He's no Joker: Batman brings joy to sick kids
Dec 28, 2012
If the definition of "Batman" is: "A rich man who dresses up in an expensive, custom-made batsuit and drives an expensive, custom-made Batmobile while working to improve the lives of strangers," then Lenny B. Robinson is no imposter.
He's the real deal. Especially when he is around children.
"I don't think he's faking a thing," said Kelly Foote, a writer for the Memorial Healthcare System communications team. "He's in pretty deep."
Robinson, aka Batman, spent Friday morning striding from room to room in Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, his leather cape billowing behind him. He was there to comfort sick kids and give them Batman-themed gifts: Coloring books, comic books, magnets, posters, bracelets, pens, notebooks. A train of Memorial employees, including Foote, followed.
Batman did all this in his 35-pound rubber and leather suit, sweating visibly by 11 a.m. but never once breaking character, said members of his hospital staff.
"He really is in it," said Marla Oxenhandler, a Memorial spokeswoman.
This is what Baltimore resident Robinson, 49, does. He travels in the Batmobile from hospital to hospital around the Northeast and sometimes other parts of the United States and Canada. He goes alone, on his own dime, and buys the toys himself.
Marissa Ernest, 7, was pretty convinced who was visiting her on Friday.
"Can I have a hug, Batman?" she asked, her expression serious.
Batman hugged her and said quietly, with equal seriousness: "I want you to get better, Marissa. That's what would make me happy."
Marissa nodded. "Will the Joker come here, now?" she asked.
"The Joker won't come," Batman said. "I kicked him out of here."
No one could blame her for believing. The costume is convincing, with a neoprene cowl, sculpted chest plate and yellow Adam West-esque utility belt.
The $300,000 Batmobile, parked outside the entrance to the children's hospital, was built from the base up by Don Curry, a custom car maker in British Columbia, Canada.
The two-seater features red Batman symbols on the tire rims, an exposed engine block, a "Bat Symbol Projector", a bat-shaped gear shift ornament, and Batman symbols on both doors. With what looks like a curved roll-bar instead of a top over the open cab, plus a curved windshield, it looks like it might transform into a motorcycle if it needs to.
"I have to do everything I do as well as I can possibly do it," Robinson said. "That's just how I am."
That explains why he's got the money to emulate Bruce Wayne. He started an office-cleaning business in high school, worked 70 to 80 hours a week for decades and sold it in 2010.
He first donned the cowl more than 10 years ago, when his now college-aged son Brandon was little and simply would not remove his Batman costume.
"He would wear it by the pool in August, and to the grocery store," he said.
So Robinson decided to dress up as Batman, too, and take his son to a children's hospital to cheer up the kids. His son helpfully opted to dress as Robin instead of mini-Batman, for accuracy's sake.
"I knew immediately afterward it was something I wanted to do more often," Robinson said. "I knew something had happened."
Last year, he retired to pursue Batman's work fulltime. He started a charity, Superheros for Kids, which raises money for families in debt because of children's hospital bills.
In March, he got pulled over on Route 29 in Maryland while driving his previous Batmobile — a black Lamborghini — because his license plate was a bat symbol. The resulting video of Batman talking pleasantly with a sheriff's deputy went viral.
(By the way, the new Batmobile has a legitimate license plate.)
The viral video led to calls from hospitals around the country, which led to his first national tour.
After the response he's gotten from kids and the video, Robinson said he knows America needs Batman.
"I feel like it's a responsibility beyond that of a normal person," he said. "I have a responsibility to be this person, and to do the things I'm doing. I intend to do this for as long as I can."
To book Batman or donate to Superheros for Kids, go online to Superheroesforkids.org.
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