Friday, August 6, 2010

The Night I Met Batman

Among the perks of my time in student ministry were all of the trips I got to take to New York City.  Most of those trips were with the groups I led, but on occasion I would go up by myself to check out new things and work out deals with the Milford Plaza Hotel.  This is the story of one such trip.

It must have been 1998 when I visited the Big Apple in preparation for our 1999 trip from Kissimmee.  I went up for a couple of days, and as was my habit I purchased tickets for a few Broadway shows.  You can often get great seats when you are only looking for one ticket, and on this particular adventure I hit the jackpot!  I got one seat (front row center) to my all-time favorite show, Les Miserables.  And I got one ticket very close to the stage (3 rows back) for the hottest show of the time, The Lion King.  I was so psyched- Lion King tickets were almost impossible to get.

I arrived at the theater and went down to my seat, which was one in from the aisle just to the right of the center of the stage.  As I sat down, a young woman (I have always referred to her as the Usherette; so I will not stop now!) who was about two feet tall and appeared to be around 10 years old approached me and asked if I would mind sitting on the aisle.  She indicated that the person with the aisle seat did not want to be seen.  I was thrilled to make the switch; more leg room for me!  I mentioned to the Usherette that the person must be someone famous, and asked who it was.  She said she couldn't tell me.  I found that odd, since I would be sitting next to the celebrity in a few short minutes, but I didn't push the issue.  Sure enough, moments later I was sitting next to Michael Keaton.  I was going to watch The Lion King with Batman!  I restrained myself from saying anything, realizing he had changed seats so he would not be bothered, but eventually our eyes met and we nodded at each other.  Not knowing what to say, I blurted out, "I guess this is when I should say like 'I'm a big fan!'- or something."  He smiled but said nothing, and I turned away.  A few minutes later I felt his elbow jabbing my arm, and I turned back to him.  He looked at me with a classic expression and said, "So?"  I laughed and told him I was indeed a big fan, to which he responded, "Yeah?  Name a movie."  I will never know why I didn't say Batman or Mr. Mom, but what came out of my mouth was Johnny Dangerously.  He absolutely loved it.  He wasn't sure anyone had actually seen that movie (Will would tell you if you haven't seen it, go rent it right now!).  We chatted a bit, and he was very kind and at least feigned interest in my work with the church.  Then the show started.  Ten minutes into this play we (and the rest of the crowd) were on our feet giving the opening scene a standing ovation. It was truly amazing.

Intermission arrived, and by this time others had noticed my new friend and were talking to him, so I struck up a conversation with the Usherette.  She seemed to be looking for someone.  She told me she knew there were several other celebrities in the crowd but that she had not seen them yet.  Seeing as how she was incredibly short, I stood with her to look, but I was no help.  I started to sit back down when Mr. Keaton grabbed my arm and pointed several rows behind us.  "Look back there."  I looked, and there sat Sylvester Stallone and a date- or a wife- or something.  This was turning in to quite a night.  As we returned to our seats, Michael Keaton looked at me and said, "You are going to have quite a story to tell when you get back to church, huh?"  I said, "Yes- I sat next to Michael Keaton and I saw Sylvester Stallone."  He shook his head and said to me, "You have no imagination at all, do you?  This is what you tell people when you get home.  You sat next to Michael Keaton and you had better seats than Stallone!"  I just about fell over laughing.

The show resumed, and then ended, and Batman and I went our separate ways.  As he was leaving I did get in one last shot.  He had his back to me and was walking away when I said to him, "Hey Michael- what are we seeing tomorrow night?"  I was ignored...

I have always loved telling that story, and I am not the only one.  My friend Carl Crispin from the improv group CPR confessed to me once that he had been telling that story all over the country as if he was the Carl it happened to!  Marilyn and Will always refer to Mr. Keaton as "my friend" when they see him in a movie or on TV.   He was a really nice guy, and I feel honored to have met him.  I'm sorry Christian Bale, but until we see a show together, Michael Keaton will always be the Caped Crusader to me.   I just wish I had been able to summon the courage to ask him to say it- I'm Batman!  Maybe next time...

Because of Jesus,


  1. How did I miss this story all these years?! I LOVE THIS!! So funny. And so jealous. He sounds very nice and down to earth. Great story.

  2. I do not know how anyone missed this story- in fact, I thought people were probably tired of hearing it! Glad you enjoyed!

  3. I have never heard that story either! What a fun night that must have been. Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend :)

  4. I stand corrected. Based on the comments and e-mails and comments on Marilyn's Facebook, I guess people really did not know the Michael Keaton story. If I had known I would have told it much sooner...

  5. Thanks, Angie. I've gotten a lot of mileage out of that story- and he was a really nice guy.


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