'Batman' visits the Children's Hospital of Illinois

John Hageman of the Journal Star

Jul 26, 2012

PEORIA — Lenny B. Robinson is a businessman from Maryland who has been known to answer his phone by saying, “this is Batman.”

The night before he visited children at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, and after signing some autographs for Australian tourists who spotted the Batmobile in front of his hotel, he spelled his name for two reporters.

“Lenny, B as in Batman, Robinson,” he said.

To the dozens of kids that met him at the hospital Thursday, that’s exactly who he was. Dressed in a full Batman costume, Robinson drove an Adam West-era Batmobile to the hospital, escorted by two police vehicles and a fire engine blaring their sirens.

“Batman, hey Batman!” yelled one young boy trying to get his attention. Parents and kids lined up for photos, some gifts and a quick chat with the Dark Knight himself.

Dawson Huckaby might be too young to know who Batman is, but Thursday’s visit was his first chance to get out of his hospital room in a week, his father Dustin Huckaby said.

“He loves the car,” he said.

Dawson isn’t the only one. The car is a true-to-form replica of the one that appeared in the original 1960s TV show, attracting gawkers wherever it goes. The CD player has Batman-themed songs on a loop, the batphone sits between the seats and the radar glows on the passenger-side dashboard.

Most of the buttons and gadgets are for show, Robinson said, but flames do shoot from the back with a press of a button. (No confirmation on whether it makes it go faster.)

Robinson picked up the car in Canada about a month ago, then embarked on a coast-to-coast tour, visiting sick children in hospitals across the country. It’s something he’s done for a number of years, but he recently launched his own foundation, Superheroes for Kids.

Robinson gained some notoriety in March, when his Batman-decorated Lamborghini was pulled over — while Robinson was in costume. A photo of Batman talking to police during the traffic stop went viral, and became a punchline on late night TV shows and cable news networks. The Washington Post subsequently unmasked Robinson as the Caped Crusader.

Being Batman hasn’t been easy these days. Robinson was in mid-tour when the Aurora, Colo. shooting occurred during a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” A hospital in St. Louis canceled his scheduled appearance afterward, but Robinson vowed to keep going.

“At the heart of the movie is a central heroic figure that gives hope,” he wrote on his foundation’s Facebook page. “The shootings in Colorado was a tragic event, but will not stop me from portraying Batman. I will continue to portray this iconic superhero, giving courage to sick children around the world that need it most.”

John Hageman can be reached at 686-3194 or Follow him on Twitter @jhageman_.


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