Speeding down Route 29 in Maryland, Montgomery County police signal to an elegant, sleek black Lamborghini to pull over. The number plates look obscure, the driver even more so. But what would usually be a routine check turns into something much more.
When police approach, the number plate comes into view: There's a bat symbol where numbers should be. Inside, the driver is obscured by cape and cowl. It turns out, on March 21st, 2012, the police have pulled over Batman.
The incident, caught on dashboard camera, brought the Baltimore Batman to international fame. But despite the viral content in the video, the true story of the man behind the mask, Lenny B. Robinson, has all the hallmarks of a Hollywood movie. Unfortunately, unlike some Hollywood tales, the story ends in tragedy.
'The Kids Are My Priority'
Lenny's motivation for dressing as the Caped Crusader was for the greater good, and inspired by his son, Brandon, who loved the character. Starting in 2001, he'd visit Hospitals in the Baltimore and Maryland area twice a month, sometimes more, dressed in a full, custom made suit.
During a YouTube interview, Batman Unmasked, when asked what motivated him to spend $40,000 - $50,000 every year on toys and memorabilia, he simply replied: "So that they’ll remember someone did something special for them."
Special is an understatement. Driving to hospitals in the Batmobile often brought indescribable joy to the children he spoke to. But it also provided fulfillment for Lenny himself. In the interview, he said:
"I love what I’m doing. I know what I’m doing is important. And the kids are my priority. Number one."
And those early days working with sick children clearly had an impact. He admitted when he started out he was "stunned" by the struggle the families go through day in, day out. But he knew his work was having an impact.
An Important Responsibility
Following the viral explosion in 2012 Lenny became a well-known figure, and charities began contacting him, asking if he could brighten the day for numerous sick children. He'd also visit schools giving inspirational anti-bullying speeches.
In an interview with The Washington Post, he acknowledged that in his younger years, he'd fly off the handle a little too quickly. But becoming the Dark Knight had a deep consequence:
“Eventually, it sinks in and you become him. It feels like I have a responsibility that’s beyond a normal person. And that responsibility is to be there for the kids, to be strong for them, and to make them smile as much as I can.”
Lenny admitted the process did take a lot out of him, emotionally and physically. The suit — which was custom made and cost $5,000 — weighed 35lbs. Often on a visit, he'd be in costume for seven or eight hours continuously. He couldn't go to the toilet. He'd have to be wary of dehydration, low blood sugar levels, or passing out.
But it was always worth it. While visibly choked, Lenny reminisced about one particular child he met at a hospice center. He said:
"It was tough. The kid I met, his last wish was to meet me. And I made sure I met him. And he died. I’m glad I was able to brighten one of his last remaining days on this earth before he went."
A Tragic Accident
Sadly, on August 16th 2015, while traveling back from a car show, Lenny's custom made Batmobile had engine trouble. When he pulled over to investigate, another car struck with the vehicle. Lenny was pronounced dead at the scene. He was just 51 years old.
His legacy lives on through his own charity, Superheroes For Kids, as well as a program named in his honor at Sinai Hospital, Baltimore. And although he touched the lives of thousands and inspired many more, Lenny was always clear where he felt the attention should be directed:
"It’s heartbreaking. These kids are so cute, so nice. So much life in them. They crave life. And they struggle every single day of the week. They’re the real superheroes. It’s not me. The resiliency they have. It’s something else."
Courage, determination, altruism, humor, modesty — these are all qualities a superhero should have, and Lenny B. Robinson had them in abundance.
The "B" stood for Batman.