Niles, Ohio

PT 1

October 16-17, 2008

I experienced yet another adventure that was filled with more firsts. The most significant was that Vickie was able to attend an out of state Batman-gathering. The only conventions she had ever gone to before were the San Diego Comic Cons and some smaller local ones. Whenever it came to flying out to a Bat-gathering of message board members and friends, she stayed behind to take care of our cats. We have some that are in their advanced years and need meds at specific times with varying dosages. This time around we were able to have her father fly in from Texas to take care of them.

We flew into Pittsburgh Thursday afternoon and found our shuttle driver for the “party bus” that was picking up groups of us for the hour plus trip to Niles, Ohio. Vickie and I had our luggage already and we stood at the shuttle pick up area while more attendees gathered. First was Batman artist, Chris Jones who suspected I was going to the show due to my Batman oriented T-shirt. I can be pretty obvious. He and I introduced ourselves and struck up a great conversation.

Meeting Chris Jones

Meanwhile, my friend and sculptor extraordinaire, Rubén Procopio came by and we shortly gathered on the shuttle van. The shuttle was a big surprise with its plush stretch limo style interior. Complete with cushy coach like seats along the sides and mini bar (not stocked for this crowd), the passengers were in for a comfy ride. Last to get on the bus was Peter ‘Chewbacca” Mayhew and his family. During the drive to the hotels, everybody got to know one another and we were treated to seeing some great artwork by Peter’s step daughter, Katie on her laptop. Along the way, I looked out the window at the wonderful fall colors that covered the landscape. One doesn’t get this sort of view in Southern California.

Plenty of leg room

Are we bloody well there yet?

At the Avalon Inn hotel, we checked in to our respective rooms and shortly hooked back up with Rubén for dinner at the adjoining restaurant, The Chop House. Their food was great as well as their staff. We talked about the upcoming event and were later joined by some of the bat message board members who gathered around our table such as John Dodge (Mistahand), Chris (Chazbat), Ivan (Twint9), and Troy (um…Troy). This was the first time the guys had met Vickie although she had heard so much about them and likewise. I saw Julie Newmar come through the door and invited over to the table. She asked if Adam and his agent Fred had arrived at the restaurant yet. I said they hadn’t but were probably going to show up soon. She went and got a table for them. I eventually saw Adam and Fred come in through the door but made their way to the bar seating section of the restaurant. I got up from the table and went over to tell them that Julie was sitting in the other room waiting for them. Fred got up to get her while I exchanged a few words with Adam. I always feel honored in his presence and would have loved to stay but I had friends and dinner waiting back at the other table so I excused myself and went back. As my table continued in great conversation and laughs I could see Yvonne Craig and her sister Meridel enter the place. They waved hello and I pointed them over to the bar so they could join their group. This seemed to set the tone for the upcoming convention. Casual, intimate and very family like. I finally met the promoter and visionary of the convention, Peter Smith who after many ongoing phone calls during the past eight months I had come to regard as a friend. It was great to meet him face to face. He showed me a huge spread for the convention that was featured in the local papers. He was pulling out all stops to try and make this first run convention a success as well as a fun filled experience.

We eventually left the restaurant and much of the group followed Vickie and I back to our room. We continued to chat and trade notes about all sorts of things until it was quite late and we needed to turn in. It was already sizing up to be quite a show.

Friday morning, Vickie and I pulled ourselves out of bed and headed for the complimentary continental breakfast buffet. This quickly became a meet and greet gathering place as much as any other part of the convention experience for many of us at the hotel. There, I would meet some of the board members in the morning and make plans. Alex came in to get some food after arriving to the hotel in the very early morning from his long drive from Michigan with his wife, Monica. After a bit of catching up with one another, he left to take some food back to Monica. Kathy (Irishmiss) eventually joined our table. While we were there I touched base with Yvonne, Meridel, Malachi, Fred and Adam as they came in. Vickie went back to the room while I remained behind and talked at length with Adam and Fred. She was going to swim a couple of laps in the hotel’s indoor pool before starting on her make up and hair for our upcoming costume appearance. I was going to head over to the Expo Center to take a look before suiting up by tagging a ride with Alex and Monica since they brought his car and the convention was being held about two or three miles away. We planned on coming back later when Vickie was closer to being ready.

We arrived at the Expo Center and I saw Peter at the door. Of course he was busy as I figured he would be throughout the show so I picked up Vickie’s pass as well as my own for the weekend. Alex, Monica and I walked around the dealer floor and hooked up with Chazbat and Twint9. I bumped into Adrian (Fanboy) who I had seen at the restaurant the night before for a brief bit. I saw Mauled Vader’s Bat-cycle on display as well as the Batmobile formerly owned by Dennis Steins and currently possession of Jim Hedges. I had done the Barrett-Jackson auction with Jim back in January and soon spotted him as well near the car. I saw a great deal of vendors that seemed to be hand picked for fitting in with this family friendly, Batman, Superman and Star Wars driven show. The vendors catered to all sorts of comic merchandise but I noticed that many were well stocked in the retro Batman vein. Scooter and Tim Meyer were nearby as well with their “Pimp My Batmobile” booth. These guys had an amazing collection of customized pieces that they had put together collectively as well as parts and accessories to take a standard 1:18 Hotwheel Batmobile into a more accurate uber collector’s piece. I was particularly intrigued by the miniature Batman and Robin that were made to sit inside the car. I made a special note to myself to come back later to possibly get a set. In one of the corners of the floor I found Bat-collector and vendor, Mike Karberg who had a most impressive display of vintage Batman and other related superhero items for sale. Although quite a few of the items could be considered out of many average con goers’ spending budget, the rarity and quality of the items were really a treat to see in person.

Cool 1:18th Batman & Robin at Pimp My Batmobile

As I met the Bat-vendors, I invited them to come out to the Bat-party that was taking place later that night in the banquet room of the Chop House. The Adam West banquet was going to be held in the same room earlier for a fee and then after that was done the room was going to be rearranged and opened up to everybody to have my now traditional Bat-party. People were invited to bring costume items, craft pieces, props and whatever they wanted to share for viewing and possible discussion. But that was to come later.

The nose seems to be trimmed a little much.

Chazbat and I walked around looking at the vendor tables were very impressed with the variety and quality of the items they brought. Peter and Dawn had certainly picked the cream of the crop in our opinion. We made our way to the adjoining room through the rotating doors to find the artists and autograph area. Once again, the selection of artists was excellent and the celebrities in attendance were impressive. Besides Batman alumni Adam West, Yvonne Craig, Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether and Malachi Throne appearing, there was Superman’s original Lois Lane, Noel Neil and Superman II’s villainess, Sarah Douglas appearing. Margot Kidder, who played Lois in the Christopher Reeve movies, was coming in on Saturday. Star Wars was well represented with Peter Mayhew and Jeremy “Boba Fett” Bulloch at their tables flanked by related Star Wars groups.

A familiar site at the convention

I found Rubén sitting at his table with the Adam West busts on display and the concept art for the upcoming Burt Ward bust as well. He was drawing away as he sat next to Adam who was currently conducting an interview with one of the local media. This was going to be a common site at the show. I ran into some more of the board members including Katie (Joker’s Moll) and she showed me a vintage Walt Disney book that she had just picked up. I didn’t realize she was such a Disney fan before but I made a point of introducing her to Rubén since he had been a Disney animator for nearly twenty-five years. He was keen to see the book she had picked up and drew a picture of Donald Duck for her as well. What a great guy!

Rubén Procopio with the Adam West Busts

I called Vickie who was still at the hotel room to see how she was progressing with the makeup and hair and she said that Alex and I should head back over to start getting ready ourselves. I hooked back up with Alex and Monica and we made our way back to change. Unlike what you saw in the 1966 Batman movie, there is no “Instant Costume Changer” switch to become Batman and Robin at these shows or elsewhere for that matter.

A little while later with Monica driving, Alex, Vickie and I arrived back in costume. Vickie was dressed as Wonder Woman for this occasion but planned on being Catwoman for Saturday since she figured that would be the bigger Bat day. As we pulled into the parking lot we got a glimpse of the Bat-copter off in the distance. It was the original from the show and I had never seen it in person before. I had to take a look. We went out to it and took a few photos with it. The copter wasn’t set up for rides as of yet and the owner wasn’t around to allow us permission to get pictures inside the cockpit as of yet so we made our way back to the Expo Center for the convention.

With the one and only Batcopter!

We were use to posing for the people and taking pictures with them but the effect of seeing the smiles and enthusiasm on their faces had never lost its charm for us. We came across Adrian (Fanboy59) dressed up as False Face in the train engineer’s outfit. That was the first time I ever saw a False Face at one of these shows and he did a great job including a bundle of dynamite strapped together with a timer. It made for some cool pictures and represented Malachi’s character well.

Wonder Woman takes on False Face

We checked out Mauled Vader’s Bat-cycle a bit but since he wasn’t around at the time we didn’t get on the thing for pictures without permission. We moved out way to Jim’s Batmobile and said hello to Dennis and Peggy there. Jim wanted us to pose with the car for some shots of his own and allowed us to take quite a few with our camera which was being handled by Monica. She had become the quintessential convention photographer for us through the years. Whenever she was available she would carry both our video and still cameras and had a talent for catching almost ever moment in one form or another. We always appreciated her help. Alex and I took quite few pictures with the car and something occurred to me. Although Alex and I have had pictures taken with a Batmobile before, we never managed to get one taken of us actually sitting in one together. So we didn’t hesitate to make up for that previous oversight.

Malachi checks out the Batmobile

Robin gets a warm welcome

Posing with the Batmobile never gets old

Finally a picture together sitting in the car

The money shot

Meeting a fellow caped crusader

We eventually met up with Mauled Vader and he assisted Alex on getting into the Robin sidecar part of the Bat-cycle while I simply got on the motorcycle half. I teased Alex a little here and there about looking for a “launch” button to eject the sidecar into the crowd.

Getting much appreciated assistance from Mauled Vader

Three Bat vehicles in one day Rocks!

The rest of the afternoon was taken up with meeting and greeting board members, general convention goers and the Bat-celebs. I met up with my dear friend Billy “ghostdog” Loyd who made drove in from Corinth Mississippi with his son Andrew to make it to the show. He was accompanied by Will (silverknight58) who arrived shortly into town as well. Meeting old friends and making new ones. Many of them were meeting for the first time. I’ll let the pictures tell the story here.

Vickie chats with Chazbat

Wonder Woman with Peter’s little girl

Wonder Woman was quite popular!

Mike Karberg strikes the pose

This little girl sure gets around

Holy time travel!

We met up with my favorite Batman of the day, Noah

Best costume of the day!

Hooking up with Rubén

There’s only one Adam West

“Fred, what’s this guy doing behind me?”

Chatting and laughing with Yvonne and Meridel

We’ve got Batgirl on our team now

False Face wasn’t going to get away from us now

The ever fun and ever classy Lee Meriwether

Artist Chris Jones mugging with Super Friends

Kent (aka MNBatman) poses with his amazing Steven Stanley print

With board member Katie (Joker’s Moll)

It’s Elvis! no, it’s Will (SIlverknight58)

We take time for one more picture before heading back

After a few hours of this, it started to get late we needed to get back to the hotel to get ready for the Adam West banquet as well as the Bat-party. We told everybody that we would catch them later and made our way back to the Avalon Inn. The drive back was quick and easy but while we were looking for parking in the hotel lot I noticed that the Bat-copter was now across the street from the hotel. Vickie went back to the room to change while Alex and I went to check out the copter with Monica in tow with the cameras. As we got closer, I noticed that the copter was revving up and it soon lifted up into the sky. It was a spectacular site to witness in person. It circled around in the sky and made its way across the street to land on a small patch of grass between the Chop House and the Avalon Inn.

After we made our way over to get a closer look, we then waited for the copter blades to finally stop turning. I stood there staring at the copter when all of the sudden I was greeted by a familiar voice. It was my buddy Chuck Williams! I have to take moment to tell you a few facts here about the significance of that moment. Chuck and I have known each other only through phone calls and e-mails for over four years. We had an ongoing weekly ritual of calling each other and going over the many details of the costumes from the show. Chuck and I would mull over the angles, shapes and colors of Adam’s cowl much like two guys would stand in a garage and work on a hot rod engine. Chuck’s expertise for sculpting and wicked eye for detail led him to becoming the finest cowl maker on the planet with the help of his seamstress, pattern making wife Lynne. I had retired my first and cherished ‘Wally” cowl a year ago prior for one of Chuck and Lynne’s marvelous pieces which I was sporting at the time. I had come to regard him as a great friend. It was a big moment to finally meet him. There was nothing short of big hugs and bigger smiles. This was certainly a high point. He had just arrived and missed the first day of the convention at the Expo Center so this was the first taste of the show he was going to get. He had never attended a convention before and I knew he was in for a treat with this one.

Meeting Chuck Williams

We both then took a moment to check out the Bat-copter in complete geek like awe. The owner and pilot of the copter, Eugene allowed Alex and me to take our pictures inside the famous Bat-vehicle. Wow! Another first for us.

I wonder what THIS button does?

Always be prepared

Afterwards, Yvonne made her way out
to sign the inside panel of the Bat-copter for Eugene.

I brought Chuck back to room for Vickie to meet him. They were both thrilled to finally meet as well. I figured Chuck was going to get a lot of greetings like this through out the show.

Eventually, I got ready for the banquet. I decided to sport my newly acquired Batmobile T-shirt that I picked up from the “Pimp My Batmobile” guys. I liked the saying on the back, “Bat is the new black” along with the very cool Batmobile graphic on the front. Although the Adam West event was called a banquet, I wanted to keep fairly casual for the party that would follow. A few of the other guys came into the room and wondered about the when, where and how of the evening. Board member, Nick (Etruscan Snood) said that he hadn’t had time to pick up his tickets at the Expo box office and didn’t know what he was going to need to be allowed into the private banquet. I had no idea but tried to call Peter to find out. There was no answer, so I told Nick to simply go to the Chop House and find out what they required since it was almost time for the banquet to begin.

When we got to the Chop House, I was greeted by one of the hostesses that seemed a little puzzled and somewhat worried. She asked me if I was involved in the banquet or the promotions at all, I said I knew the promoter but asked what the problem was. She said that people were bringing in various tickets, different badges and such so she wasn’t sure what she was suppose to be looking for and if they were all legit. I said I would try to look into it. The rest of the gang with us were not going to the banquet itself but opted join a collective of non banquet goers to have a regular dinner there in the restaurant and wait for the room to open up for the Bat-party.

Vickie and I stepped into the banquet room and were greeted by about thirty or so staring and curious eyes. I was surprised to only recognize less than ten of them. The others seemed a little older and much better dressed than me. With the task at hand, I proceeded to ask a few of them what they were issued at the Expo Center for the banquet. My friend Mark Racop was in attendance and showed me his wrist band with a star imprinted on it. The wrist band denoted a weekend pass but wasn’t one of the laminated VIP ones which were issued as well, so I asked if anybody had a VIP pass with a star on it. Somebody showed me one as well. Great. It was starting to make sense. Then somebody showed me what looked like a coupon that announced that they won a free dinner with Adam West. I had no idea where this came from or what it was about but it did look entirely legit and I told the gentleman, “I have no idea what that is, but it is awfully COOL!” There were a few of the unfamiliar people who ended up asking me what I had to show that I could be here. I felt awkward because I was simply told to come by Peter and neither he nor his wife was here yet. I then heard someone say to them although I don’t know who said it, “Trust me. He’s supposed to be here.” I stepped out to let the hostess know to simply look for the “star” and that should be sufficient.

Eventually, Rubén showed up and the tables filled with people. Fred came in and asked me if Vickie and Rubén would please join him and Adam where they would be seating at the front table before Adam came in as well as MC the event. If I had realized that I was going to stand up in front of everybody, I might have decided to wear something a lot nicer than my “Pimp My Batmobile” T-shirt. Holy fashion faux pas!

Adam entered the room and settled into his seat. Julie Newmar came in for a moment but then left although we had no idea why. Lee Meriwether and Malachi Throne then joined us at the table. Fred asked me to go ahead and get things started. I stood and went over to the side of the table while somebody did the ceremonial clinking of the glass to get people’s attention. Once again, I had gotten about thirty of those “who the heck are you” looks from the attendees. I simply said hello and introduced them to one of my personal all time heroes, Adam West. To which, Adam began to rise but then so did Lee! She began to thank the people and said how wonderful it was to play Batman for all those years and was tremendously grateful. That got a good laugh to which Adam then said he enjoyed dressing up as Catwoman as well. It was off to a wonderful start. Adam then thanked me and went as far to thank the 1966 Batman Message Board for all for all of their support. From there he went on to talk about his plans to put out his own DVD where he would talk about all 120 episodes of Batman and hopefully within it answer every question that he could think of. He then said that the title would be, “Adam West Naked.” To this, Lee almost choked and spit her wine through her nose. Malachi then stated, “See! She remembers!” It was all in good fun and set the pace for the evening. We decided we would eat first then follow up with a Q&A afterwards.

Eugene and his son showed and sat next to me while I sat next to Adam. We all had some fun conversations while we ate the excellent food that was served buffet style with each table taking their turn. Periodically, I excused myself and went out of the room to check on the non banquet goers to see if they had a table or their own food yet just to keep them informed how late we may have been running and when it would be okay to eventually bring the props and costumes over. When I found them, they had just finally gotten a table and hadn’t even ordered yet. So it was going to be a while all considered. The Chop House staff was great though and gave their table some complimentary appetizers since they had to wait so long for a table that could accommodate everyone.

Back at the Adam banquet, we eventually were done with our eating and waited as plates were cleared from the other tables before I started the Q&A session. Once again, I introduced Adam and he entertained the group with fun stories, answering questions and the even a few impressions requests when asked by Fred. Eventually after about the fifth impersonation, Adam said over to Fred, “Who do you think I am? Frank Gorshin?” It was all in fun and we had a great laugh. After we wrapped it all up, Adam thanked me and made his way out.

We had run very late and I was told that we would only have the room until 11:00. At that rate we would have been lucky to have the room for only an hour by the time everything was in place. I went out to the restaurant and told the guys at the table to go ahead and gather their stuff and bring it back as soon as they could. I went back with Vickie to gather our items and video to show. On the way to the hotel, I walked along the side of Malachi when I happen to get a call on my cell phone from Wally. He was checking to see how it was going. Malachi asked if it was Wally and I handed the phone over to him so he could say hello himself.

After we raided our hotel room, Vickie and I arrived back to the banquet room with our collection costume pieces. We helped the staff clear off the tables and we re-arranged them to circle around the room for displaying items. One of the waiters dropped a big screen down from the ceiling and brought out a video projector. With no manual and some hap hazard pushing of buttons, I finally figured out how to get it to work with my iPod. I had all the episodes in my iPod as I had done so in Boston and it made for easy access to show on the big screen. Vickie arranged the costumes while others started to bring in their props, personal cowls, buckles, belts and assorted odds and ends. Troy had brought some copied scripts and soundtrack CDs as freebies. Chuck brought his latest and greatest cowl creation to date with him as well as his new and improved cowl shell to show people. It is very rare for most people to ever see just a shell first hand. Mike Karberg showed up with shell as well. This was a very common one that had been casted from one of the original stuntmen’s cowls but over time and recasting gained some notable inaccuracies. Chuck’s latest shell started with a better raw source and it was fascinating to compare the differences between the two. The party was already starting.

Items on display

The room quickly filled with board members as well as non members. It was open to all who were interested. Fred sat to one side of the room while the video played “Hi Diddle Riddle” and provided commentary. Katie, Kathy (irishmiss) and newcomer Dianne (batchick) all threw miscellaneous trivia with him back and forth. Meanwhile, others gathered over various prop pieces, tried on different cowls, checked out fabric swatches and chatted about all things Batman. It was a Bat-geek fest. They took pictures, compared notes but most all had fun and got to know one another first hand. Chuck smiled from ear to ear during the whole night. Bat belt maker legend, Billy Loyd brought over some of his bat buckles through the years including the very first one he ever made which was HUGE. Alex had brought over one of his Bat radios made by Billy and people got to see it next to a CY production and one and notice the difference. There several Batarangs of varying styles as well as a Billy Loyd Green Hornet gas gun for good measure.

Comparing the new Chuck cowl. I’m impressed!

At one point a group of gathered together and wore each of the cowls and shells on display for a group photo. This had become a tradition since I first started throwing these parties in Novi for the Motorcity Comic Con back in 2006. Had it been that long already?

The Unusual Suspects

Rubén as the caped crusader

Mauled seems to have tangled with the Mad Hatter

Billy’s son sports a Green Hornet mask and one of his dad’s gas guns

Trying out the latest Chuck cowl

Trying out the latest Chuck cowl

Trying out the latest Chuck cowl

Trying out the latest Chuck cowl

Trying out the latest Chuck cowl (note a pattern here?)

Chuck and Fanboy59

Mauled shows some silk brought in by Chuck. Gorgeous stuff!

Hanging out with Chris, Troy and Chuck

Two father and son teams passing on the tradition

Fans enjoying episodes together

Kelly (KGB) is doing alright

The video continued to play and we even showed “Pop Goes the Joker” as per Fred’s request. The Joker fans in the room loved that one. All the while, I was wondering when somebody from the staff might come in and shut is down. But they didn’t. People continued to converse and socialize around the room while the screen brightly glowed images of the show that brought us all together. It was a genuine thrill to be there with everybody.

“Bat is the new black” unless you happen to have a pink cowl

We topped off the evening with a showing of the fan film “The Amazing Adventures of Little Batman.” Fred had never seen it before and everybody else had only seen it on the tiny screen of YouTube. People laughed and cheered as they watched the tiny Dynamic Duo make their way through the short film featuring great props, an astonishing mini Batmobile and lots of heart. As the final applause died down, we called it a night and everybody helped in packing up and straightening out the room. It ended up being well after midnight and the staff never came in once to kick us out or even let us know that we were going over. While we were leaving, I apologized to the staff that we kept them there so long. They assured me that it was really no problem at all.

On our way back to our rooms, a group of spotted the nearby Superman party seemed to be still going on with disco lights and a few people dancing. We had spied a huge cake earlier in there in the shape of the Superman symbol and wondered if there would be any left. We agreed to come back to investigate as soon as we put or stuff back in our rooms. After midnight, cake is KING!

Sure enough, we all came back to the Superman party to find only a few people still there, the music thumping and the cake barely dented. It was a huge cake and at first looked like it may have not been touched but upon closer inspection one realized that there had been possibly a hundred pieces already cut from it but there was still more than 80% of the cake left. We dug in. I spotted Peter sitting at one of the tables and decided to join him and talk for a while. There was about six or seven of us at least munching on late night cake and yelling over the loud dance music to which no one was dancing to by this time. Still, we spent the remainder of the evening enjoying each others company, great conversation and Super-cake. And this was just the first day.

To be continued…