The story of my brush with fame, danger and Barbie, dressed as Batman is an old one.

I was with some fascinating people recently at a Seth Godin Meet Up at which I shared this story. The next one is on 17th August 2011.

At their request, here it is in print.

It’s all absolutely true ….

I used to manage events and one such event was the launch of a computer game spin-off from the movie Batman Forever in the mid 1990s.

We hired Warner Brothers’ Store in Regent Street in Central London for the evening, invited 300 media types to mark the launch and bought an awful lot of booze to get them there.

In response to our clients’ desire that Batman should make a surprise and dramatic entrance, we hired a stunt man, obtained a suit from the movie and created a stage and a false ceiling in the three-storey circular stairwell overlooking the main area. At precisely the right moment Batman was to burst through the fake skylight (complete with spinning Bat logo) and float down to the stage. Under the grilled stage a huge fan would start, lifting Batman’s cape into the air.

The rehearsal the previous night went very well despite the stunt coordinator using a worrying array of domestic items, three storeys above the floor rather than state of the art drag drop technology. It involved a very uncomfortable looking harness, a long wire, a piece of scaffolding balanced across the top of the circular stair ledge … and a pair of gardening gloves!

The rehearsal was without the music or indeed the temporary structure through which Batman had to crash.

The next day was the hottest June day in living memory and as the last of the customers drifted out of the store, our army of set builders sweated to turn the ground floor into the Bat Cave.

It wasn’t until a little later that I started to get worried because the stunt man hadn’t showed up and later still when we learned that he wasn’t going to make it to the store in time.

I looked around for someone who was the right size, didn’t already have an essential job to do and was prepared to hurl himself or herself over a three-storey stairwell, held from certain death only by an old guy wearing a pair of gardening gloves. Oh Dear!

30 minutes and a generous amount of talcum powder later, I had managed to get into the suit and the harness and was suspended out of sight of the 300 guests, three floor above a wooden and sugarglass fake Batman roof and skylight. The gadget addict in me just had time to admire the suit from the movie, with it’s real utility belt, impressive pecs … and nipples!

In the time available, I had tried very hard to plan the drop with the stunt coordinator. I might as well not have bothered. When I looked down through my legs as the crucial moment approached, I noticed that I wasn’t exactly over the skylight so I started to swing back and forward so that when I was lowered down, I could crash through the glass rather than the roof.

I’ve often wondered in the years since, what I could possibly have done to anger the stunt coordinator because it wasn’t so much as a ‘lower me down to the roof’ … as a drop! Unexpected and dramatic it certainly was. I took out the whole roof structure and landed on my arse on the grill that made up the metre-high stage, surrounded by guests.

Now you don’t have to be a super hero fan to know that Batman doesn’t ever land on his arse, so before anyone could spot the error, I was up on my feet, spreading my cape using the hidden black canes stitched in to make the whole thing look wider and bigger. I thought I might just have got away with it until the fan started up and slivers of the broken sugar glass and splinters of wood started pinning up into my face. Oh Dear!

A games company PR rushed over and rather than allow me to escape to tend my many wounds, insisted that I start a walkabout and pose for photos with guests. If there is one thing I remember most about that evening it is the feeling of celebrity. It’s very odd to be the person who everyone seems to know and wants to shake hands with. Becks, eat your heart out.

Job done, I escaped, hid the suit in my suit bag and made a hasty exit. I was going to keep the suit as a souvenir and as a passport to fancy dress prizes for life!

A week or so later, the bruises had gone and the phone rang.

“Do you have the Batman suit?” the promotion people wanted to know.

“Might have”, I said.

“Will you do a personal appearance as Batman at Toys R Us in Aberdeen on Saturday? It’s their opening day.”


“We’ll pay you £900, all your expenses and you’ll be flying up business class with Barbie”

“Can I keep the suit if I do this?”


“OK then”

Despite claims that it is the “Athens of the North”, Aberdeen has yet to make the top ten of the “World’s Best Cities” chart, and having met some of the people who live there, it’s clear why.

Barbie and I had arrived the night before and had breakfast together. Nothing more. It was 30 minutes of quite exceptional feminine beauty, unrealistic male aspiration and uninspired conversation. We shared a taxi to the store where we were ushered backstage to meet Mighty Mouse and a few Power Rangers.

My instructions were to run about the store a bit with my cape flapping and pose as a statue near the Batman merchandise. I was encouraged not to speak, not because I didn’t have an American accent but because my non-Scottish one would deter buyers. Oh please!

I soon found that “running about a bit” was safer than standing still when a fierce Braveheart-looking family came past. Dad told his son that I was real. The son didn’t believe Dad and decided the best way to find out was to punch me really hard below the utility belt. The daughter asked me if I was all right and Mum helped me back to my feet. As she did so, she seemed taken by the feel of my outfit. When her dangerous looking husband and children had moved on a bit, she goosed me and said “I love rubber”.

I did a bit more running about after that.

Knackered, and sure that the McDangerous family had left, I retreated to the Batman merchandise where a cute little lad was counting out pennies to see if he could afford a 99p figure … of me. He only had 60p and looked bereft. I called the manager over and asked if the lad could have the figurine for 60p. He said no. It figured, given the location! I said I’d make up the difference but he remained unmoved saying that it would result in a hoard of kids asking for the figures at a discount. I expressed my doubts but was told to “run about a bit more” and so I left the lad looking very sad.

We only had an hour or so to go and I could feel a pint coming on, when a voice came over the tannoy system asking all the super heroes and cartoon characters to make their way to the BBC Radio Aberdeen stage in the car park for the … Character Dancing Competition! … Oh! Dear.

We lined up for the unavoidable humiliation. I was standing next to Barbie, which was the only consolation. The DJ announced that we would each dance and the audience would be the clapometer. The winning character would be given a Batman Bike to give to anyone in the audience. And yes, the little lad was there, at the front, looking longingly at the bike.

There are “moments” in your life and this was one of mine. When my turn came, I whisked Barbie onto the stage and we danced together in what must have looked like a sad parody of Toy Story. But the crowd loved it.

We won!

I was given the bike!

I gave it to the little lad who started to cry.

Barbie kissed me.