Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Batman of Birmingham, Part Two

Over a year and a half ago, I posted about one of my childhood heroes, the Batman of Birmingham. I only had sketchy memories of the do-gooder, a man who spent his evenings and weekends driving around in a suped-up car helping stranded motorists. Since the post, dozens of people have written in with confirmation that I didn't just dream the whole thing, and more of his story has come to light.

Batman was really Willie Perry, who in his not-so-secret identity was general manager of window distributor J.F. Day & Co. The car, which was called "the Batman Rescue Ship," was a maroon and white 1971 Ford Thunderbird with six antennas and fluorescent neon lights, and was fitted with television screens, a toaster, 12 audio speakers, a soda fountain dispenser, a phonograph turntable, strobe lights, a microwave oven, and a kitchen sink with running water. A sign on the car said "Rescue Ship . . . Will Help Anyone In Distress" as indeed, he would. He assisted stranded motorists, worked to keep drunk drivers off the road, and never accepted any money for his services.

And yes, he died of
carbon monoxide poisoning while working on his car, in 1985 at the age of only 44. The only real-life superhero I ever met, and I feel privileged to have done so.

Now, thanks to fellow Alabama native Ben, we have this photo of his car (more here), as well as a link to this 2005 article, "Runaway Bridegroom" by Ed Reynolds, which ran in the Birmingham Black & White. Thanks, Ben!


paul wargelin said...

What a great story! What a cool car!

G. Robertson said...

I remember Batman Willie, seeing him drive through the neighborhood I grew up in on the west side of town. Seeing that car brings back good memories...he was a good man.