In my previous post, a brief note on the passing of a school chum, I characterized said school chum’s ramshackle Subaru sedan, stuffed to bursting with drive-thru fountain drink cups and empty cigarette packs, as resembling the ‘Alabama Batmobile.’ The Alabama Batmobile is not the same vehicle as the Batmobile of Birmingham.
‘But Rockie Bee!’ I’m sure you, Dear Reader, are exclaiming to yourself,* ‘Birmingham is in Alabama, and Alabama people, as far as I know, are kind of dumb and backwards. How many Batmobiles could they possibly have down there?’
Let me sort this out for you. The Alabama Batmobile the Alabama Batman’s prize hillbilly sled. The Alabama Batman, as I recall, was a recurring character in a monthly advertising/humor magazine (printed on newsprint) called the Panama City Beach Bull. The writing staff of the Beach Bull liked to poke fun at Alabama people thru the device of the Alabama Batman. The Alabama Batman was portrayed as a portly fellow, whose ballooning stomach strained the fabric of his sleeveless t-shirts and denim cutoff shorts, who wore a stiff Michael Keaton-style cowl and chest piece, and a utility belt full of cigarette packs, bottle openers and duct tape. If you’ve ever heard Patton Oswalt’s bit on Nick Nolte, and his Nick Nolte-as-Batman, you’ve got a good mental image of the Panama City Beach Bull’s Alabama Batman.
It’s at the 7 minute mark. As far as I know, the Alabama Batman gags in the Panama City Beach Bull predate the Patton Oswalt bit by a year or so; I may yet still have one of my Beach Bulls from fall of 1996.
The Batmobile of Birmingham is something entirely different. That was owned by a guy named Willie J. Perry who tried to make Birmingham a better place by helping stranded motorists in a customized 60’s Thunderbird. He wore a white suit and brown cape while doing this. One surmises that he wanted to be a good Samaritan by emulating both Adam West and George Barris. For years, the Batmobile of Birmingham was kept in a dry-rotting condition behind glass at the Alabama State Fairgrounds at Five Points. The Fairgrounds served as flea market on weekends; the last time I saw both ‘Love Nut’ and ‘Love Riot’ CDs were in a laundry tub of other unwanted and unloved crap at that flea market. It’s all explained in this catchy little ditty:
*Or is it ‘yo’ sef’? If only One-legged Joe, hopping around on his sore toe, would throw away his crutches hollering ‘Where’d they go?’ and straighten this out for me.