Holy Has-Been! The line snaking up to the small stage featuring Adam West and Burt Ward, TV’s erstwhile dynamic duo, required at least an hour’s worth of patience. The two sat silently in full superhero regalia signing and smiling, but barely acknowledging the masses.
West and Ward were in town chaperoning for the Batmobile–with its orange trimmings and rear brake parachutes–which was the center attraction for a few hours last Sunday at the World of Wheels exposition at McCormick Place.
“Hey Batman!” yelled a man in his 40s; he leaned over the railing and pointed a camera at the Caped Crusader.
West turned and was blinded by an explosion of light. The man laughed and laughed, and West tried to recover by adjusting his costume’s cowl, this one stitched together from a silky blue cloth unlike the sturdier plastic one he used to wear on Batman.
The cavernous showroom was loud, smoky, and packed with exhibits of funny cars, minicars, and muscle cars; there was even a Corvette display, where restored models went for as much as $100,000. An antique Ford with suicide doors featured an engine plated in 24-karat gold. In fact, the Batmobile was a real heap of junk compared to almost anything else at the show, including the souped-up Escort from Aurora.
“Hey Robin, show us your spare tire,” a guy wearing a Metallica sweatshirt shouted at the now middle-aged Boy Wonder. Ward’s costume, with its parrot colors and tiny yellow cape, and no tights, was a lot less helpful in hiding the indignities of aging than West’s, which covered him in Batman’s long cape like a cocoon.
A constant parade passed before them. The little kids, who surely knew them only from DC Comics, were thrilled. They smiled, giggled, and clung to their parents as soon as West or Ward extended a hand. Only a handful of kids actually dared shake hands or touch the heroes. Most of the adults waiting in line, however, were old enough to remember the campy adventures of the two actors.
“Working on anything else?” asked a scraggly-haired young man. West smiled, signed, and immediately turned his attention to the little girl who was next in line.
“I’m really disgusted,” said a tall blond man with a small hoop in his ear at the end of the autograph line. “Look at this,” he protested, pulling out his Batman and Robin paraphernalia.
“You know what they do? They make you pay for this shit,” he said, pointing at a color reproduction of Ward from his TV days. “It’s presigned.” Indeed, the photo was prededicated and presigned except for the fresh magic marker lines that spelled “Scott.”
“They just write your name, not even their own–it’s not a real autograph,” Scott complained. “‘To my pal, Scott, from Burt Ward.’ My ass. See this record?” he continued, pulling from his shoulder bag an original sound track from the TV show. “They wouldn’t sign it either. Said they could only sign these official photos. What bullshit.”
Most of the hundreds of fans in line suffered the same fate as Scott, but others got lucky. A tall, blond, and busty woman in her 40s, made even taller by a pair of red stiletto heels, was fawning over her two autographed Batman and Robin playing cards.
“I thought they couldn’t sign anything but the official photos,” somebody said to her.
The blond laughed, thrusting her bosom forward. “Honey, they’ll sign anything I want. Think they’re going to turn me down?” She and her husband, a paunchy cowboy in a silk jacket, laughed and walked away.
Back at the autographing session, Scott was aiming his camera at West and Ward. “I’m pissed off,” he said. “But this is probably the last time these two will be out before the new Batman movie kills their careers.” His flash went off, followed by a chorus of pops and camera clicks.