Excerpts from my new book:

  For more information about the TV Tidbits book series, visit my other website, TVTidbits.com.  

My Trailer Park Encounter with the Boy Wonder

I've been fascinated with TV trivia ever since my earliest encounter with a classic TV star, which happened in a Kansas trailer park in the early 1970s.

It wasn’t as tawdry as that might sound. I was a starry eyed kid who loved television, and one of my favorite shows was the campy Batman. Robin, the Boy Wonder, visited my hometown when I was about six years old.

I was so young that I didn’t quite understood yet that it wasn’t actually Robin, but a young actor named Burt Ward, who was working his way across the U.S. making personal appearances. My big brother Mark and I were excited from the moment we saw an ad in the newspaper announcing that the superhero would be signing autographs at a mobile home dealership in Coffeyville.

Mark was six years older, so he was a bit shrewder than me. He realized we were about to get a once-in-a-lifetime chance. He figured out that while we were getting our autographs we’d each have a moment to ask Robin one question. So, for days we planned, debating exactly what we’d inquire about. I don’t remember what questions we passed over, but I vividly recall the two we settled on: Mark wanted to know how Batman and Robin were able to pull large items, like a big can of shark repellant, from their relatively small utility belts. And I would ask which super villain was Robin’s favorite. (I was sure I already knew the answer. I imagined that, like me, he had a special place in his heart for slinky, amazingly costumed Catwoman, but I wanted to know for sure.)

The exciting Bat-day arrived, and our father drove us to the trailer park. Dad didn’t grasp the size of the moment. It was a balmy afternoon. He preferred to wait in the air-conditioned car while Mark and I took our place in a line that started inside a luxurious double-wide and snaked its way among a half a dozen mobile homes. And it wasn’t made up just of children. There were also a few farmers in from the field, in their mud-stained overalls; housewives with big, teased hair; and even a couple of local businessmen in their pinstriped suits. (Coffeyville didn’t see many celebrities, so when one showed up, people turned out.)

“What are you going to ask him?” Mark asked me as we stood there sweating. He was afraid that in the excitement I’d forget or just stand there tongue-tied. But I remembered my question, and I recited it belligerently to him. “I’m not going to forget,” I said. But just in case, I did keep repeating it over and over in my head.

Finally we made our way into the magic trailer -- and there, sitting behind a desk, was Robin. I was used to seeing the show on our black-and-white TV set, so his bright red vest and shiny yellow satin cape looked intense. And even with that little bandit mask concealing part of his face, I could tell he’d aged a bit since the TV show was made.

There were still a few people ahead of us, so we got to watch Robin in action. He had a stack of black-and-white photos in front of him, and as each kid approached, he asked their name, and with a magic marker grasped in his green-gloved hand, he signed a personalized autograph. I was a little smug when I noticed that nobody else was asking questions. (Unlike most people living in Coffeyville, Mark and I weren’t born there. This was just another example of how our big-city ways set us apart from the natives.)

Mark was in front of me, so he got his superhero moment first. When Robin snapped, “Name?!” Mark told him, and he kept his cool under pressure; he also asked his question: “How did you and Batman fit all those gadgets into your utility belts?” Robin didn’t miss a beat: “They were really big belts! Next!”

As Mark moved aside, still glowing a bit from his experience, I stepped up. I was soft-spoken, so after Robin asked my name and I told him, he yelled over his shoulder, to no one in particular, “Is it Craig or Greg!?” There were a few people milling about behind him—probably the owner of the trailer park and his proud family. Maybe Robin thought my parents were in the trailer somewhere, but Dad was out in the car, and Mark had moved on, so I was on my own. I spoke up and told him my name again. Then as he scribbled it on a photo for me, I asked my question: “Which villain was your favorite?” He didn’t even think about it. “I hated ’em all,” he said blithely. Before I knew it, our audience with Robin was over, and we hadn’t really learned a thing.

I didn’t know it then, but what my brother and I were seeking that day was TV trivia. We were going right to the source; we wanted Batman’s trusty chum to tell us a couple of little-known facts about one of our favorite shows. And even though Robin didn’t really give up the goods, for me, it was the beginning of a life-long interest in the details that made up the fabulous worlds depicted on our family TV screen.

When I wasn’t watching TV, I spent a lot of happy hours reading about it—everything from paperbacks and comic books based on popular shows (like The Partridge Family and Dark Shadows) to magazines that offered gossip about the stars and previews of episodes to come.

One of my favorite magazines was Dynamite, which was aimed at kids like me and which included posters of everyone from John Travolta to Farrah Fawcett-Majors. I covered my bedroom walls with those posters, and I filled my mind with as much trivial information about my favorite shows as I could find.

As I grew up, my love for TV shows only intensified. Over the years I’ve interviewed dozens of actors, including classic TV stars like Carol Burnett, Stefanie Powers, Conrad Bain, Gordon Jump, and Jonathan Frid. For various writing projects, I’ve conducted extensive research at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and the Museum of Television and Radio. And as opposed to the half-dozen channels the antenna on our TV captured when I was a kid, today I have digital cable with more than 200 channels, and a collection of classics on VHS and DVD.

Along with my friend Michael Karol, another writer who loves TV as much as I do, I’ve started the TV Tidbits book series and website. To prepare The TV Tidbits Classic Television Quiz Book, I re-watched countless episodes of my favorite shows, pored through reference books, and spent hours surfing the Web. It was certainly a labor of love, and if you’re a TV fan like me, I think you’ll enjoy the challenge of working your way through the pages. The book will be available in late March on Amazon.com. In the meantime, you can find out about my other books currently for sale on Amazon.

To take some TV trivia quizzes excerpted from the book, click here.

Stay tuned for more in the Tidbits book series and visit www.tvtidbits.com to read fun facts about your favorite shows.
Craig Hamrick


Trivia Quizzes :

1. Quiz One: Test your knowledge about such classics as Wonder Woman and The Donna Reed Show.

2. Locales: Where did these shows take place?

3. Character Names: Give the last names of thes popular characters.

For more TV trivia quizzes, check out my new book,
The TV Tidbits Classic Television Quiz Book,
which is now available on Amazon.com!

Craig Hamrick is the author of several TV-related books including Barnabas & Company: the Cast of the TV Classic Dark Shadows. For more information, visit DarkShadowsOnline.com and TV Tidbits.com

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