We lived directly across the street from the Redondo Beach State Park and that morning started off just like any other morning, with a bowl of oatmeal before I set off on my short walk to school. As I headed out the front door, I noticed that the beach parking lot was filled with large trucks and long white trailers and as I got closer, I was able to recognize the 20th Century Fox Television logo emblazoned on them. I decided at that point that school could wait and went in for a closer look. I walked through the parking lot with all kinds of strange looking people and equipment bustling around me until I got to the edge of the cliff and looked down to the beach. Parked down at the bottom of the beach ramp was the Batmobile. That was the first time I made the conscious decision to ditch school.
As I walked down to the beach, I was amazed to find that the production company had transformed the beach into someplace they were calling “Gotham Point” and they added a façade to the old snack bar proclaiming it to be some beachside nightclub named “Hang Five”. There was even a green haired Hollywood version of a surf band pretending to play instruments. The beach was scattered with film cameras, power cables and lighting equipment. I just roamed around the entire set and none of the actors or crew seemed to be too concerned that an eight year old boy in a polka dot shirt was hanging out listening to every word of their conversations.
I spent most of the day sitting in the sand behind a director’s chair with the name Cesar Romero printed on the back support canvas. Mr. Romero portrayed one of my favorite villains in the series, “The Joker”. He had been a movie romantic lead back in the thirties and forties and he seemed to take great delight in telling war stories from the golden age of Hollywood and I hung on every word. After a while, Yvonne Craig emerged from her dressing room, wearing a one piece bathing suit with a see-through mesh across her more than ample cleavage and took her seat with script in hand. She was preparing for her next scene as Batgirl’s alter ego, Barbara Gordon. Just as Cesar was finishing up a story about what a bitch Joan Crawford could be, he glanced over and noticed the provocative suit that Ms. Craig was wearing. Without missing a beat, he said something I’ll never forget, “Good God Woman! This is a kid’s show, cover those damn things up”. Everyone burst into laughter, but if you ever get a chance to see the actual episode, you will notice that there is a black bat-shaped bow covering the aforementioned area.
Rest in peace Mr. West. Although I was absolutely terrified the first time we met on the beach, I will always remember the down to earth grace you showed to me some forty years later, when I introduced you to my son at the Austin Comic-Con. You will always be The One True Batdude to me.