The Hollywood Collector’s Show was once again the host of a few Bat people. This is the same show that had made it possible for me to meet Adam West and Frank Gorshin in 2004. This time around, it was to go see Burt Ward and Lee Meriwether.
I don’t know what it is about the weather in California. One can go through months of dry spells, but when it comes to attending the Collector’s Show, it always seems to be coming down with rain. It would figure that it was forecasted to do that very thing on a day I was planning to attend the event in my Bat-suit for the first time. There was much of a personal debate as to whether or not to be in the suit when meeting Burt Ward. I’m sure Adam and Burt have had more than their share Batman and Robin wannabes over the years just like William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy have faced fleets of uniformed ‘Trekkies” even more so. Still, how often was I ever going to get the opportunity to dress up as Batman and get to stand next to THE ROBIN?
After making such a decision to go ahead and show up in costume, one still has to work out the logistics of just how to do so. I couldn’t drive out there in full costume with cape and cowl on. The peripheral vision issues with the cowl alone would be enough to warrant not doing so while sitting on the cape would make it a crumpled mess. The utility belt wasn’t exactly designed for easy sitting either. I didn’t think I was going to be able to find a place to change at the venue, so I was forced to drive the car while in the rest of my suit. If only the other motorists realized what I looked like inside my car.
One of my best friends, JoJo, got a good giggle out of it as he rode in the passenger seat. My dear wife, Vickie was unable to attend as she was busy herself that day. After showing up a few events over the past year as Batman, I’ve realized that it’s best to have somebody with you as an assistant. Especially if you want pictures taken or to simply have another pair of eyes to warn you that you’re about to step on a kid or something. JoJo is a huge comic book fan and has attended conventions and such with me over the years but this was the first time he has ever seen me don the Bat-suit in person. He kept staring at the balding Bruce Wayne behind the wheel that was dressed in grey tights with shiny blue trunks and big blue boots. It was over seventy miles away, and the air conditioner was kicked up to try to prevent any underarm bat-stains. Batman isn’t supposed to sweat.
We arrived and thank heavens the skies were only overcast but not raining. I managed to put my cowl on before getting out of the car. I never want kids to see me as Batman without the cowl because I don’t want to spoil the illusion. It’s okay if passersby see me putting on my cape, gloves and utility belt but my identity at that point should be kept secret. At least, that’s my warped point of view about it.
As we approached the venue, I told JoJo that this was going to be unlike many comic shows in the fact that I was probably going to be the only attendee in costume and would seem more out of place in this sort of surrounding. We paid our way in like any good citizen and I removed my glove for the ticket salesman to place a yellow wrist band that they use for a pass to get in. I showed one of the security people my yellow band and then put the glove back over it. I was in.
I didn’t have to look hard to find Burt Ward’s table since it was the very first and dead center table as you came in. There was already a respectable line of enthusiasts with their various Bat-pictures and the like waiting for a chance to meet Burt and get some stuff signed. Burt had a nice spread of pictures in front of him for signing as well. It was pretty clear who were the true blue fans and who were the eBayers just trying to make a profit off of his signature. One guys had a kid’s wagon full of stuff that was clearly not for his own collection, because it was multiples of the same items to be signed. Burt didn’t seem to “bat” an eye over such things as people simply paid the flat fee for anything he signed whether it was a picture you bought from him that he would sign for the single price or a poster that you brought in yourself. I thought that was more than reasonable.
Needless to say, I began to attract attention the moment I stepped into the line. One person came up to me and asked if this was the line for Burt, and I replied in character (as always),”Yes, we ALL have to get in line and wait our turn just like good citizens.” It got a major laugh from all in ear shot. The line moved slowly, which wasn’t a problem since Burt wasn’t rushing people along and took the time to answer questions and talk with those he encountered. This is quite different from some other celebrities that one can encounter. He seemed quite personable with the fans and opportunists alike.
As I stood waiting, a few people came up and asked to get my picture taken with them. This is always a kick and the other people in line were more than willing to save my place in line as I stepped out for the pictures. The people ranged from seven to seventy years old who came by for a photo with Batman. One person who wanted a picture taken was my pal, Wally, who was attending the show with his visiting parents. His mom was there with camera at hand to take a picture of her kid with Batman.
Another gentleman spotted me from a distance and made a beeline towards me. I recognized him right away. It was Batmobile builder, George Barris! He came directy up to me and handed me his card and said, “I need you for a gig coming up in May. Could you please give me a call? It’s at Petersen Automotive Museum.” Since that’s the current home of the original Batmobile from the show, I said that I would be delighted. I asked him if I could get a picture with him. We posed for JoJo who was using my camera and George quickly handed his camera to JoJo and asked for a picture as well. I then handed the card to JoJo for safe keeping. Another gentleman who was accompanying George turned to me before leaving and said, “He’s serious. He really does want you to call him.” I told him I would do so. WOW!!
After being behind a guy who had no less than eleven items for Burt to sign and even tried to HAGGLE for a bulk price (YEESH!) it was finally my turn to meet Burt. He looked me over with a smile and said, “Nice costume. Hi, I’m Burt” and shook my hand. I replied, “I’m Batman. Hello old chum.” He briefly looked a bit puzzled as what to say after that, but simply smiled and I quickly moved on to point out the pictures I wanted to purchase for him to sign for various Bat-fans who could not attend. I picked the most bold and colorful that I could think of. He asked me their names for each and signed accordingly. I told him that I would be back later out of costume to take care of my own personal autograph from him. He said, “I’ll see if I can recognize you.” I said that he’ll be able to recognize JoJo easily enough and it would be pretty obvious.
I asked him if it would be okay for a picture, and he sat up and said, “Sure.” As we got ready for our pose, I thanked him for putting up with us fans in the costumes. He smiled again and said no problem. Next thing I knew, I looked over to where JoJo was standing with the camera ready to go but saw another six or so high end professional looking cameras all round his head pointed our way. After the last flash went off, I shook Burt’s hand and thanked him again as he sat down.
At that point, I felt my costume would probably be more of a distraction from here on out so I decided it was time to put some sweats on over my tights and trade up my tunic for a t-shirt. That’s still a bit of a trick out in a car.
JoJo and I met up with Wally and his parent over at the adjoining restaurant and had some good food, a nice conversation and some non existent service.
Back at the show, I brought in a picture of Burt that I had touched up and restored as well blowed up to a 13×19 print. When I came up to the table, Burt quickly realized that I was the Batman before and smiled. I pulled out the picture and he really looked at it closely stating how nice of a picture it was.
“Do you notice anything about this picture?” He asked. I pointed at the gloves. He went on, “Yeah, those were the cloth gloves. This picture was taken about three months before the show aired and went into full production. These were only in the first one. And look at the mask. This was before I figured out to have it not push my ears out. It made me look like that guy from MAD magazine.”
“Alfred E. Newman?” I replied.
“Yeah, Alfred E. Newman,” he chuckled. He then signed the picture and I gave him another copy that I had printed up to give to them. I took some pictures for him of the booth to send out to his webmaster at www.burtwardlive.com . Burt shook my hand once again and I went on my way over to Lee Meriwether’s adjoining booth.
First, I have to say what an amazingly beautiful and poised lady she still is. She is quite striking in person and everything I would ever expect from a former Miss America. I proceeded to get the “business” part of it quickly out of the way and picked out a picture I wanted to have her sign. I mentioned to her that my wife and I have still had a hard time finding the exact material for Vickie’s Cat-suit. Lee said, “She’s a brave woman. That costume was torture!” I told her how abrasive the materials we had come across prior seemed to be and Lee said that she had even gotten sunburned in it while shooting the scene on top of the submarine for the movie. “The backing of the material just let the sun through and the metal fibers got really hot.” I mentioned that it seemed like that particular shoot from the movie was pretty grueling since one of the stuntmen broke his neck falling into the shallow water of the set headfirst. Her eyes got big like she suddenly remembered that going on and said, “YES!! And that was a back lot where we shot it that they filled with water. Ughh.” After a bit more fun conversation I asked to have my photo taken with her. She smiled and stood up for it.
I placed my huge picture of Burt on the table for the pose and after the picture was taken, she noticed it right away. She commented on how nice of a picture it was and really studied it closely. I told her that I had taken out all of the dust and scratches and cleaned it up. She asked me if I could do the sort of touch up that would remove a few of the wrinkles in Burt’s tights. I told her that I could. She then picked up the picture and took it over to Burt and started to ask him something that I didn’t catch. She came back and said that maybe taking out some of those wrinkles would make it look even smoother. I pointed out the bottom crotch panel of his tights creeping out from under his trunks ( since we were getting into the details on the picture.) She said, “Oh, I didn’t even see that! I don’t have my glasses on! (laughs) That would probably make it nicer too.” We talked a bit more about the picture and such. I told her that it was definitely a pleasure to talk to her and she thanked me for the wonderful chat and meeting me. What an exquisitely classy lady. Rare to find these days.
JoJo and I made our rounds to visit other celebs of interest and fished through the boxes of photos that vendors bring to these shows. Since Burt was attending, there was a boost in pictures to buy of him. A thrill for me and a killing for my wallet. Ahh, the pains of collecting that I delight in.
Thus, as JoJo and I drove off into a cleared, sunny Californian sky, I took the memories of another Batastic chapter with me and add to my growing journal.
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