t like cats or cat dander. Or sand. Cats like sand, and I most definitely do not like sand.

Kids: Why do you have a cape if you can’t fly?
Vader: Capes make you look cool. Just ask Lando. He has a cape, and he can’t fly either, and he is very cool, just like me.

Kids: Does Santa come to your house?
Vader: No. There’s no such thing as Santa…..errr I mean no, because I’ve been on the naughty list for a long time.
 

Michelle Norgan interviewed by Michael Wistock

The Force definitely runs strong with Michelle and her passion for Star Wars starts with her family. Her first influences came from her brother Dan, also a docent at Rancho Obi-Wan, who introduced her to a galaxy far, far away via his favorite movie, The Empire Strikes Back.

Her first big screen theatrical experience came courtesy of the original trilogy special editions and seeing her favorite character Leia in the The Last Jedi use the Force in such a dramatic fashion was something she had been waiting a long time time for.

Between watching the Star Wars films via VHS cassettes, in theaters or recreating adventures with Dan’s Kenner action figure collection, she was hooked. When they would play, with Dan usually as Darth Vader and Michelle as Emperor Palpatine (a relationship Michelle says fits perfectly to their “real” world dynamic), or would watch the movies, she would translate for Dan what R2-D2 was actually saying, which usually was something sassy or sarcastic based on her mood at the time.

Star Wars became a strong common thread for them, something she doesn’t take for granted and was an enormous part of their childhood growing up together. Dan continues to be a tremendous influence in her life and for the two of them, Star Wars will always be a cornerstone of the foundation that helps to bind their relationship together.

Michelle’s initial experience at Rancho Obi-Wan was a day that will be long remembered. It was an event she likes to refer to as the “Jar Jar Trials.” Her first job for Steve was to clean the Jar Jar Binks candy tongues from 1999’s The Phantom Menace. The candy portion of the tongue was breaking apart and melting so she was asked to wrap them in protective plastic wrap in an effort to preserve them for the museum. Needless to say after four hours of dealing with pink goo Michelle felt like she could successfully deal with any task Steve or Anne would throw at her.

Michelle loves to collect Star Wars Funko Pop! vinyls as she thought that was “a safe thing to collect” that wouldn’t get too out of hand. She feels that Rancho Obi-Wan is the place to visit to view all things Star Wars without trying to figure out where to store an enormous collection of her own.

In addition to Leia being her favorite character she loves the droids with R2-D2, BB-8 and “Chopper” being her favorites. If she had to choose a single ship to love it would of course be the Millenium Falcon. Though, given her tendency to favor the dark side of the Force, standing on the bridge of The Dreadnought orbiting Takodana with her red lightsaber in hand would be a close second.

For Michelle Rancho Obi-Wan is like family. She states she has never been part of a group or belonged to a group where the people have meant so much to her. Her experience with Rancho Obi-Wan is that it continues to be a place where people love and accept each other while sharing in the rich history of Star Wars. That acceptance and sense of community, along with its mission, is something that continues to inspire Michelle in her work at Rancho Obi-Wan.
 

Marc Morita interviewed by Michele Norgan

As one of the newest docents at Rancho Obi-Wan, Marc Morita says he can still feel a bit like “the new kid at school.” But, with the helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable group that makes these tours possible, he’s in good hands and says he wishes he’d taken the plunge to become a docent earlier.

Michelle: How did you get into Star Wars?
Marc: I was born in Lucas Valley in 1974, just a 10 minute drive from the gates of Skywalker Ranch, so Star Wars pretty much surrounded everything. Honestly, at first it was more about Kenner toys and friendships for me than the actual movie.

Michelle: How did you first discover Rancho Obi-Wan?
Marc: I read about Rancho online in 2015, and I contacted Anne to see if they would be willing to donate a tour for my school’s garden program. I had “The Vault” and the “Star Wars Encyclopedia”, so I was really excited that I might get the chance to meet Steve. At the auction, a friend and I bid together and won the tour of Rancho Obi-Wan.

Michelle: Are you a collector?
Marc: Yes. I still have most of my old vintage loose action figures, and I started collecting again in college, but LEGO has turned into the primary focus. My sister purchased the UCS Yoda during a visit to Chicago, and my collection continually grows. I’m now building multi-colored versions of Imperial vehicles. There’s one at Rancho.

Michelle: What’s your mild mannered alter ego?
Marc: I’m a teacher at Cobb Mountain Elementary School.

Michelle: What was your weirdest volunteer experience at Rancho?
Marc: I think it was probably setting up for the Gala this year. There was a Bobcat, driven by ROW carpenter Carl Wagner, and after piling scraps of wood and other big boxes, we just stopped and watched as the Bobcat just destroyed everything to smithereens.

Michelle: Favorite part of being a docent?
Marc: That’s a tough one. I guess I love getting to see the visitors during certain reveals on the tour. You see grown women and men transform into 8-year-olds. The museum brings people back to their childhood, and that’s really special. But really, it’s the people who keep Rancho going. Steve, Anne, Bob, Stew, Lucas, all the docents and volunteers, really make me want to come back every time.
 

Lucas Seastrom interviewed by David Buckley

David: What is your first Star Wars memory?
Lucas: Being that I was born after the saga’s debut, I can happily say that my first memory is of Star Wars (and the Indiana Jones films). My father had the VHS copies and would play them regularly. So for me, Star Wars was as familiar as anything in life from the very start.

David: What is your most treasured Star Wars possession?
Lucas: The first Star Wars item I ever had. It’s a simple plastic door sign that was in my bedroom from the time I first came home from the hospital. It reads: “Luke Skywalker – Commander, Rebel Alliance.” It embodies a lot of what I value in the saga, the personal sentiment matched with imaginative potential.

David: How did you become a member of the Rancho family?
Lucas: Just like anyone else can. I signed up and took a tour! I had known about Rancho Obi-Wan for many years and couldn’t have been more excited when they announced that they were “going public.” After my first tour, I asked Anne if I could help out in any way and that’s how it all started.

David: Why is a “Lucas tour” different from anyone else’s?
Lucas: I like to think that each docent brings their own unique perspective on the collection, the story, and Star Wars itself. I try to focus on anecdotes and items that mean the most to me and communicate what I see as the core values of the Star Wars mythology. What’s great is that there isn’t one way to do this, so everyone has something valuable to bring. And of course, I try to keep jokes unique too!

David: What is your favorite item or story from within Rancho?
Lucas: With half a million items in the collection, I’m not sure if I could boil it down to one piece! As a fan, one of my favorite items is a beautiful black and white photographic portrait of Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn, my favorite character in the saga. But in terms of significance, a special item for me is a hand-painted Lucasfilm sign from the Marin County Fair. This was from the early years when the company hosted a small exhibition at the local fair. The Lucasfilm buckle is an intricate design and I’m sure it was rather painstaking to pull it off by hand! For me it symbolizes the familial, down-to-earth nature of Lucasfilm and Star Wars, which has so much to do with what has made it special.

David: Who would you love to give a tour to?
Lucas: This will sound overtly diplomatic, but honestly I would love to give a tour to anyone with a sincere interest in our museum. I often love the guests who are not die-hard fans as much as those who make their “pilgrimages” like I did. Just like each docent brings their own perspective, the guests do as well, and my most rewarding tours are those in which I can engage with friendly people. I always end up learning new things too!

David: What is your favorite “tour” story so far?
Lucas: I love the anecdotes that involve Steve being curious, inquisitive, and carefully observant. A “why not” attitude can go a long way when you’re a collector. I think of something like when he wandered out into the grassy field at Leavesden Studios and hastily stuffed the wet, rubbery “last remains” of Qui-Gon Jinn into his pockets. Never pass up a good opportunity like that! The story itself is just as valuable as the item.

David: What items have you contributed to Rancho and why?
Lucas: My favorite item that I’ve donated to the collection was the first thing I ever gave Steve on my first visit. It’s a small stone from Big Rock Ridge, which is the high point in the hills above Skywalker Ranch. I’ve hiked the trails there since my days in high school. When I wondered just what in the world Steve might not have, I figured he might be missing a little rock from the Skywalker backcountry.

David: What do you foresee for Rancho in ten or twenty years?
Lucas: The more people we can inspire by welcoming through the front door, the better! In particular, I’m hopeful to welcome more young people to Rancho. Star Wars has so much to teach with, both within the galactic mythology itself and the lessons of how that mythology has been created. I hope that Rancho Obi-Wan can continue to be a place where visitors and volunteers alike can find meaning, inspiration, and encouragement to keep chasing their dreams. That’s what it has been for me.
 

Michael Wistock interviewed by George Fiedziuszko
“We’re losing our deflector shield! Go strap yourself in, I’m going to make the jump to light speed.” – Han Solo

Strap yourself in for excitement and prepare to be whisked to that galaxy far, far away when Michael is your tour guide at Rancho Obi-Wan!

Michael first saw the original Star Wars (his favorite Star Wars film, also known as A New Hope and Episode IV) twice on the same day roughly a week after it had opened in San Diego. With the intensity of a Death Star tractor beam, Star Wars pulled him into a brand new universe and helped shape the man he is today. In addition to being a fantastic tour docent, Michael is a proud member of the Board of Directors at Rancho Obi-Wan and was fortunate to be present during the creation of Rancho Obi-Wan.

He completely identifies with his favorite character, Han Solo, and you might have seen him in his Han Solo outfit during one of the San Diego Comic-Cons. Nowadays you may be lucky enough to hear a Han Solo quote or see Michael’s roguish smile if you play your Sabacc cards right during one of his tours. He’s currently applying to join the 501ST Legion costuming organization waiting for approval on his TK Stormtrooper armor (Will we witness a forthcoming Han Solo in Stormtrooper disguise costume?)(Editor update: Michael is now a member of the 501st Legion!)

TIP: Don’t even think about mentioning Greedo when asking him “Who shot first?”

He’s had the pleasure of calling Steve Sansweet a close friend for over 20 years and credits him for the opportunity to meet his wife. Luckily, he didn’t have to experience any carbon freezing in the process. His family and friends are very accepting and understanding when it comes to his passion for Star Wars and Rancho Obi-Wan. “It’s his love and obsession with Howard the Duck that is far more concerning.”

If you’re interested in learning about the Star Wars movie posters or about all formats of the Star Wars films and music, and, perhaps a certain Mos Eisley Cantina door, Michael is your go-to guy. Fun Fact: Michael knows how to make Wookiee cookies and has made them at Rancho Obi-Wan.

When asked what he most enjoys about being a tour docent at Rancho Obi-Wan, Michael says:

“Meeting new people, making new friends and most importantly sharing in the joy and passion created by Star Wars through the experience that touring Rancho Obi-Wan brings. I love bringing family and friends even closer together during a tour. Sometimes people are there in support of a loved one or friend who is a big Star Wars fan and I enjoy the challenge of creating a memorable experience through the museum tour for all of them. Secretly it becomes a Star Wars / Rancho Obi-Wan moment for even the most casual Star Wars fan!”

“Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen a more incredible collection of Star Wars items than at Rancho Obi-wan. Come on a tour with me and I will share stories about it with you!” – Michael Wistock

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