When Batman met Barbie
In June 1995, I organised the launch of a new Batman video game at Warner Brother's store in Regent Street in Central London.
It didn't go according to plan, with hilarious results.
I recorded the story for Jelly Trumpet podcast host Jim Kinloch.
And you hear the story above, or read it below.
I used to own and manage an events company with my good friend and business partner Keith Warren.
One such event was the launch of a computer game spin-off from the movie Batman Forever in the mid-1990s.
We hired Warner Brothers’ Store in Regent Street in Central London for the evening, invited 300 media types to mark the launch and bought an awful lot of booze to get them there.
In response to our client's desire that Batman should make a surprise and dramatic entrance, we hired a stunt man, borrowed a real suit from the film studio and created a stage and a false ceiling in the three-storey circular stairwell overlooking the main area.
At precisely the right moment Batman was to burst through the fake skylight (complete with spinning bat logo) and float down to the stage, his cape fluttering menacingly from the gusts provided by a giant fan beneath a grill under the stage.
The rehearsal the previous night went very well despite the stunt coordinator using a worrying array of domestic items, three storeys above the floor, rather than state of the art drag-drop technology.
It involved a very uncomfortable looking harness, a worryingly thin wire, a piece of scaffolding pole balanced across the top of the circular stair ledge … and a pair of gardening gloves.
The rehearsal was without the music or indeed the temporary structure through which Batman had to crash, but all seemed good to go the next night.
The next day was the hottest June day in living memory and as the last of the customers drifted out of the store, our army of set builders sweated to turn the ground floor into the Bat Cave.
It wasn’t until a little later that I started to get worried because the stunt man hadn’t turned up and later still, we learned that he wasn’t going to make it to the store in time.
I looked around, in vain as it turned out, for someone who was the right size, didn’t already have an essential job to do and was prepared to hurl himself over a three-storey stairwell, held from certain death only by a retired stunt coordinator wearing a pair of gardening gloves.
30 minutes and a generous amount of talcum powder later, I had managed to get into the suit and the harness and was suspended out of sight of the 300 guests, three floors above a wooden and sugar glass fake Batman roof and skylight. The gadget addict in me just had time to admire the suit from the movie, with its real utility belt, impressive pecs … and nipples!
In the time available, I had tried very hard to plan the drop with the stunt coordinator. I might as well not have bothered. When I looked down through my legs as the music got louder and the crucial moment approached, I noticed that I wasn’t over the skylight so I started to swing back and forth so that when I was lowered down, I could crash through the fake glass rather than the wooden roof around it.
I’ve often wondered in the years since, what I could possibly have done to anger the stunt coordinator because it wasn’t so much a ‘lower me down to the roof’ … as a drop!
Unexpected and dramatic it certainly was. I took out the whole wooden roof structure and landed on my bottom on the grill that made up the metre-high stage, surrounded by debris and amused guests.
Now you don’t have to be a superhero fan to know that Batman doesn’t ever land on his bottom, so before too many people could spot the error, I was up on my feet, spreading my cape and trying not to wince or giggle.
I thought I might just have got away with it until the fan started sending slivers of the broken sugar glass and splinters of wood pinging up into my face. I braved it out for a few seconds and then left the stage looking like a porcupine.
A games company PR rushed over and rather than allow me to escape to tend to my many wounds, insisted that I start a walkabout and pose for photos with guests. If there is one thing I remember clearly about that part of the evening, it is the feeling of being a celebrity. It’s very odd to be the person whom everyone seems to know and want to shake by the hand. Mr Beckham, eat your heart out.
Job done, I escaped, hid the suit in my bag and made a hasty exit. I was going to keep the suit as a souvenir and as a passport to fancy dress prizes for life!
A week or so later, the cuts and bruises had gone, and the phone rang.
“Do you have the Batman suit?” the film studio people wanted to know.