As the first season of Batman: The Animated Series carried on into the fall of 1992, many like myself, quickly became regular viewers. The Tim Burton films had introduced a number of new fans to the mythos, and the animated series was showing us another medium in which the caped crusader could play in.
Of course, this wasn’t the Batman’s first foray into television. One need only think back to the 1960’s, and the first time Batman appeared on TV. Actors Adam West and Burt Ward became the live-action faces of Batman and Robin for many years, until the film series came along.
In the summer 2017, Adam West died, and many were quick to remember and honor his legacy. Of course, when it came to Batman: The Animated Series during it’s first season, the show’s creators were not just fans of who Adam was, but sought to find a way to give him a small tribute role in their show.
Thus, Mr West found himself in the 32nd episode, Beware the Gray Ghost, which premiered on November 4th, 1992.
The show starts with the opening to The Gray Ghost television series, and a title card for the episode: The Mad Bomber.
We soon see a young Bruce Wayne, watching the show with his father. On the TV screen in their living room, a plastics plant is rocked by an explosion, and the fragments of a ransom note are found.
We then cut to present-day Gotham, where a number of buildings are being leveled by massive explosions (one of them also a plastics plant). Commissioner Gordon finds a ransom note after the last explosion, and shows it to the Batman. It’s message is very similar to a note on the Mad Bomber episode, jogging the caped crusader’s memory. Even with this revelation, Batman is stumped: the current events seem to be tied to the Gray Ghost show, but he isn’t sure exactly how.
Under the guise of Bruce Wayne, he visits a film collector, looking for episodes of the show. Sadly, the collector says that the studio that made the series, burned down some time ago, along with the original negatives stored in their filmvault.
“So the Gray Ghost doesn’t exist?” asks Bruce.
“Not anymore,” says the collector.
Bruce then goes to the Television Actors Guild, where he manages to find information on the actor who played The Gray Ghost: Simon Trent.
Unfortunately, Trent has fallen on hard times since the days of his show. He is late paying his rent, and his agent is not able to get him any new roles, with those who remember Trent, typecasting him based on his most famous role.
Desperate for money, Trent sells off some merchandise and all of his props from the show (including his original costume!) to Ted Dymer, the owner of a vintage toy store called Yestertoys. Trent has done the same in the past, but Ted tells the actor that as the last stuff he sold to him isn’t moving, he can’t pay much for the latest offload.
“I’ll take whatever you can give me,” says Simon.
Returning home, Trent gazes at his empty display shelves, and falls asleep. Awakening some time later, he is shocked to find that all of the items he sold, have been returned! Nearby is his costume, with a note, requesting he meet ‘a friend’ at The Gotham Art School.
He does as requested, but is shocked when out of the shadows, emerges the Batman!
Fearing for his life, Trent takes off running, but Batman catches up to him, and gets him to listen. Batman explains that the recent bombings that have plagued Gotham, are similar to what happened on one of the Gray Ghost episodes. Even with this information, Trent just demands to be left alone.
Suddenly, a strange whirring sound is heard, causing Trent to stop. A few moments later, the Gotham Art School explodes! Trent takes the chance to run, and gets back to his apartment…only to find the Batman waiting for him!
Batman noticed how Trent recognized the whirring sound, and reveals that at the Art School scene, he found another note, this one claiming the Gotham Library is next.
“Help me,” he pleads.
Trent finally relents, and goes to his closet, which contain his personal copies of the show’s episodes. Pulling out a film canister labeled The Mad Bomber, he hands it to the Batman.
“Here’s your answer,” he says, angrily. “Take it and go! Please!”
Batman does as requested, but before he leaves, he turns back to the old man.
“I used to admire what The Gray Ghost stood for,” he says.
“I’m not The Gray Ghost,” responds Trent.
“I can see that now,” says Batman, a tinge of hurt in his voice, as he vanishes out a nearby window.
Returning to Wayne Manor, Alfred runs the film through a projector, and Bruce sits down to watch it.
When Bruce had originally seen the episode as a boy, he fell asleep before it ended. Now, he gets to see the rest of the story. As he does so, the same whirring sound is heard. On-screen, he sees that it is coming from a small, remote-controlled car.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” says Bruce, as the small car drives toward a building, that then explodes in a giant fireball!
Batman then reports his findings to the Commissioner, and the Police set up positions around the library.
Suddenly, three cars just like on the show appear, streaking through the barricades and cops milling about!
Batman and a rifleman manage to stop two of the vehicles. The third one takes off, but doesn’t get far, overturning in an alley nearby. Opening it up, Batman finds no explosives inside.
“A decoy?” he ponders, as suddenly, two more cars streak out of the darkness toward him!
Just then, a rope is lowered down from the building behind him, and Batman grabs for it. As he does so, the cars hit the nearby wall and explode, the force of which throws him up onto the building’s rooftop, where he meets his savior: Simon Trent, clad in his Gray Ghost costume!
“Hey, I owed you,” say Trent, “you got me my outfit back.”
As Batman looks over the toy car he obtained, he offers Trent the chance to come along with him to check it for fingerprints.
Trent is in awe as he gets into the Batmobile, but is soon assisting the Batman, when several more remote-controlled cars give chase. The two manage to trip them up, and arrive at the Batcave (with Trent having been blindfolded before they entered). Looking around, the TV star is surprised how much it resembles the Gray Ghost’s lair.
Batman even shows him a small shrine to his character (complete with the hat and cape Bruce wore as a young boy, when watching the show!).
“As a kid, I used to watch you with my father,” he says, happily. “The Gray Ghost was my hero.”
“So it wasn’t all for nothing,” mutters Trent, amazed that what he thought was just a ridiculous TV show, actually inspired one of the city’s greatest heroes.
Batman then runs a diagnostic on the car, but both he and Trent are shocked when they find the only set of prints on it…match Trent’s!
Trent pleads with Batman that he isn’t behind the bombings, but Batman notes how he (Trent) had the only copy of the show, and the bomber followed the episode’s plot to the ‘T.’
Trent claims it couldn’t have been him, as all of the remote control cars from the show that he owned, were sold to Ted Dymer at his collectibles store some time ago…leading to a sudden conclusion!
Batman then goes to Dymer’s store, where he finds the owner in a control room, filled with monitors, knobs, and dials.
Like any delusional villain with an audience, Ted starts monologuing, claiming that he loves toys, but in order to satisfy his collecting habit, he needs money. Remembering the Mad Bomber episode of The Gray Ghost, gave him the idea.
“And then I remembered what else a toy can do,” he claims. “It can carry a bomb. It can hold a city for ransom. Oh, the power of the toy. It can earn millions…millions for the little ol’ toy collector: me!”
However, Ted is so caught up in his monologuing, that he is shocked when the Gray Ghost bursts in through a window, knocking him into some shelves, that wreck his control panel that quickly catches fire!
Batman scoops up Ted, and he and Trent rush from the building, before it too explodes, the blast destroying Ted’s store, and his precious collection.
Following the events, Ted Dymer is locked away, and Simon Trent allows for his copies of The Gray Ghost series, to be released as a home video boxset. Trent now has a new source of income, and is also surprised at the massive lines that greet him at a signing event at a local Gotham video store.
One of the men in line is Bruce Wayne, who kindly asks Simon to make the signature out, “To Bruce.”
“You know, as a kid I used to watch you with my father,” says Bruce, repeating what he told Trent in the Batcave. “The Gray Ghost was my hero.”
“Really?” says Trent, recognizing the wording, before turning his attention to another fan.
“And he still is,” smiles Bruce, walking away.
And that was Beware the Gray Ghost.
Up until watching the episode, I had no idea who Adam West really was. While I would watch the old 60’s TV show when it popped up on reruns, it never really electrified my brain the way the 1989 film did.
Over the years, I’d often see Adam West in a number of smaller roles (like a crooked cop in the 1987 film, Zombie Nightmare, which was skewered on the show Mystery Science Theater 3000), but out of all his parts in the last couple decades, his role here as Simon Trent, is still the one that stands out the most to me.
I did wonder what may have gone through West’s mind, when there were scenes of Trent frustrated that he could not escape the shadow of his biggest role. Word is that showrunners Bruce Timm and Paul Dini had the idea to have West voice Trent, but would not have made the episode if he hadn’t agreed to play the character.
The episode really felt like the show writers getting the chance to build up their own mythos for the Animated Series. Also, the emotions that both Trent and Batman go through, are a bit more ‘adult’ in nature. Most kids probably wouldn’t get Trent’s frustration, or the tone of disappointment Batman feels, when Trent seems to want to bury anything to do with his character.
The episode even manages to combine elements of the 30’s serials, notably in how the Gray Ghost seems to be an homage to the radio character, The Shadow
Even Ted Dymer (voiced by the show’s co-creator, Bruce Timm), has a plan almost worthy of the 60’s TV show’s bad guys (though much more explosive than anything those bad guys ever did!).
The story starts out pretty strong, but it seems when it comes to the conclusion with Ted Dymer, it is wrapped up incredibly fast, with the bulk of the storytelling being focused on Batman, and Trent. Dymer just monologues, is knocked out, and his place goes up in smoke in about 2 minutes of screen-time!
Over the years, West was often ripe for parody, but with his role here, he is given a wonderful ‘thank you’ by some great Bat-fans.
Most notable looking back on it now, is the ending in which Simon Trent gains a new lease on life as the Gray Ghost. This comes about when he is able to release the series on home video.
The same feeling came about in the last few years, when the 60’s TV series of Batman, was finally able to be released to consumers. It also brought forth a number of merchandising items honoring the show, from Mattel action figures, to a massive LEGO set that combined Wayne Manor and the Batcave from the show!
Speaking of merchandise, I was genuinely surprised in recent years, when the Batman Animated Series got a line of DC Direct action figures. With new molds and following the show designs more accurately, I was disappointed that even with the line making some figures that were never released, we never did get a newer molding of The Gray Ghost (who has had a few different figures released over the years!).
This past summer, the world of voice-acting and animation, lost one of it’s most beloved members: June Foray.
Probably as much as Mel Blanc was a part of our childhoods, June was just as notable. She voiced dozens of characters, from Rocky the Flying Squirrel, to Witch Hazel in the Looney Tunes shorts, and many, many more!
Speaking of Witch Hazel, that’s one reason why we’re having this Retro Recap.
In the world of animation, most think of a character by that name, in relation to the Looney Tunes series of cartoons. Created by Chuck Jones, the Looney version of Hazel, would be voiced by Foray for over 50 years (with the exceptions being Bea Benaderet in 1954, and Tress MacNeille from 1992-1994).
However, most may not know that Jones was not the first to give an animated character that name, AND have her voiced by June.
In 1952, another Witch named Hazel, appeared in the Donald Duck short, Trick or Treat.
On Halloween night, Witch Hazel flies through a nearby town on her broom B.Z. Bub, cackling maniacally, and causing plenty of mischief. During her antics, she stops to watch as Huey, Dewey, and Louie, show up at the door of their Uncle Donald’s house.
Instead of treats however, Donald decides to give out some ‘tricks,’ putting live firecrackers in the boy’s treat bags, destroying their candy haul. He then finishes by dumping water on them, before laughingly closing the door in their faces.
“Aw, bless their little black hearts,” says Hazel, coming down to console the boys.
Of course, the boys are perfectly fine encountering a real witch on a flying broom, and Hazel decides to help them get some candy from Donald. However, her polite attempts don’t work, and so she gets the boys to help her use witchcraft on him!
Setting up a cauldron, Hazel has the trio bring forth a number of specific ingredients. Finally, the concoction is complete, and sucking up some in a sprayer, she and the boys hop aboard BZ Bub, and take to the air!
Hazel’s laughing catches Donald’s attention, and as he looks out the window, he watches as she uses the spray to enchant a number of objects. A paintbrush begins painting Donald’s house green, a pumpkin menacingly flies through the air, and even some fence posts, become ghosts!
Donald is surprised to watch as these apparitions sing a song, and make their way to his doorstep, where Hazel and the boys confront him, demanding that he ‘treat’ the boys. Donald is willing to do so, until he hears Hazel tell the boys that ‘this pigeon’s a pushover.’
Upon hearing this, Donald locks all his food in the pantry closet, and swallows the key.
But this isn’t enough to deter Hazel, who enchants Donald’s feet, and demands they kick out the key he’s swallowed. Hazel starts up a hoe-down song, and the key is soon ejected out of Donald’s mouth. But even this doesn’t stop him from being a jerk, as he then tosses it under the pantry door.
Hazel’s reaction now, is to give his feet a larger dose of the potion, and demands they use Donald’s body to break down the door.
As everyone watches, the feet follow Hazel’s request to take a longer start (“Bout a mile or two!”), sending Donald out into a nearby field, before he comes screaming into the house! A loud crash later, and the door has been busted open, with Donald lying unconscious nearby.
The boys happily collect some treats from the open pantry, but Hazel notes that it’s almost dawn, and her time to play is up. Hopping aboard her broom, she bids the boys goodbye, and they do the same to their witchy friend.
Growing up, The Disney Channel would often have little Holiday ‘clip-shows,’ and when it came to one known as Disney’s Halloween Treat, there were quite a few clips used from this short.
I think out of the many Donald Duck cartoons made over the years, Trick or Treat is one of the highlights.
The Disney Studios didn’t often do Halloween-themed shorts, so Treat is one of the few times that they acknowledged the holiday.
It’s also notable how they play with the art for the opening. Rather than the standard Donald Duck intro image, his face has been painted onto a wooden fence, and the card stating that this is a Donald Duck cartoon, also has it’s own special title-card art imprinted on the fence too.
There is some pretty wild and good animation to be had here as well. We get long shadows, Characters and objects changing scale and distance, and plenty of effects animation in the way of fire, smoke, and a fairy-dust sheen off of the fence-post ghosts.
A fun moment comes when Hazel is mixing her brew, and reciting a few lines from the witches in Macbeth (“this is the real thing ya know,” she tells the boys, “right outta Shakespeare!”).
Shakespearean-style wording comes up a few more times, in how Hazel talks. “What manner of ghoul is this?” she ponders, seeing the nephews for the first time. She also refers to Donald as “a quacking rogue” after she encounters him first-hand.
The animators also have some fun with her broom, which looks like a distant cousin to the brooms in Fantasia. For having a very small role, BZ Bub actually gave me a few laughs with how he ‘reacted’ in some scenes.
While most of Disney’s shorts are known for having a musical cadence to them, this short is one of the few that actually has a full song worked into it’s running time.
Paul Smith does the music for the piece, and the theme song like many a good Disney song, can easily get stuck in your head (it’s been popping up sporadically over the last few months for me!).
A group known as The Mellowmen (composed of Bob Hamlin, Bill Lee, Thurl Ravenscroft, and Max Smith), sing the main song, and keep it quite sprightly.
The four men figured into a number of Disney productions during the 50’s and 60’s (even singing the opening song for the Zorro TV show!), and of course, Thurl Ravenscroft would go on to great fame, singing the songs for Chuck Jones’ adaptation of Dr Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
When I watched most cartoons with Donald Duck in them as I was growing up, I often felt sorry for him. Most of the time, his temper was a case of others provoking him, or just trying to get him to explode into a quacking tantrum, so they could have a good laugh out of it.
However, in Treat, I found myself not really showing much sympathy for what he was doing to his nephews. It’s one of the few shorts where I actually took some delight in what Hazel was subjecting him to.
Unlike most animated shorts, Trick or Treat’s animated storyline, ended up being adapted in the Donald Duck comic by Carl Barks!
While the animated short had just 7 minutes to tell a story, Barks was allowed to extend certain parts of it into a 30+ page story. Plus, he gives over more ‘vocalizing’ to Donald and his nephews (in Barks’ stories, Donald often carried out long conversations!).
A simple line like “whiskers from a billy goat,” becomes a page-and-a-half gag as we see where the boys got those whiskers from.
Barks also embellishes Hazel’s bringing things to life with her magic. Notable is this long-panel, showing a number of other strange creatures, happily heading towards Donald’s front door (singing Paul Smith’s song from the cartoon!).
However, once Hazel calls Donald a “pushover” in the comic, Donald simply assumes that all the creatures were fake, and kicks her and the nephews out of his house.
This is where Barks adds his own story touches, as Hazel then tries several ways to get candy from Donald.
She first disguises herself as a beautiful female duck, but is found out by Donald, who manages to get back the candy she took.
Next, she magically summons her pet ogre, Smorgasbord (or “Smorgie,” for short), and sends him to Donald’s doorstep.
The duck simply assumes it’s a costume, but Smorgie proves invulnerable to a mace to the chest, and his multiple arms creep in through a number of openings, looking for the pantry key. Donald seems to concede defeat and hands over the candy, but also gives Smorgie an ‘extra treat.’ It turns out to be a stick of dynamite, and once Smorgie consumes it, the creature is blown to smithereens. Surprisingly, Hazel only shows mild concern for her destroyed pet.
This then leads to Hazel using the sprayer on Donald’s feet (like in the animated short), as well as him swallowing the hey.
When it comes to Hazel having the feet use Donald as a battering ram on the door, she first enchants a suit of armor to cover the duck, before he comes hurtling in through the doorway, breaking down the pantry door, and waving a white flat in surrender. Of course, Hazel takes the chance to lecture Donald on his actions during the night.
“Thou miserly hoarders must learn that on Halloween the goodies belong to the ghosts and goblins! Thou hath to treat!” she says, pointing a wrinkled finger at Donald.
“I still say it’s plain Robbery!” he retorts, before Hazel’s broom konks him on the head.
However, by the last panel, all is well. The boys have a huge bag of candy, Donald seems to have learned a lesson (“Next year, I’m going to be a goblin, too” he admits), and the ducks wave as Hazel takes off, as the sun begins to rise.
Overall, the embellishments Barks made to the story prove quite entertaining. Notable is at the beginning, where Hazel watches the boys get treats from a few more houses, and is impressed at how simple it is to get candy (“What a racket!” she thinks to herself. “How long has this been going on?”).
Donald also proves to be more of a bully in the comic than on-screen, adamant that noone is going to get any treats from his house.
The added ghosts and goblins Barks draws are also a sight, as is the design of Smorgie, who on first sight, appears to be a cyclops, but in a following panel, is shown to have a second eye, in the back of his head!
Of course, when it comes to Witch Hazel in the animation world, animator Chuck Jones had his own ideas.
Online, word is that Jones had originally tried to get Foray to voice his Witch Hazel in the short, Bewitched Bunny (in which Bugs Bunny saves Hansel and Gretel from the witch’s clutches). Though Foray turned down the request, she soon relented, and her career as Jones’ Witch Hazel, started in 1956 with the short, Broomstick Bunny.
June was said to have been none-too-pleased about Jones “stealing” the character Witch Hazel for his own purposes, though this could very well just be a joke, as neither Disney or Warner Brothers (as far as I know), actually owns the copyright on the name.
Of course, Jones’ Hazel wasn’t quite as playful and helpful as the one in Trick or Treat. Jones’ interpretation of the character, was a bit more selfish, and oftentimes, intended to do away with Bugs Bunny, for her own nefarious purposes. Jones’ Hazel was also given a trademark of sorts. Whenever she’d get an idea, she’d cackle loudly, jump in the air, and then quickly zoom off-camera, leaving several bobby pins dangling in the air.
While having their heyday in the 1950’s, both of these witches never did meet in the animated world, but that changed recently in another medium. At the memorial service for June Foray, animator Eric Goldberg did a Hirschfeldian caricature of the famous voice-actress, surrounded by all sorts of characters she voiced during her career.
One of the most notable gags Goldberg did, is in the bottom-left, where both Disney and Warner Bros’ Hazels, seem to be at odds with each other. I guess only in memoriam for their voice-actress, could these two witches meet face-to-face.
In recent years, a few conventions (courtesy of film and television studio promo departments) have started delving into advertising via ‘experiences,’ in which a limited number of attendees, can take part in rare, once-in-a-lifetime events.
In 2016, HBO unleashed a Westworld Experience at San Diego Comic-Con, and word was, it happened again this year. New York Comic-Con had their own experience as well in 2016, but when it came to the main attraction, unlike San Diego, it was simply a lead-up to a virtual reality experience, taking place within the Westworld park.
This year however, the experience was revamped to give visitors a full, live experience, and in the days leading up to the convention, word began to spread about the event via Westworld’s Twitter handle.
Needless to say, after seeing the series for the first time, the weekend before the convention (courtesy of free HBO weekend on Hulu!), I decided to make an effort to see if I could get in.
As the first day of the convention approached, HBO was tweeting out hints to the sign-up locations, which would randomly pop-up in the morning, before the start of the convention.
On Thursday, October 5th, I found myself checking Twitter, and seeing if anyone else had found anything. I was at least 10 blocks from the area, when Westworld‘s twitter feed dropped the actual location at 8am, and quickly took a Lyft ride to 27th Avenue.
Before long, I joined a long line, snaking alongside a large brick building. I had gotten to the location 10 minutes after it had been revealed online, and already, I was among those being considered for “stand-by.” Nearby were several people in dark suits, wearing Delos security badges, keeping an eye on us.
Eventually, I made my way up to a white tent, under which two white-dressed reservationists were seated. The one who assisted me did so with a polite smile, and I was told my reservation time to visit Westworld, would be 7 pm. After I confirmed the time, she wrote it on a Delos business card, and I headed off to The Javits Center, to partake in what the convention had in store for that Thursday.
Along with the time-field, the card also had the address of the location, which was right up 37th St, a few blocks from The Javits Center. As my first day of NYCC came to an end, I made my way to the locale.
Pretty soon, I and several other people, were lined up outside the door of Delos’ New York Offices, with several men keeping an eye on us, and one checking our names against his list.
As we waited, we asked a few questions about being able to get in. Apparently, if you show up late for your appointment, you’re shut out completely (we were told about one girl having a ‘meltdown’ about that earlier that day). Plus, I and a few others were ‘stand-by guests.’ This meant that if those who were scheduled for their timed session didn’t show at 7 pm, we were free to take their place.
Eventually, the time rolled around, and we were allowed inside. After being greeted by a receptionist, we were directed to an adjoining room.
In the middle of the room, was a lit case showing several vintage guns and knives, and along the walls, were mannequins in western attire. A male host at the far end of the weapons case, politely welcomed each of us.
Next, the receptionist and our male host, requested we watch the large screen in front of us. As we did so, promotional images of Westworld appeared…but then, started to glitch. Pretty soon, we were seeing scant traces of things going horribly, and terribly wrong.
However, our hosts acted like nothing had happened, and our male host began to read from the guest list. As two of the main guests hadn’t shown up, I and another standby person, were permitted in!
I was then put in a group of three with two other guys, and we were led down a corridor, to each be given an individual evaluation.
As I sat down in the room, my evaluator gave me a few questions, to determine what my experience in Westworld should be. The questions covered everything from how I saw myself, to my thoughts on handling a tense situation.
After going over the evaluation, she determined that I was a person who believed strongly in doing what was right, and was often willing to help others if they needed it. As she rattled off a number of other traits to go with these things, I felt like I was hearing my workplace’s DISC assessment results: her analysis felt so on-the-nose, it was scary!
She then directed my attention to two hats, hanging on the wall: a white one, and a black one. From her evaluation, she sensed that I would be very well-suited for a white hat, but…I sensed that she was also giving me leeway, to put aside how I behaved out in the real world, and to possibly consider the choice of a black hat.
It felt like the choices I was given in the video game, Epic Mickey, in which Mickey can choose to do good things, or bad things, and just like in going through that video game environment the first time, I decided to ‘play ball,’ and went with the white hat. Of course, like most hats, it didn’t fit my irregularly-shaped head (wearing baseball caps feels like I’m wearing a beanie-hat!). However, my evaluator claimed the hats came in several sizes, and upon giving me a 2x-sized hat (with the Westworld logo stitch into the inner-band), I was amazed how well it fit!
When I exited the room, my two cohorts had already finished their evaluation, and had both donned black hats. A female host then led us to the elevator, where a number of plaster casts of other hosts’s faces, lined the walls.
We were then taken up to the 12th floor. As the doors opened, piano music caught our ears, and passing through a set of swinging doors, we entered into the Mariposa Saloon.
Our main saloon girl welcomed us, as we bellied up to the bar, where a bartender and her two assistants also watched over us. The main host made note of our hat colors, as well as inquired what we were planning to do ‘out in the park.’
The two guys with their black hats, were very much like the character Logan in Westworld, playing on the “bad boy” vibes, while I kept with the role I felt was befitting my white hat (shades of the character William from the show). I gave a few answers, and kept an eye on things, being the stoic “good guy,” looking for any signs of trouble.
Very quickly, we were served several mixed drinks. The ‘tasting’ started off with an alcoholic punch, then a whiskey/bourbon mix (prepared with fire!), and finally, a milk-concoction with shaved ice on top. Each one of them was very tasty, though we only had a little time to finish each drink, before the next one was being prepared for us.
Eventually, our hostess led us over to the player-piano. As she did so, my eye was drawn to the ‘music roll,’ as a splotch of faded red rolled into view.
“Looks like you had a little fight in here recently,” I said to her.
“What do you mean?” she asked, sounding confused.
“You didn’t see the blood?” I replied, pointing to the sheet.
“…doesn’t look like anything to me,” she said, after taking a long look at it.
Suddenly, a red light went off, and klaxxon-sounds pounded our eardrums, as our host and the bartenders suddenly froze in place! An announcement was then made, that the place was on lock-down, and all guests were to leave at once.
As security forces entered, we grabbed up our things, and headed through another corridor, to a different elevator. The two security men then rode with us down to the ground floor, where we soon realized we were to exit the building, returning out onto the noisy streets of New York City.
After it was over, I checked my watch to see that it was 7:29, making me believe that each experience, is only meant to last for half-an-hour.
My fellow “black hats” and I then began to discuss what we observed, and when the group after us exited the building, they joined in our conversation too!
We were mainly interested in the evaluation process, and the different answers we each gave. Like me, one of the guests claimed she was so surprised at how accurate her evaluator’s assessment was of her.
Pretty soon, we all parted ways, and I had to chuckle, as I headed back to my Airbnb in New Jersey, wearing my cowboy hat the entire way.
I have to say, that for how brief it all was, the Westworld Experience was a very fun tie-in, to one of the most intriguing shows on cable television!
The people playing their roles do a good job mimicking the animatronic staff in the show, with some adding an extra tinge of ‘niceness,’ that can seem a little off-putting. Plus, the numerous touches to the show (such as the weapons-table, and plaster casts of the hosts’ faces on the wall), helped ground us in the show’s world.
One thing I realized after it was all over, was that unlike some other things I’ve done, I didn’t have to sign a waiver for the experience. I guess HBO trusts their guests to be pleasant enough to the staff, and intelligent enough to behave themselves.
I will admit that once I was through the front door, I was sorely tempted to just keep snapping pictures left-and-right, but took only a select few, to try to fully experience what was going on.
The theming of the area worked quite well, though it did seem odd to have an old-west saloon 12 stories above the ground. I of course, rolled with it.
During so much of the experience, I kept flashing to thoughts of my friends, who I could see enjoying certain things, or even sampling some of the drinks that were served to us.
One guest in line that I had fun talking to, was named Zara. She was accompanied by her little dog, which was a service pet (her dog alerts her if she’s going to pass out). It looked like she would be turned away for bringing her dog, but they let them both in (I kept wondering how the saloon staff would react to seeing a dog in their place!). Like me, Zara was quite introspective over the experience, and before we parted, I felt it would be fitting to get a snapshot with my ‘line-buddy.’
After it was all over, I did consider maybe trying to get in the next day, and go for a black hat. However, in the end, I decided to sleep-in, and give someone else the chance to have their own Westworld Experience.
On Saturday, October 7th, I left my luggage at a place near the Delos offices, while I headed off on a little trip across town. On my way back to retrieve my luggage, I walked by Delos, and saw a group of 6 people, discussing their experience and choices. I couldn’t help but stop and find out what they had decided, making me think the aftermath of the experience, is just as fun as the experience itself.
I wish the experience could be open to more people. However, I understand that the rarity of it, makes it a lot more memorable, probably much like traveling to the actual Westworld park would be.
At this point, there’s no further word if HBO will do the experience again. However, given that Season 2 is set to release sometime in 2018, I’m at least sure they’ll bring it back for the San Diego Comic-Con. Personally, being from Chicago, I would be all-in if they did it as a promotional experience during C2E2 (Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo), but as much of the entertainment industry skips over our city for convention promotions, I’m sure I’ll need to fly to the coasts, if I get the urge again to visit Westworld.