Intergalactic Booty Hunter David James
Photo by John Gilhooley
Is that an EE-3 carbine rifle in his pocket, or is Boba Phat just happy to see you? The self-proclaimed "intergalactic booty hunter," also known as ODB or Ol' Dirty Boba, has been making waves at Star Wars and comic conventions since 2007. The cosplay character combines a Boba Fett bucket helmet with a terrible blue-polyester leisure suit, dollar-store bling and ballin' attitude.
Beneath the helmet is David James, owner of Factory Records in Costa Mesa, who has long, curly hair and multiple tongue piercings. He's known for his sarcastic wit, encyclopedic music knowledge and his former record store Noise Noise Noise (also in Costa Mesa).
The legend of the character began a decade prior to his debut at Star Wars Celebration (a traveling convention of epic proportions dedicated to the franchise) after a fateful ride on Star Tours at Disneyland and the inevitable walk through the gift shop. There it was: the $100 Boba Fett helmet. James, a lifelong Star Wars fan who saw A New Hope when it came out in 1977 at Fountain Valley's old drive-in theater, had to have it. The helmet sat on a shelf at Noise Noise Noise next to all his "other Star Wars junk" until the day James received an invitation to a Volcom Entertainment party at the old Kona Lanes bowling alley across the street from his shop.
"I said, 'Ah, shit. What am I gonna wear?' So I start lookin' around," James recalls. "I had the helmet . . . and then I had just some cheesy polyester suit in the office for some reason. And I was like, 'That'll work.' I kinda just started doing it, but with different clothing as a Halloween costume or whatever."
The now-iconic blue suit worn by Boba Phat came along in the late '90s. "I got it for a buddy's wedding," he explains. "I hate wearing suits, and he was like, 'You gotta wear a suit; you gotta wear a suit.' I was like, 'Oh, God.' So I went to find the ugliest suit I could at the Arc Thrift Store in Long Beach. I got it for $15.99, $17.99, something like that, and that thing's worth a million bucks now."
Boba Phat lived on through Halloween costumes over the years, until 2007, when the Star Wars Celebration came to Los Angeles. He went with a friend the first day as a spectator. "I'm looking at all the people in costumes, and I start thinking, 'I should totally wear my Boba Phat costume here tomorrow.' I told my buddy we should wear costumes tomorrow, and he was like, 'No, no.' So I was like, 'Okay.' But I went home, and I kept obsessing over it. I had to do this."
So he went for it. Wearing his tacky leisure suit while driving to LA, bucket helmet next to him, he pulled into the parking lot, where he began to doubt his decision. "What am I doing? This is the stupidest thing ever," he recalls saying to himself. "What am I thinking? What's going on with my head? I'm going to do it anyway."
James purchased his ticket and stepped inside. "Two seconds after walking in, this hot Slave Leia comes up and tells me, 'I want a picture with you!' and I knew I did the right thing." It was light speed to Endor from there. The character was a smash. YouTube has dozens of videos of "Drunk Boba Fett" stumbling and bumbling his way through various nerd-cons across the galaxy. Here's hoping Boba Phat lives on longer than the character who inspired him--and that he stays away from any Sarlacc pits.
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