Where to begin on such a day? I was slated to arrive at the museum and start at 12:00. I arrived at about 11:30 but was unable to find anybody who could tell me where I could change into my Bat-suit. With much wandering, I eventually bumped into the museum director, Dick Messer, who led me upstairs to their offices where I could change and keep my personal items behind. The rest of the people in the office had no idea what was going on, so when I emerged from the bathroom as Batman, heads certainly turned.
The event itself was supposed to be a two day affair. Friday was to be the VIP press conference preview of the items going up for auction from George Barris’ collection as well as a few added in items. Then Saturday would be the day of the auction itself. At first I thought it was going to be held in the museum in the wonderful air conditioning that protected us from the dismal Los Angeles heat we were experiencing. I was wrong. It was going to be held in a new annex that basically a permanent tent with NO AIR! Good gosh, I was committed to eight hours with Barris and I had never been in the suit for more than the four hour sweat fest in San Diego last year.
I arrived to the tent of doom and met the Barris people at the table just inside the door. There, I met up with Kathy who was the lady I had been talking to on the phone in arrangement of the whole escapade. Ever since George approached me while I was waiting in line in costume at a Burt Ward signing a few weeks earlier and said, “I need you for a gig at the Petersen Automotive Museum…Call me,” my days have been one voice mail after another getting the details and agreements together. She seemed to be very impressed with my costume and seemed somewhat stunned when I started talking in what has become known as “the voice.” Us die-hard Adam fans would easily say that I don’t sound a thing like Adam, but it’s the rhythm, delivery and more importantly the things that I say in character that seems to pay off.
I was led to where George was on the floor and he was quite happy to see me. “You made it! Great!” For those of you who have never had the honor of meeting him, let me just say that he is enthusiastic, energized, excited and other words that start with the letter “E” on just about anything. He pointed over to a stage across the way where I saw a Batcycle on it flanked by some Dr. Suess style vehicles. “We’re going to do some press stuff over there in a second so stand by when I call to you.” This was very different from any other outing that I’ve done in the suit. All the other times, I was simply a fan walking through conventions or Halloween parades and walked around as I pleased. Here, I was now a person representing and working for a client and needed to perform on call. Would the press talk to me? What was I suppose to say? What was I NOT to say? At least Adam had a script and a teleprompter.
My fears soon went away. George was sitting on the edge of the stage in front of the cycle and talking to KABC Channel 7 for the local news station. Other press photographers were milling about the rest of the enormous tent and looking at various other cars like “Grease Lightning,” the “Back to the Future” Delorean and the Flintstone’s mobile. George motioned to me to come up and I walked up to the stage to take my position in the driver’s seat of the bike. I walked up the steps and went to the bike that I had only seen in the movie and show and had to look like I owned it and knew it as part of my personal crime fighting arsenal. Heck, I’ve never even rode on a motorcycle in my life. But I quickly thought that Adam would probably swing his leg over while throwing his cape over it as well as if he was Zorro getting on a horse, so I tried to do the same. As soon as I sat and looked up, I was blinded by the twenty or so flashbulbs that all seemed to be going off in rapid fire at once. All the photographers had congregated in front of the stage by the time I had gotten to the bike. Boy, they were quick. George came over and sat down in the Robin side card “go cart” and then the flashes went off all over again.
I kept hearing, “Batman! Look over this way!” To which I couldn’t tell where it was coming from at anytime because their mouths were covered by their professional sized cameras. To which I said, “ I can hear your voice but you’ll probably have to wave, please.’ There was a pause after they heard “the voice,” and the cameras started off again. The reporter for ABC then asked me why I was parting with my Batcycle after all these years to which I said, “Well, my cape seems to keep getting caught in the rear wheel and I don’t think my cowl would pass the current helmet laws.” They chuckled a bit. Then he asked how I liked being in Los Angeles away from Gotham City. I said, ‘It’s such an honor to be in a fine city filled with so many good citizens.” That really got a laugh from the press. You can never go wrong with using ‘good citizens” in your Bat-speak. More photos were taken and then we got off of the bike and stage.
After that the next hour or so became a huge blur of “excuse me…” “can we…” “can you stand here please…’ and “just one more this way.”
Eventually, I noticed that Wally had come through the door. So I found a lull in the initial wave and met up with him. I noticed he was in a pair of faded jeans and blue Adidas sneakers. He was clearly dressed to stand next to the Starsky and Hutch Grand Torino that was being auctioned. I had brought my digital camera and had it stored safely with Barris’ crew and asked Wally if he could take some pics for me as needed and we would see if I could steal away for a moment to take pictures of him at the car outside of the tent. I also asked him if he could please snap in my cape to my back since I couldn’t reach there earlier by myself. He marveled over my new Billy belt and we talked about it for at least five minutes straight. Ah, there’s nothing like a pair of Bat-suit geeks comparing notes.
Shortly thereafter, we came across Jason “RTTBC’s Burt Ward” Marsden. He came right over and we talked a bit. He liked the suit as well.
George came over and suggested that we go over to the stage for another photo op with Jason in the cycle. Another volley of flashes took place and various people were coming and going from the stage for photos with us. Wally managed to take a few pics between my camera, his camera and Jason’s own camera while he was holding his huge Starsky sweater. Whattaguy.
I couldn’t seem to find a moment to really break away to help Wally with getting his picture taken with the Grand Torino, but he did manage to rope Jason to help him out. I was told that Jason even shot some video of Wally around the car as well.
During this time, I was asked by a British film company, Bread and Butter Films, if I would do an interview with them. We went over to the replica Batcycle built by Eric Seltzer and I sat on that one for the footage. A short interview and a couple program plugs and then the next film maker for PBC came over for his turn. His first question was as follows,” So…was Burt Ward the Batman on TV and Adam West the one in the films?” The rest of the interview kind of went downhill from there. I think the guy would be too embarrassed to use it in the end other than the program plugs. But that’s how those things go. He just didn’t know enough of the program or even the character to go anywhere with the interview, but I tried to keep it flowing and avoided to make him or myself look like fools. But the first question really set the pace.
Everybody seemed to be complaining about how hot it was in the tent and then they would see me and go, ‘Oh my, you must be melting.” I probably was, but never really got to take much time to notice it. It was shuffle off here, shuffle off there, stand close by to George’s proximity in case he needed me to step in for a shot, which was fairly often. The only time I think the heat started to sink in was when Wally came over to me to give me my camera back and I tried to show him how the Starsky pictures turned out. I was holding the camera and I noticed how badly my hands were shaking. Wally asked me if I needed a candy bar or something, but I simply asked for some water. I hadn’t had any the entire time up to that point. What an amazing thing in a cool drink of water.
Wally eventually left but was going to return that evening for the VIP party/shindig. No more than fifteen minutes after he left did things slow down for a bit and George and I decided it was fine for me to go for the day an rest up for tomorrow’s event. And then he said, “Do you want to go over to the Batmobile now?” He then looked over his shoulder to his two photographers that had been following and documenting his every move, Lance and Christina. They were two very nice people to work around and with. I told George that would be great without somehow jumping out of my skin in the process. But before we went into the museum, I went back to the place where I stored my camera and a little something I brought with me to show George. It was a copy of Keyboard magazine that featured my “Bat-controller” keyboard that I made based on George’s Batmobile and was featured as “Keyboard of the Month.” I also included two prints of the Keyboard to give him for his archives. He was very impressed and autographed the page in the magazine and had me autograph the pictures that I was giving to him. That was a much cherished moment in itself. Who knew that when I was inspired to build the thing that I would ever get to share my creation with the man who created the Batmobile and that he would like my adaptation as well. WOW!
George and I walked into the museum flanked by the two photographers. We passed by gleaming car after car and turned around corner after corner through the building. My anticipation was kept me wondering what I would see around the next bend until we came to our target, the original Number One Batmobile. It was polished mirror black and its fluorescent red pinstripes were piercing. The security guard instantly recognized George and let him do and go where he wanted. George told him to move the rope barricades away and to clear a nice view of the classic crime fighting vehicle. He instructed Lance and Christina to be sure and get the fenders in the shots.
This man knew the angles that sell this car. We stood near the front of the car for a few pictures but then George went over to the driver’s seat door and opened it up for me and told me to stand behind the door. My eyes were sucked into looking at the interior and the various details of the car and almost zoned out from the people taking our pictures. Unlike the fiberglass replica that I had gotten my picture taken with before almost a year prior, this was all metal and the door felt like a refrigerator that could crush your leg. As I posed for the pictures I tried to keep myself from grinning ear to ear like a kid who just got his favorite toy for Christmas.
George stepped away so I could get some pictures done solo and then came the big one for me. I stepped into the vehicle and behind the driver’s seat. I just tried to soak in the moment. So many things rushed through my head as I held the steering wheel and looked across the gauges and various details in the car. The fact that this all happened from the simple fact that I chose to wear my suit to a Burt Ward signing and George saw me there. The fact that this was the car I watched in all those episodes for so many years and imagined what it would be like to have a costume like that and to have a car like that. To say that it was a childhood dream come true would be putting it mildly. Here I was, a lifelong fan of the show who finally decided to buy a cowl a little over a year ago and it all snowballed into memories and events that will forever be peak moments in my life. I felt truly lucky and grateful to be in the seat of the original Batmobile in full costume and feel like Batman for a day.
The picture taking continued and I was aware that I couldn’t sit in the thing all day as much as I wanted to. But George did let me take my time. To him I am eternally grateful. When I got out of the car, Christina suggested that we should get some pictures next to the 1989 movie Batmobile that was right next to the classic. George kind of looked like, “That one? I guess so.” I kind of felt the same way. Although it is a nice car as well in it’s own right, it never had the mystique and hold on me as the original. It seemed like George felt the same way too. But I knew there would be some who might like to see the “crossover” and we got some shots in as well. I wish some of my friends in their rubber suits could have been there for these shots.
Soon after, George and I discussed the coming schedule for the next day. I told him that it had been a real thrill and honor and that I looked forward to it. He said, “it is pretty fun isn’t it?” That was the understatement of the day.
I tried to find my way back through the building to offices where my street clothes were and finally found an elevator. Of course, I entered the elevator to surprised patrons of the museum. The looks I got were priceless. But it was back into the street clothes and out into the world as Scott Sebring.
I went back down to the tent area and took the time to check out the wide variety of the collection of cars. There was the “Starsky and Hutch” Grand Torino, the “Dukes of Hazard” General Lee, the Delorean from “Back to the Future,” Kitt from “Knightrider” and even a Green Hornet “Black Beauty.” The list just kept going on and on since there were eighty or so cars that were going to be auctioned off.
I checked back at the tent desk with one of Barris’ people, Kelly, to make sure it was okay for my wife and I to attend the evening’s VIP party. I realized that I might not have been on the list since my costume was pretty much my invitation into the event. Of course she was stunned to see me out of costume and didn’t recognize me at all. But my name was added and I went down the street to pick up Vickie who worked in the area and made calls to Wally for the evening’s plans.
The party itself was quite enjoyable and fun. It would be very hard to not have fun when Wally’s around. George was still in full swing and being the ever diligent host and promoter. I hope I have that kind of energy when I get to be his age. He is a true example of age is only a state of mind. I occurred to me as well that George had never seen me out of costume before and wouldn’t recognize me at all. So before we left to go to a restaurant, I went up to George to do the ceremonial shaking of hands as so many people had been doing with him that evening and I told him I was Batman. He was floored and laughed, “GET OUT OF HERE!!??” He pulled me over to get a picture with me as myself. I got him good.
After a fun evening at an Italian eatery with some entertaining Karaoke, it was the long drive home to get a little rest for the Saturday event.
The next day came and I was ready to tackle another day as the caped crusader. I washed up the tights and packed my cape again for the day of the auction. Vickie came along to help out with any costume needs I might have during the event. It’s always good to have somebody near who is familiar with the suit in case capes go askew or belts need extra tightening in the back. It’s especially helpful when getting ready because the cape needs to be snapped in seven places in the back and is quite difficult for some and impossible for others by your self. My left arm was still sore from trying to the day before. I eventually had to ask Wally to snap in the final two snaps when he arrived on Friday.
We arrived at the museum again and with Vickie’s help, I was dressed in record time to fight crime. We met up with the Barris people and checked in. In talking with Christina, she asked me if I would be interested in participating in the upcoming Joyride charity event. I told her I would be interested, so stay tuned…
Since this wasn’t specifically a promotional day but a selling day, the emphasis was on the auction itself. But before the auction took place, George and I made our rounds and mingled and posed for pictures with friends and buyers together. One particular lady whose age was undeterminable but she should have stopped dying her hair red at least twenty years prior was quite “amusing.” She said to me, “Hey Bat-guy! You’ve got cute legs, but do you know what you’re doing wrong? You’re too stiff and proper and polite. You should be flapping your cape and scaring people. You’re BAT-GUY!!”
The layout for the auction was where the tent structure served its true functionality. Sections of the canvas walls would be pulled away to create openings on opposite sides of the stage area. The Batcycle was still on the stage, but vehicles would drive in and stop in front of the stage to the sound of each piece’s appropriate theme song since they were all film and TV cars. The cars would then kill their engine for the auctioneer to announce the car as described in the auction catalog. George would then tell a little more about each vehicle and then the bidding would begin. As each bid was finished the car would then be pushed out the other end on the tent by a crew of five or six guys. Possibly to avoid any engines that wouldn’t turn over again to exit or plumes of exhaust. Then the next theme would ring out and so on…
I stood on the sidelines and watched for any cues from George if he needed me while occasionally taking time for the usual, “Excuse me, but can we… “And “Would you mind if we…” I never minded, of course. But then, one of the auction house’s people came up to me and said, “We’re going to be selling that motorcycle on the stage next. We need you to go up on the stage and sit on it since we can’t bring it down.”
On the cue of the Batman theme, I came running ( more of a jog) from the sidelines and up onto the stage where I once again got on the Batcycle and once again got blinded by the many camera flashes and saw video camera after cel phone camera emerging from the audience. It seemed to go over well.
George came up to my side and shook my hand and we stood by as the bidding commenced. The bike sold for $45,000 to the Petersen Automotive Museum. I was glad to hear that, since it would mean that it got to stay in the same place as the Number One Batmobile. But at that very moment the same fellow came over to whisper in my ear, “the other bike will be getting wheeled to the front of the stage so when the music plays, go sit on that one.” It’s always nice to have direction. As soon as the music came on, I perked up in the seat of the Batcycle and looked side to side as if something was going on and jumped off of the stage to jump on top of the Eric Seltzer Batcycle. Since this one was on the ground in front of the stage. People actually got in front of it to take pictures and video.
With Eric Seltzer’s replica
George proceeded to praise Eric’s fine work on this replica and stated that you would not find one better. It sold for a respectable $20,000. I got off of the bike and waved the men on as it was taken away and then jogged away from the scene.
From that point I felt that my work was truly done. I stuck close by in case I may be needed for something. But a major surprise occurred when William Shatner came up to George in front of the stage to help auction off a motorcycle for one of his charities. The center of the universe in that room completely shifted and the press suddenly crowded around Shatner and Barris by no further than three feet away from their faces. The room went nuts. They managed to get the bike auctioned off and the press proceeded to follow Shatner to the other side of the tent. Nobody could probably tell you what the next three cars were or sold for, because all attention was on this Star Trek legend. I kept a respectable distance, since I didn’t think he wanted to deal with a different set of pointy ears, but within George’s sight just in case he had plans otherwise. But, no photos of him and I were to be and I was fine with that. But it certainly was cool to see him there.
After another hour or so and I had a moment to check in with George while the auction was still going on, we both figured it was probably fine for me to go. But he added, “Don’t forget, there’s that other gig with a Batmobile I wanted to talk to you about.” Stay tuned…
Until next time…Same Bat Time…Same Bat Channel