Gilbert resident Jen LaFortune is an attorney by day, but on nights and weekends, she's Commanding Officer of the Dune Sea Garrison (DSG) -- the Phoenix branch of the 501st stormtrooper costuming group.
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She's also a member of the Imperial Service Organization (ISO), the '40s pin-up girl themed club that's hosting a charity mixer on Friday from 10 p.m. to midnight at Phoenix Comicon (admission to the mixer costs $25).
LaFortune's husband and children dress up in Star Wars gear, too, but the ISO gives her the opportunity to get "girl time" with other female costuming fans. "The group gives us an excuse to get together, be smoking hot fan girls, and raise money for charity while we do it," LaFortune says.
"A lot of the wives of the stormtrooper guys don't dress up in the stormtrooper costumes. A lot of them aren't into wearing armor. This gives them the chance to do something fun, and be comfortable."
LaFortune's also attending Saturday night's "Geek Prom" at the Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Phoenix with the DSG.
As always, LaFortune's looking forward to suiting up in Stormtrooper armor with the other 68 active DSG members, even if there is the occasional costuming club drama. "Guys who like to get out and run around while wearing a bunch of white plastic can be pretty dramatic when dealing with them personally," LaFortune says with a laugh. "We fight like any family. I have to mother them. But we have a beer and work it out. We try to be professional and get along."
To foster friendships among DSG and ISO members, LaFortune and her husband host barbecues at their home. Their house, she says, looks like a Star Wars museum.
"My husband is a huge fan and collects all the stuff. He's filled up one of our closets with action figures," LaFortune says. "There's an endless array of collectible stuff -- our kids', too. My 7-year-old son has to have every stormtrooper ever. I'll be trying to navigate through the living room, and he's got tactical layouts and everything spread across the floor."
LaFortune says DSG kids traditionally pass down outgrown costumes to smaller kids. "We have a herd of Jawas [rodent-like creatures from Star Wars] wherever we go," she says. "We all bring our kids to Comicon, and they can hang out when the adults are running around doing their thing. Last year, they wore their costumes and did stormtrooper training on the lawn for other kids."
In addition to the mixer and Geek Prom at Phoenix Comicon, the DSG and ISO stay busy with local charities year-round, and the LaFortunes also travel for events like the Star Wars Celebration convention. For LaFortune, Phoenix Comicon offers one more way to celebrate Star Wars creator George Lucas' franchise. "He has things going on all the time," she says. "Uncle George is a mad genius."