When I was a wee lad, I had job at a radio station. I was lucky enough to work on both the AM and FM sides of the dial. The FM station was known as X103 and we were in the prehistoric rotary dial days before the Age of Digital Radio Tuners. One night, I was working on the FM side, and a listener called and told me he’d just spent $5,000.00USD on a new home stereo rig and his FM tuner was digital and our station was coming in clearest at 102.7 and not 103. He asked me why that was, and I told him that the station was actually broadcasting at 102.7, but that the rotary dial methods made 103 close enough for advertising purposes. The caller grunted and told me to fix it. A few years later, “X103” was gone, replaced by: “102.7 FM.”
In the early 1980’s, I was told by the radio station I had to work a weekend car expo for X103. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but I was the low man on the hiring pole and they were going to pay me time and a half, so standing around for six hours handing out X103 car window stickers would at least stick some money in my pocket. I was also told that Adam West, aka Batman, had been hired and flown in from California to appear with me at the X103 van. Adam would be dressed in full Batman regalia. I was surprised that a big star like Adam West would be in Lincoln, Nebraska at a car show standing next to me.
I showed up early at the car show, dressed in a yellow and red and black X103 t-shirt and chinos. The car show was inside the Agricultural Hall on the Nebraska State Fairgrounds and there were tractors and boats and some specialty cars. I didn’t see a Batmobile.
About an hour into my babysitting the X103 van, I saw Adam West saunter into the building. He was wearing a bucket hat, blue jeans and a plaid shirt. He was alone. A garment bag was slung over his shoulder. I watched him enter the public men’s restroom.
A few moments later, Adam West emerged from the bathroom dressed in his Batman costume — cowl and all. The rest of his clothes were stuffed into a duffel bag. He approached me at the van, and nodded without looking at me. He pulled pre-signed Batman headshots from his duffel bag and tucked them under his arm.
There we were: The Ever So Non-Dynamic Duo. Me, handing out window stickers at one end of the van and he, the great Adam West, disguised as Batman, handing out headshots to nobody in particular at the other end of the van.
The next few hours were hot and tortuous. I was bored to crumbling and I knew Adam West was sweating like a spent hog in his Batman costume. We didn’t speak. We didn’t acknowledge each other. Adam was a celebrity name hired to help sell car expo tickets and to help promote the radio station. Adam wasn’t surrounded by a lot of people at the show. A few people recognized him as Batman, but his television show had been off the air for 15 years and the nation hadn’t yet experienced the re-birth of the Batman franchise in 1989 with Tim Burton’s movie remake.
I felt horrible for Adam. He was clearly not having a good time. He was doing a job for the money and it was sobering to see such an excellent actor reduced to a blue cape and grey leggings. I imagined his life was peppered with such for-pay appearances across the country, and I knew he would likely be stuck under that cowl for the rest of his acting life.
I never spoke to Adam West. I wanted to be professional. We were both there to do a job. We were not at the car expo to chat or for me to adore him as a cartoon idol. I do wish I’d been brave enough to at least ask Adam for a headshot. Batman was one of my favorite television shows and I certainly would have paid the price of admission for a chance to shake his hand and meet the man in person.