The summer of 2008 might be remembered as the summer pop culture became just too strange, thanks to Hollywood – a new Hulk movie (unmanageable anger creates the beast of vengeance, or something), followed by Ironman (the technology of death turned to good uses, with difficulty), followed by another Hellboy epic (the giant monster as reluctant hero, with personal issues), followed by the stunning new and very sinister Batman movie – The Dark Knight. The last has as its villain a new interpretation of the Joker – now he's just pure nihilism that cannot be countered without losing your own sense of right and wrong, and all innocence. You'd think the nation was going through some sort of existential crisis or something.
Back in the late sixties what you saw of Batman was all high camp – the fey and slightly paunchy Adam West in his lavender leotard was Batman back then. Burgess Meredith channeling a mad FDR was the Penguin and Caesar Romero the dapper Joker. That nation was in turmoil over Vietnam and so much more, but Batman back then was not about anything much – just a goof, a kind of weekly lark. And there was that cool and slightly cheesy 1966 Batmobile. Those were the days.
That Batmobile – built in three weeks on a Ford Futura chassis – was the creation of George Barris, perhaps the best-known designer of custom cars in the world, the man who calls himself King of the Kustomizers. In his mid-eighties now, Barris was, for decades, the go-to guy when any television show or big-budget movie needed a very strange and vastly amusing vehicle. And to get back to those good old days it seemed about time to visit George Barris Place, Riverside Drive and Lankershim Boulevard in North Hollywood, and Barris Kustom Industries at 10811 Riverside Drive – still going strong.
The City Council of Los Angeles, on March 23, 2007, dedicated George Barris Place there. The Batmobile in the Bat Cave is out back.