Sunday night, the Batmobile pulled into a gas station. As usual, the kids who saw it were amazed.
That was normal for Lenny B. Robinson. The man from Maryland was better known as “Route 29 Batman.” For years, he dressed up as the Caped Crusader and drove his custom-made car to bring joy and distraction to hundreds of sick kids in area hospitals.
Robinson put his costume away in the Batmobile, but his alter ego was never really turned off. He gave the kids at the gas station some superhero stuff before driving off.
Soon after, Robinson pulled over on an unlit part of Interstate 70 near Hagerstown, Maryland, because his engine was giving him trouble. The people he had just met pulled up behind him and turned on their emergency lights.
State police say that when he got out to check the engine, his car was still “partially in the fast lane” even though it was stopped in the median. At about 10:30 p.m., a Toyota Camry crashed into the Batmobile, sending the steel-framed, black metal machine flying into him. Smith, 51, d*ied at the scene. On Wednesday in Owings Mill, Maryland, he will be buried.
The crash is still under investigation, and no charges have been filed. The driver of the Camry, who was not injured, declined to comment.
“He was my brother, my business partner, and my best friend,” Scott Robinson said. “He made many people happy and changed a lot of lives.” Only that did he want to do.
Robinson had a business that cleaned things for money. His brother said that he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on his Batmobile that looked like it was from the 1960s, a costume that looked more real than those in the movies, and toys that he gave to kids that were always signed “Batman.”
The heavy superhero outfit and black eye makeup took him about 45 minutes to put on. Every time he wore it, it made him lose five to six pounds of water weight.
In hospitals, he didn’t walk so much as stride.
Police in Montgomery County pulled Batman over on Route 29 three years ago while he was dressed as Batman. This made him famous. An instant Web hit was a video of his encounter with police in Silver Spring, who had stopped him because of a problem with his license plates, which had the Batman symbol on them. But no one knew who he was until The Washington Post told them.
How do you know the Route 29 Batman? This person.
A lot of people saw the video and story on Facebook, and Jimmy Fallon even talked about them on his show.
He started dressing up as the character because one of his sons, Brandon, was crazy about it. But Robinson found a new goal when he saw how the kids reacted.
In a way, the good things he did as his character were punishment for his bad temper, which got him into fights and trouble with the law years before.
An amateur filmmaker named Yuri Ozeryan followed Robinson around in 2012 for a documentary project that has since been shelved. Ozeryan said Robinson joked that he had “bat senses,” which was his way of saying that he used to be willing to defend people with his fists.
“Sometimes,” Ozeryan said, “he might have started it.”
He said that the suit changed him, though.
Robinson used a deep voice as the Dark Knight, but he was careful not to scare little kids. Small ones were his favorite. He liked to pick them up and hold them up so they could look down into his eyes.
He thought about why kids liked the character and told Post readers about it in an online chat in 2012.
He said, “Batman is the only superhero who doesn’t have superpowers.” “He’s a superhero by nature.” “Kids can connect with me better.”
The thing he wanted most from parents was for them to say, “This is the first time my son or daughter has smiled in months.”
There were kids with tubes in their noses and IVs in their arms when I went to the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Robinson gave out toys, books, and bracelets with rubber symbols on them. Everyone thought he was Batman.
Robinson did a lot of work with Hope for Henry, a group in Washington, D.C. that helps sick kids. The group held superhero parties in hospitals. It was started by Laurie Strongin and Allen Goldberg after their son Henry d*ied of a rare disease. Bruce Wayne was the star.
Sharpin said, “He always said yes when I asked him to do something.”
Robinson called her on Henry’s birthday every year, even though they had never met.
Monday morning, she cried all day. The company had just finished making a video about the program. A boy dressed as Batman starts it. He has cancer of the white blood cells. He is waiting in front of a hospital. Robin’s real name is Lenny Robinson, and he shows up in his Batmobile to give the boy a hug.
Sharpin said, “He was magic.”
Robinson and Marilyn Richardson met about ten years ago when Batman was still driving a Chrysler PT Cruiser. Robinson now works at Sinai Hospital’s Rubin Institute for Advanced Orthopedics in Baltimore. After that, he bought a Lamborghini and then had the custom car built.
She has a lot of pictures of him and almost as many stories about him.
On Monday, she talked about the teen who had been sad while she was healing from surgery because she saw friends on Facebook living the life she wanted. The girl saw the Batmobile one day from the window of her hospital room.
Then the Knight in the Cape came in.
She said, “Oh my gosh.” “This is Batman.”
Robinson took a picture of her and she shared it on Facebook. The girl told Richardson, “I’ve never gotten this many likes.” She was glowing.
Another time, he was walking down the hall when he saw an old woman sitting alone and staring at the floor. She saw him when she looked up.
“Well, hello, young lady,” he begin. She smiled and stood up straight.
Nobody loved Robinson more than Elizabeth Gardner, who lives in Reisterstown, Maryland, and has TAR syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that has made her arms very short.
When she met Batman for the first time four years ago, she was six years old and very scared of people in costumes. It worked.
Lisa, her mother, said, “It was such a huge, huge moment that he was able to break down that wall.” “He had a lovely spirit.”
After some time, Elizabeth told Robinson that other kids at her elementary school were picking on her.
She told him, “They don’t think Batman is my friend.”
Robinson went to school with her and showed up in full costume in front of all the other students. He called Elizabeth up on stage to give her a Batman necklace and told her classmates that it was wrong to pick on people.
He said, “Elizabeth is my friend.”
Later, a picture was taken of them sitting facing each other behind the stage. He took off his gloves in front of a fan to cool off his sweaty hands.
He told her, “I wish I were more like you.”
The girl said, “No.”
She told him, “That won’t do.” “You are your own person.”