With the recent story of a San Francisco boy fighting cancer who got his wish to save the day as Batman, the world stopped and smiled. Like many watching the news, I remembered my own fascination with the Caped Crusader growing up. The Batman genre for me was responsible for some memorable "firsts" in my life.
Batman was the first TV show I watched in color as a kid growing up in the late 1960s (Yes, Gen X-ers there was a time when TV was just black-and-white). I settled in for the Dynamic Duo's adventures with whatever blanket or towel I could find to wrap it around my neck as a cape.
Being the middle child, I was fortunate enough to have a little brother who would act as Robin and do whatever I told him to do. My older sister would read those iconic spinning fonts of POW! and BAM! during the fight scenes. We knocked over a vase or two around the house while acting them out.
I remember the weird camera angles, the odd villains: The Joker, The Riddler, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, and, of course, the Batmobile with its jet flame exhaust disappearing into the Batcave.
In the early 1970s television reruns, I saw the villainess Catwoman (played by Julie Newmar) pawing around in her tight, black cat suit. The ears, the claws, the curves, I memorized all of it. She was my first TV actress crush.
Fast forward to 1990, and with one career and one divorce under my belt, I found myself living in the ski resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho. I was lucky enough to land there with a job as an architect designing million-dollar homes. Moving away from Boston for the first time, living in the Rocky Mountains, skiing my brains out and meeting movie stars was like an unusual form of grad school and special fraternity.
Ketchum is the actual town where the Sun Valley ski mountain is located, and it had a year-round population of 3,000. One of the long-time residents was retired actor Adam West, who played Batman in the TV series. He had three listings in the local phone book, each without a phone number. They read: Adam West- see Bruce Wayne, Bruce Wayne- see Batman, Batman-see Adam West. Funny stuff for a guy who reportedly didn't like publicity.
As an architect, I never got rich, but I used my artistic talents for extra cash. I drew mansions as charcoal renderings and sold the artwork to wealthy homeowners. You have to knock on a lot of doors before you get somebody to say yes, but this practice took me into some amazing places.
One day in an older section of Ketchum, I walked up a long driveway to an unusual house with a well-groomed lawn. There was a tall man standing in the driveway with a garden hose watering some plants. As I walked closer, he spun towards me with the hose still spraying.
"State your business!" he barked, still shooting water as a warning to this canvas-carrying trespasser. I held up my sample drawing and yelled "I draw fine homes as fine art!" (I always wanted to patent that phrase).
I was afraid he would ruin my sample with the water. The gruff older man paused for a moment, turned the hose back to the lawn, and waived me closer. Holy Toledo, Robin, it was Batman!
Slowly I walked, more nervous now about what to say to my childhood hero than getting wet. I told him my name, what I did and what my fee was.
Like any sales transaction of historic proportion, there was long silence as Batman himself pondered the cost and benefit of capturing his castle on canvas. The hose continued spraying. And much like he did after Commissioner Gordon described a dire situation, he paused and rendered a decision. He said simply: "You do good work Meader, but I'm not interested."
I thanked him and never once let on that I knew who he was. I just walked away with the memory of meeting my first famous actor.
Sam Meader lives on Folly Beach with his fiance Katherine, and manages a national sales force that sells business compliance services. In his spare time he writes and travels to Seattle to co-parent his two sons.
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