Mike Camilleri, The Batman Story

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Mike Camilleri by day, Batman by night… We spoke to Mike about how he came to be a Batman impersonator, what he finds so special and rewarding about the role,how he and his daughter create their amazing costumes together, and how they even came to build a real-deal Batmobile!

Hi Mike. What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?

Being with family; I have raised my beautiful children and worked as a respected businessman and mechanic, graphic artist and an automotive writer/columnist here on the Coffs Coast for over 30 years. At one stage I had a column in every magazine and newspaper publication on the coast. I also have been a Stretch Limo chauffeur for around 16 years. My hobbies are building and restoring racing and muscle cars; I have also enjoyed playing lead guitar in a popular local rock/show band for more than 20 years now.

How did your first gig as a Batman impersonator come about?

It started with owning a black Pontiac Firebird TransAm. Being a long, sleek muscle car with factory wings, flares, scoops and a rumbling big block V8 … Everyone always says, “Hey, that’s a Batmobile” or, “You’re the guy who drives that Batmobile”.

Then one day a friend approached me, explaining his daughter is a Batman freak and asked if I could turn up to her birthday as Batman in the Trans-Am. I wasn’t too keen about it, said I wasn’t sure, but eventually went on to thinking what the heck – could be a little fun! So I turned up feeling pretty silly in a cheap eBay costume, did the big Batman entrance thing, and everyone was very happy and amazed! 

Soon, another friend seeing this asked if I could do the same for his son, who loves everything Batman. This time I set out working on a more decent costume and ended up putting together a state of the art Michael Keating Costume, based on the ’89 Batman movie. This time I stepped out of the car and looked like Batman … not someone wearing a Batman costume.

You have obviously become quite passionate about it now. What made you realise you wanted to keep it up and perform regularly?

As time went on, I received a few enquiries, including a lady who asked if I could do Batman for her son’s birthday and how much I charged,  so I said sure, and considering she lived a fair distance away, I said $330. She said they were a low income family, so she’d get back to me … she then called back after a few weeks and said it hasn’t been easy, but all the parents had been saving and pitched in to pay for it. Her disabled son is a Batman nut and they really want to do this.

So there I was, doing the big Batman entrance with a crowd of kids and parents with photo shoots, selfies and videos etc. Everyone was truly ecstatic! Her son turned out to be a very challenged young man and was a really special guy. When it came to leaving, his mum handed Batman the envelope as arranged, then Batman shook her hand, handed her back the envelope, swung his 3 x 3 metre silk cape and said “To the Batmobile!” 

Driving off, I looked back and saw she was still in the driveway in tears, with everyone wondering what Batman had done to make her stop and cry! 

Rumbling off into the distance, I had goosebumps – an incredible feeling – and thinking, money is not everything! My accountant probably thinks I’m an idiot, but I don’t care. Unlike the winged caped crusader and the millionaire Bruce Wayne, as depicted in the well known Warner Bros/DC Comics movies, I come from a modest working class family, and I just really enjoy giving people a fun experience.

Doing Batman appearances is a moment in time that takes people to another place, a special place, which makes all the effort well and truly worth it!

We hear you now work on your Batman show with your daughter?

Yes! My daughter (now 16 years old) manages the costume, Batcave and Batgirl side of things, and is now an integral part of our show. We are commonly referred to as the father and daughter “Dynamic Duo”!

How did Building a “Batmobile” come into the picture?

I’ve always wanted to have, buy or build a Batmobile in one form or another. However, Batmobiles are very rare, virtually not available, or if you ever did find one, are very expensive six figure machines.

At one stage, I did consider buying a black car, like a Corvette Stingray or a similar low sleek vehicle, and somehow apply bat-modifications or bat wings on it. 

In the meantime, I had a mum call me about doing Batman for her son’s birthday and confirmed the booking, then asked me to send her a photo of the car. I sent her a photo of the Pontiac, and she then called me back apologising, but wanted to cancel the booking because her son said, “That’s not the Batmobile – it doesn’t have wings on it”. As a result, after looking forward to the event, I felt quite deflated!

On another occasion, whilst performing at a local Motorshow on the Coffs Coast with my daughter (Batgirl) amongst probably a hundred people totally impressed with the whole show, a young boy standing next to Batman tugged on his cape. 

Batman turn around to him in his Batman style and voice, looked at him and said, “Yes?” The boy pointed to the Black Pontiac and said in a clear firm, serious voice: 

“That’s not the Batmobile!” 

The place went silent, with all eyes on Batman, who then replied with, 

“Why do you say that?” 

The boy pointed again, answering, 

“It doesn’t have bat wings on it!”

Batman answered,“That’s because I am not fighting crime today”… took two steps with the swirl of his cape, stopped, looked back at the boy and said, “Besides, it’s better than turning up in a Toyota Corolla!” 

Everybody laughed – even though I don’t think the young fella got the humour or was in any way impressed. 

Batman, however, again with the swirl of his cape, turned back, looked at the audience and said; “No offence to anybody who drives a Toyota Corolla”, which cleared the air, and Batman and Batgirl left with a sense of urgency, as they do … “To The Batmobile!” (OK … to the Pontiac Firebird!) ☹

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have always lived by and taught the philosophy: “If you are going to do something, you do it properly”.

With that in mind, this was the last straw for me; I had to do something about the authenticity of what I was trying to achieve here. So, I set to the task of gathering all my resources, sold some of my prized possessions, did some research and went on to importing an ’89 movie correct replica body from the USA and started building a real Batmobile from the ground up, with all the Bat-gadgets, jet turbine effects, big V8 engine, wings and all. 

I have been engineering this for almost two years now, utilising all my resources and time, day and night tinkering in the shed, the now “Batcave”, sometimes with the help of secret special friends … Which probably explains why, as people who know me can attest to, I have seemingly gone missing in action!

In summary: when I turn up as Batman, in this almost 7 m long, low black Batmobile – with wings – I want to take people’s joy, happiness and good feeling to a new level!

 Being a Batman impersonator is not easy at all; in fact, it is hard work and quite uncomfortable, particularly during hot summer days! However, I am truly touched by the sheer joy, happiness and good vibes Batman brings to people from all walks of life and of all ages. 

Atomic batteries to power … Turbines to speed!

Thanks Mike.

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