The Hollywood Bullrun

07-23-05

 

The 2005 San Diego Comic Con had been an amazing adventure. I had truly made a new friend in Alex who was my Robin for our costumed days there. I couldn’t wait to work with him again, but he lived in Michigan and that would certainly make any future outings costly and rare. The pace of the convention trip left me feeling like I needed a vacation or at least a few days to relax and recoup. Still, I had a day job to get back into first thing Monday morning. I had plenty of catching up to do at work and sharing some of my adventure stories with more Batman oriented members of the crew. Outside of work, I also had quite a bit of video footage from the SDCC show to edit. No, it looked like there was going to be very little rest for me even if I wasn’t wearing a Bat-suit this week. I guess I was just going to look forward to having a quiet weekend at the end of Friday. Geez, I was already tired just thinking of it.

Fate doesn’t work that way and it would be silly to think that it ever did. Tuesday afternoon, I was working with my warehouse crew on checking the outgoing UPS list. Right in the middle of it, I hear the page over the intercom that I had a call on line two. I picked up the phone and heard the familiar voice of my favorite King of the Customizers, George Barris.

He went right into the pitch, “Scott, we have a gig this weekend for the start of the Bullrun. The Batmobile is going to be at the front of the starting line and they are going to have Hollywood Boulevard roped off…Chinese Theatre…Roosevelt Hotel…bring Batgirl” Eventually, I was comprehending every other word, because my head was telling me that there would be no rest for the caped crusader this weekend and I tried to think instantly if everything could be arranged to make it happen. Finally, he asked,” So, do you think you can do it?”

My answer was an obvious, “Yes.” I tried to confirm the times and some kind of arrangement for costume changes and such. He told me that Kathy would send me the itinerary in the next couple of days. Everything else seemed to be pretty clear.

As soon as I hanged up the phone, I called Vickie at work to tell her the news. She seemed as surprised and slightly overwhelmed as I had been to the sudden upcoming gig. After I got off the phone with her I thought that would have been nice if Alex was still around to be at this event. Then it occurred to me that he hadn’t left California yet. I called him on his cell phone and asked him if it was possible to extend his flight out. He said that he’d look into it..

Wow, we were going to do an appearance at the Bullrun. Cool! What was the Bullrun? I had no idea. So like anybody else who doesn’t know about something, I looked it up the internet. It’s an eight day rally of about sixty very expensive cars and a handful of celebrities trying to emulate the race from the “Cannonball Run” movies. It is covered by Bravo television and beyond that I had no idea. But their website could be found at www.bullrun.com.

Fast forward to Saturday morning at about 5:30 am, Vickie and I were packed up with our costumes and headed out on the road to Studio City. We had to pick up Alex, who had managed to extend his flight and was spending the weekend at Wally’s, and then go to meet George at his shop by 7:00. The plan was to suit up there and then follow them out to the Roosevelt Hotel where the Batmobile would be out on display and much of the media coverage was to take place before the rollout. I assumed this would be the main part of our gig.

I had never been to George’s shop before but was quite amazed when he let us in and opened up one of the back rooms for us to change. He opened up his adjoining office so that Vickie could have a bit more privacy. Not that I would have mind, but we did have our boy wonder in tow. The main thing that struck me was the sheer number of models, toys, statues, figures, games, artwork and everything that had to do with George’s legacy that covered the shelves and walls. Munsters, Dukes of Hazard and the like were everywhere. But none were as prominent as the Batmobile. It was the single most reproduced item on display in his office. To have that kind of a collection would have been something else. The man was clearly a fan and very proud of his work, as he should have been.

Right after we got ready, George’s crewman, Tony came in and brought the Batmobile out from the garage to dust off and wait for the tow truck to take it to the show. This wasn’t the number one car that I had seen at the Petersen Automotive Museum, but the one referred to by many as the “Return to the Batcave” Batmobile. This was the last Batmobile ever made by the famous builder, Bob Butts. It really was a nice car, and this is the one that they use as a show car now since the original has gotten pretty beat up over the years.

George and I looked through some pictures taken at the auction gig that I did with him back in May while Vickie took the opportunity to take some pictures of Alex with the Batmobile. I eventually joined them and she took some great shots of the two of us with the car. Alex kept staring at the car and soaking in the details of it. I think this was the first one he had ever seen. Well, at least while in costume. This was going to be a fun day.

Batgirl and Robin got into our Saturn while I left my cape, cowl, gloves and belt off in order to drive. We waited for the tow truck to pull out of the back of George’s shop so that we could follow it to the show. The truck pulled out and we were right behind it the whole way. It was funny to see the many heads turn along the sidewalks and in other cars as the flatbed carried the Batmobile. We saw some driver’s pull out their cell phone cameras to take a picture while driving. I wasn’t much different, taking pictures with my digital camera along the way.

The journey wasn’t far and we arrived intact at the Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard. People automatically reacted to the Batmobile and suddenly us as we appeared shortly after it was parked. A short media blitz occurred and then Tony and George suggested that we go into the hotel for some breakfast. We were joined by one of George’s staff photographers as well as a fellow shooting video. I had packed my camcorder, but didn’t really have anybody to shoot footage for us, so I was just going to have to hope that Bravo or possibly George’s guy could get some good footage for the future. The waitress came by and took everybody’s order. I opted for just a glass of orange juice and water. Batgirl and Robin declined a full meal as well but definitely got some fluids. It was going to be a scorcher outside. The earlier part of the week had already seen triple digits and it didn’t seem to be letting up.

Back outside, the weather was already brutal. The photo ops started to happen instantly, and various video cameras seemed to be rolling. Robin was in perfect form as was Batgirl, but this was different kind of experience for Alex than Comic Con. He was now acting as an official representative of George Barris Kustoms while standing next to a Batmobile. This was my first true Batmobile gig and only my second official George Barris outing, but it was a big kick to see Alex go through the experience.

The sun continued to beat down on us. There was a small shaded area near the Batmobile, and we would take short little breaks there between photos. By this time a muscled guy in a white tank top came up to us and introduced himself as “Radio” Bob. He was there to help out George and assist us. He asked us what we needed and he’d take care of it. We asked for water, we got it. I asked for him to take some pictures with my camera, we got it. But don’t get me wrong, this guy was no pushover. He took care of us with an Italian tough love. Either we followed his instructions to take care of ourselves or he’d have to rough us up.

The promotional part of this rally included making the cars look like they were race cars, complete with decals of the sponsors all over the vehicles. The decals were non stick temporary ones and wouldn’t cause damage to the paint so George and Tony started to cover the Batmobile accordingly. Hotwheels was a key sponsor, so they were shown very prominently on the fender of the car. We had to make sure not to block the logos when standing for “official” pictures. It didn’t matter when fans and kids were involved and there were plenty to go around.

George had Robin and I stand up in the car parade style for some of the photos. They were starting to rollout the cars out onto Hollywood Boulevard for the start of the rally. We were to be the last to go out, but were to be at the front of the starting line. I assumed that our part of the gig was pretty much over. I figured the three of us would probably be by the sidelines since we clearly weren’t going to drive it out. Tony is the only person covered by the insurance to drive the Batmobile and it was George who was supposed to be in the passenger side at the start off.

But as the Batmobile was getting called to rollout, George stood up in the passenger seat and had Batgirl and Robin get in the car around him. He then told me to get on the driver’s side and stand next to Tony. That was going to be a bit of a trick since Tony was a big guy and I couldn’t put my leg completely behind the drive’s seat and we couldn’t close the door all the way since my other foot was planted on the running board. I would simply have to keep one hand on the door to keep it from flying all of the way open and my other hand holding onto…well, I’d have to find something. But we were going to go out into the streets parade style in the Batmobile. What an unexpected surprise!

As we pulled out of the back parking lot of the Roosevelt Hotel, the nose of the Batmobile scraped the pavement and almost threw me over the windshield. That would have been a disaster, but I held onto the back bubbled glass well enough. We got over the hump and made a smooth drive to the pavement of the side street adjoining Hollywood Boulevard. People instantly dropped their jaws and started taking pictures. Some started to already flock to side of the car while we were moving to get to the main street. We pulled onto Hollywood, and I couldn’t believe my eyes what we entered into. Flocks of people, a huge sound system blaring music, and a huge media truck with cameras perched on top. We were positioned right in front of the famous Mann’s Chinese Theatre.

We maneuvered around to back up into position and then the car was surrounded by people. These weren’t car enthusiast or comic convention goers. Most of these people on the street didn’t even know what the Bullrun was. They were average Joe America, families spending their summer vacation out in Hollywood and they KNEW Batman and the Batmobile when they saw it. They went nuts. Even people from China and Italy came up to the car for a picture with us. Press and populace alike were clamoring for pictures. I knew where they were from because they would tell me.

This went on for a while. George and Tony eventually got out of the car and left us with the Batmobile and the people. COOL!! Folks were trying to get to pose with Batgirl and Robin from one side of the vehicle while others were getting pictures with me. Even still, I tried to interact with the people that came over to my side. Many times, they didn’t speak English, but the happy faces and joy I saw told the story plenty.

During this time, some of the street characters that often populate in front of the Chinese Theatre started to appear. When I say street characters, these are people dressed in various costumes ranging from Superman, Darth Vader to Big Bird and pose with tourists for tips. It provides some color to the boulevard landscape and gives tourists a bit of the Disneyland effect. I happened to like what they did in general but some of them could come across too aggressive. One lady came up in a Catwoman style outfit and had a bit of an Eartha Kitt look to her. But after she came up to the Batmobile and stood in front of it she said to the various photographers, “you have to PAY me for my picture.” People ignored her pretty much but she kept saying it after a while. She eventually came next to my door while I was still standing and I heard her say it again to someone. I leaned down and whispered (still as Adam),” Excuse me, Catwoooman. But you’re standing in front of the subject they want pictures of and we’re not charging, unless of course you want us to charge you for using the Batmobile as a prop. Please stop.” She seemed to quiet down for a bit, but then Radio Bob, who was never far away, heard her say it again and he went up to her and told her in a not so delicate way to …well, I can’t repeat that sort of thing on a family sight. Let’s just say, she never brought it up again.

Eventually, we had Superman, Darth Vader and all sorts of characters coming around, but none of them showed the tacky exhibition that the Catwoman did. Superman was clearly a fan and I had met him at the Comic Con the week before. His name was Chris and he was a professional Christopher Reeve look alike. He didn’t seem to remember me from San Diego though we had our pictures taken together. But while we were standing with the Batmobile he turned to me and asked quite honestly,” So will he let you keep the suit after this?’ I guess he figured that George provided the suit. It turned out that most of the street characters thought I was a professional actor pulled in for the appearance. When I told him that the suits were our own and that we were just fans, his expression was priceless. We were truly very lucky fans.

The heat was just starting to get the better of us when it was time for the cars to start out. The Batmobile wasn’t really going to go on the eight day rally across country, but merely a fun piece to include in the program. But we needed to get out of the vehicle while George and Tony climbed into the car, George stood up in the passenger seat and told us to flank the car as it processed down the street and then let it turn off on its own. Radio Bob came up to me and asked what was going down, because he was insisting that we get out of the sun ASAP. I told him that we would shortly.

The flag girl waved the starting flag and we were off keeping a brisk walk next to the Batmobile as it made its final parade down the stretch with George standing victoriously on the passenger seat and then turned off to the Roosevelt Hotel. I motioned Robin and Batgirl to quickly run across the street with me so we could clear the way for the rest of the vehicles.

Radio Bob instantly met up with us and pushed water bottles at us. He insisted that I undo my cape and cowl, but I told him that I wouldn’t in front of the public that we would make our way back to our car in the parking structure. He told me that he wasn’t leaving our side until our little “hinnies” were in that car and driving off. We slowly made our way to the parking structure, but always took time to pose for pictures with the people. Radio Bob saw me take the time to run back to a kid that thought he had missed me and was sitting in a stroller looking dejected. I went up to the child and mother and she asked if they could still get a picture with us and if it was not too late. I told her we always had time. I shook the little boy’s hand and he smiled from ear to ear. I got Robin and Batgirl to join me and we posed for a few more people as well. Radio Bob, said that sight made his day when he saw me take the time for the kid. I told him that I would always try to make time for kids and adults alike.

We got into the car and said our goodbyes to Radio Bob, for the moment. I was sure we would meet again. But our adventure was not over, yet. We were going to go down the road to Bronson Cave! One HAS to do this sort of thing when they’re this close to it and in a suit.

We took our time sitting in the wonderful air conditioned car as we drove to the park. Even after we got there, we stayed in the car a while to cool down before taking on the trail to the cave in the afternoon heat. Vickie figured that Batgirl had very little to do with the exterior of the Batcave and figured she would take the pictures and video. She peeled out of the Batgirl bodysuit with little risk of being exposed since she had a black bodysuit underneath. She did a quick change into a sundress behind a trusty tree and she was good to go. Meanwhile, Batman and Robin sat in the cool comfort of the air conditioned car.

It was time to get busy, so we made our way up the hillside trail to the cave. Alex had been to the cave site before but never in costume. As soon as we made it to the cave, we walked in to get in the shade. As we began to take pictures, we would step out, take a few shots and then say, “Cave break!” and go back into cave to get out the heat. We got some good shots and did a little improv bit for the video camera.

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Vickie was hoping to get a shot of me falling down the steep grade.

Instead, this is one of my favorite shots

The trip back down the trail almost seemed longer than the trip up. It must have been the heat. But we made it back to car and everybody yelled, “AIR CONDITION!” We were done with costumes for the day. But we did tell George that we would stop back at his shop to change back into our street clothes. A quick stop through a Tommy Burgers for some refreshments and we were back on our way to George’s shop.

We arrived back and George was there with his photographer and crew checking out the various pictures on a laptop slideshow. Alex and I changed back into our street clothes and checked out the slideshow ourselves. Everybody looked a bit beaten by the heat, including George. Man, it was a rough day to do this sort of thing. But we were all glad that we pulled it together. I asked George if I could buy an 8×10 for him to sign for Alex before Alex went back to Michigan. George said, “Sure…uh, which one?” I said anyone with him and the Batmobile would be great. He then told me that there was a stack of them behind the passenger seat of the Batmobile. I didn’t see the Batmobile outside and he said it was in the garage, so I found the door to go in the garage and the first thing I came across was the Munster Coach. Next thing I saw was the Monkee-mobile. I was teleported back to my childhood at the site of these vehicles and of course here they were with a Batmobile. That was too cool.

I found the stack of pictures and brought them back to George. He signed it, “To Alex, Thanks for being my Robin with my Batmobile, George Barris.” He never did try to collect a dime from me for that though I had offered.

Conversations took place between the group of us and even Radio Bob joined us in the festivities. Radio Bob wanted Alex, Vickie and I to make another appearance the following weekend, but I told him that I really couldn’t because I would be filling in for somebody at my work and Alex HAD to get back to Michigan. But we had his card, so you never know.

So until next time…

Click on thumbnails below for full picture

 

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