By Joe Vince
Brian Grams has been a Mötley Crüe fan since 1984, when he was 8. So when he heard Vince Neil, the heavy metal band’s lead singer, would be visiting Tinley Park’s Bettenhausen Automotive on Thursday afternoon as part of a charity autograph signing and photo opportunity, Grams knew he had to attend.
But when your family collects famous TV and movie cars for its automobile museum, it can give a fan the opportunity to be a little more unusual when it comes to what a rock idol gets to sign.
Like, say, the fender of a Batmobile from the 1960s Batman TV show.
That’s what Gram, whose family operates the Volo Auto Museum in the northwest suburbs, suggested to the car dealership when he heard about the fundraiser. So Gram drove down the custom auto, and it became the first thing Neil signed after exiting his black tour bus to the cheers and applause of about 500 fans who turned out for the event.
“[I’m a] big fan. … Since Day 1,” said Frank Ricci, of Manteno, who got to pose with Neil and share a brief, close moment with a singer he’s only ever heard in recordings or at concerts from afar. “Meeting him, that’s been the biggest kick of my life.”
Bettenhausen, along with Q-Rock (100.7 FM) radio station, sponsored this fundraiser for Tinley Wish, a nonprofit initiative set up by the village’s police department that helps families with financial and other challenges during the holidays. Although small autographs and photos with Neil were free, fans had to pay for signed T-shirts and large, glossy photos. The money generated from those sales, as well as concessions served during the event, all goes to Tinley Wish.
So was Neil’s signature the first autograph to adorn the Batmobile’s jet-black chassis?
No, Grams said, but the ink has faded, and the name is no longer visible. So who was first person to sign the Batmobile?
Adam West, of course, the actor who played the car’s fictional owner in the TV series.