I learned earlier today that the world has lost one of my GREATEST heroes, the car Customizer Mr. George Barris.
Back in 1965, Mr. Barris answered the call of Greenway Productions who was in the process of preparing their all new adventure TV series for ABC television "BATMAN". They came to George asking if he could design and build a new modern sleek BATMOBILE for the 20th century for the Caped Crusaders to cruise around in, throughout the show.
George cheerfully assured them that he was up to the task, and that creating and delivering the Batmobile they wanted would be no sweat.
But then they told him they needed the finished car delivered to the studio in only 21 days!!
YIKES!!! With that kind of limited time, he could not design a car from scratch, so George, being the resourceful sort that he was, had an idea: He took an old Ford Lincoln concept show car that was sitting in the back lot of his Hollywood "Kustom Kar" shop, rusting away for the previous 10 years, and designed the Batman's ride around that.
The car was called "The Futura". It had fighter plane-like bubble canopies, and tail fins, and it was featured in a comedy film called "It Started With A Kiss" starring Glenn Ford and Debbie Reynolds. He bought the car for one dollar (!) back in 1956 when the studio did not want to pay the storage fees after production on -the movie wrapped. Then he stored the car in his back lot and forgot about it.
But this same beat up, rusty hunk of junk was going to serve as the basis for a creation that would make the name George Barris legendary among custom car enthusiasts and Batman fans alike!
George made a few simple structural changes to the car that turned it into a wicked and unforgettable design sure to captivate audiences EVERYWHERE. True to his word, he delivered the finished car to the studio on time and on budget.
From the very beginning, when "Batman" debuted on ABC television in 1966, the show's two stars Adam West (Batman) and Burt Ward (Robin) may just as well have shared their star-status billing with their hot-rodded, four wheeled co-star! People EVERYWHERE fell in love with the BATMOBILE!!
Now, anyone that knows me knows that I am about as a big a BATMAN fan as they come.
And anyone that knows me knows that my love for this character was forged when I was a little boy, watching the excitement and color and action of that silly TV series. I raced home every afternoon from school just so that I could see The Batman and Robin slide down the Batpoles into their secret Batcave, jump into the Batmobile (still turning on its turntable), and screaming off into the night in pursuit of The Joker, The Penguin, The Riddler, or Catwoman.
My fascination with George Barris' '66 Batmobile never faltered over the decades. And as I watched new Batmobile designs come and go for the big screen movies, NONE of them came even close to pleasing my eye or pleasing my heart like George's original '66 Bat did.
When seeing interviews with George Barris, I was always so struck by how perpetually cheerful, affable, and energetic he seemed. I was glad about this because it is always so disappointing when you learn that the people who created the works you love so much are not nice.
With today's passing of George Barris, I have not lost a family member, a close relative, or even an acquaintance (I never had the honor nor privilege as so many other fans have had of meeting George in person. I am nevertheless saddened that this kindly little man... who's Batmobile creation has brought me DECADES worth of joy and has set me on a path of fandom that is never-ending... this man who just exuded warmth and humor has left the company of the living here on Earth.
It is my sincere hope that the memory of his good cheer offers some measure of comfort to his family and friends again soon, as I am sure they are heartbroken right now. And I hope that George's legacy of artistic excellence is continued by so many of the other people like me that he has inspired.
May the heavenly father spread His inviting arms and welcome George Barris... car customizer extraordinaire... into His warm embrace as he returns home...
Thank you George... for an AWESOME childhood.
November 5th, 2015