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Vikings know a good deal on bottled drinks when they see it. Tony Swatton and the Norse Hollywood horde at the grocery store.
Whether it's Swedish meatballs at IKEA or a lecture at the Griffith Observatory, the Norse Hollywood Dining Vikings leave a trail of bewildered looks and clean dinner plates in their wake.
Members of the horde dress as vikings and valkyries, then go out to eat, attend public events, grocery shop or stage a weekend raid on San Francisco. On Friday, seven members of the Dining Vikings dressed in viking garb and departed Bob Hope Airport for the Bay area invasion.
"TSA was great out of Burbank Airport," said Tony Swatton, a Burbank blacksmith and founding member of the group. "We had to check our shields, and we knew the swords would be problematic."
Another travel tip: viking helmet horns are sharp and do not stow neatly in the overhead compartment.
Swatton knew what to expect at the airport. He called ahead before the group's first flight a few months ago to ask the airline representative, "Hypothetically, if I brought a horde of vikings along, what would happen?"
The flight turned out to be the easy part. As for the ride of the valkyries around San Francisco, it did not happen in a taxi.
"Trying to get a taxi as a horde of vikings, it doesn't work so well," Swatton said.
They still raided Fisherman's Wharf and other tourist spots. They even made friends on a bus.
Norse Hollywood's Dining Vikings: The Stuff of Legend
Swatton is a master blacksmith who makes items like swords, shields and other weapons and armor for films at his Burbank shop, Sword and Stone. His shop created the weapons and other items in the Capitol One viking ads.
The Norse Hollywood Dining Vikings started about a year ago when Swatton and his friends at Sword and Stone were deciding what to wear for a night out.
"We had our viking stuff lying around and decided to wear it out," Swatton said.
The horde's first raid was at the Griffith Park Observatory for the gala opening of the Northern Lights exhibit. According to Norse legend, valkyries create the flickering light as they ride across the sky.
According to security at the Observatory, swords and other weapons should be left in a box at the entrance and retrieved after the event.
And, no trip to Griffith Park is complete without a ride on the carousel.
They've also feasted on Swedish meatballs at IKEA, chicken and waffles at Roscoe's, and hot dogs at Pink's. Canter's Deli is on the schedule this month.
"The initial premise was that we'd be restaurant critics," Swatton said.
Maybe some day, but for now they're content with gorging, touring LA landmarks and playing football against pirates. On Super Bowl Sunday, the Dining Vikings took on the Sparrow Warriors -- inspired by Captain Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Carribean" -- at a Chinatown football field.
The vikings, with their goat mascot looking on from the sidelines, lost 28-0. Uff da.
Most of the items at Sword and Stone are for film projects, but Swatton opens the shop to the public on Saturdays. The shop on Victory Boulevard opened about 20 years ago. Swatton started out as a gem cutter.
"Then, I got more into swords and armor for film projects, now that's my main business," he said.
The group is open the anyone -- vikings and valkeryies. Anyone who does not have a collection of meticulously crafted arms and armor modeled after designs from the year 900 can rent items from Swatton's shop.