DJ Batman celebrates 30 years as Ocean City’s party priest
Published: May 18, 2011
It’s 50 degrees outside in mid-April in Ocean City, so Mike Beatty did not ride his scooter to work at Seacrets, the sprawling megabar between the strip and the ocean where he holds forth as DJ Batman.
“I’m president and founder of the MoPagans,” he deadpans. So coming to work without the diminutive 80-mile-per-gallon bike is a mild bummer for this resort-town icon. Blame the preseason chill.
Uncharacteristically, Beatty is even wearing long pants as he gets up from his bar stool to make his way to the studios of WOCM-FM, where he’ll play two hours of “the best of rock” while taking requests. But like the weather in this carnival town, he’s warming up fast. He stops at a landing halfway up the stairs to consult with Sheri Hearn, who hired him for her mother’s surprise 60th birthday party tonight.
“She was born at the right time—when I was,” Beatty says. “You talk about a hippie who won’t give up the ’60s” (he points to himself with both thumbs). “The ’60s ain’t over till I’m over!”
And so, at five of noon, begins another day for Ocean City’s most beloved disc jockey.
Batman’s legend has grown up over 30 years of not growing up. “Thirty years without having a job,” Beatty says proudly, and 15 before that as an Ocean City summer denizen.
Beatty says he first came Downy Ocean from Baltimore, where he grew up behind Memorial Stadium, in 1965. He was 15. “Mom made sure the owners of the place [I stayed] were nice people,” he says. He worked the amusement rides and then Old Pro Mini Golf the next two years before joining the Air Force. He ended up on an air base in China, where he tried out for a base radio gig.
Beatty says he was given a list of names to read—Chiang Kai Shek, Mao Tse Tung, plus the weather. “It’ll be mild downtown today, temperature about 55 degrees Fahrenheit,” Beatty announced.
The captain asked, “What’s a ‘fahv’?”
He played back the tape; Beatty heard his Baltimore voice say “. . . temperature about fifty-fahv.” He still got the gig.
Back stateside, Beatty moved to Ocean City, where he bonded with other Baltimore expats like James Mathias. “We knew all the Baltimore bands in the late ’60s and all,” Mathias says.
Mathias went on to become mayor of OC (and now state senator) and his old friend would call him during gigs and broadcast his voice through the microphone at parties in and out of Ocean City. “I would call him the night mayor of Ocean City,” Mathias says. “He’d say is that ‘night mayor’—or nightmare?”
In the WOCM studio, Beatty starts his regular weekend “Hair of the Dog” show with a couple of J. Geils tunes and takes a call from Steve in Public Landing. (“Oh, I love it there, man!” Beatty enthuses. “I used to ride my scooter down there all the time!”) He hears from a guy who says J. Geils’ father lives in Ocean Pines. Batman puts out the call: “If you’re listening, I’d sure love to have J. Geils in the studio.”
And the whole band could play here. Nestled in a maze of hallways in the bar’s upstairs, WOCM broadcasts from a skylit, bamboo-panelled place festooned with video cameras (simulcasting at irieradio.com), a disco ball, no fewer than seven mic stations, and a drum kit in one corner with room enough for a six-piece group.
Glass doors lead to a balcony, where Batman has three different cigarettes burning in an ashtray on the railing. He looks out over the courtyard, the beach, and the pier beyond it. It’s a great place to watch from, he says, smiling: “Nobody ever looks up.”
A Chicago tune blares while Beatty reminisces. He once played a private party for the Rolling Stones, he says, earning a sidelong glance and approving nod from Keith Richards: “That was the greatest paycheck I ever got.”
Beatty plays Bowie’s “Young Americans” and gives a shout-out to his wife, Cindy, who works nearby as a waitress. He promotes animal rescue and the Lobster Shanty. He plays a snippet from a Tchaikovsky piano concerto for a listener who likes classical music.
“Great phone calls,” he says near the end of the show. “Everybody’s coming back into town. The season’s starting!”
A few hours later, Beatty is behind the board in the corner of an L-shaped room down the stairs from the radio studio. The space is bedecked with balloons and a sign that says happy nanni birthday. Linda Lloyd’s friends mill around, sipping drinks and eying cupcakes and other treats stacked in a corner. Beatty’s wearing white shorts now, and with his salt-and-pepper beard and full hair looks like a cross between Hemingway and Santa Claus. His laptop, with 67,000 songs in it, is plugged in with a patch cord he borrowed from the house DJ, Bob.
A girl who looks to be about 5 years old requests Justin Bieber, and Batman is flummoxed, unable to connect to the internet to grab a download. “I have the top 10 of today,” he says, “and she comes up and throws me a curve.”
Asked if she thinks this Batman looks like the Batman on TV, the little girl replies, “I don’t know the Batman on TV.”
The name was accidental. Beatty and his wife sent a risqué telegram to a friend in 1981, he says, and signed it Batman and Robin. The next weekend the friend put on his bar’s marquee tonight dj batman. It stuck, and eventually Beatty registered the internet domain. In 2004, D.C. Comics and Warner Bros. sent him a two-inch thick legal nastygram about it. Beatty says he hand-wrote a one-page reply stating that he had nothing to do with their Batman: “Could you see me in tights?” he asks.
He got the decision later from the National Arbitration Forum. “Believe it or not, I won,” he says. But no matter: “I didn’t want to make waves, so I got rid of the web site.”
When Lloyd arrives, Beatty blasts out the Hawaii Five-0 theme, “because they don’t have Hawaii Six-0.” Three songs into the set, the women are all dancing, and it’s obvious Lloyd’s pals are live ones. Jackie, a petite blonde wearing go-go boots, says she’s Lloyd’s “oldest and best friend”; they met here in 1970. “She met some guy and brought him to the hotel,” Jackie says. “We’ve been friends ever since.”
It’s an easy crowd, Beatty says. Then again, “There is no such thing as a bad crowd, just bad entertainers,” he says, pumping the volume on the “R” in “R.E.S.P.E.C.T.”
Beatty’s sometime sound and light engineer, a fellow DJ named Mike Lorenzo (DJ Mike Ocean) who has known Beatty for 20 years, says Batman’s magic is rooted in his humility. “You’ve been to clubs where the DJ either doesn’t say a word, or they—like the old radio shows, he talks down to you,” Lorenzo says. “Batman doesn’t do that—he doesn’t think he’s better than anybody.”
Batman is pumping “Mustang Sally” now; he cuts the volume on the chorus—“ride, Sally ride”—to encourage sing-along. “I said in harmony,” he pleads.
“I never had a big party like this before,” Lloyd says, beaming.
“Your whole life is a party!” her brother shouts over the Beatles medley Batman has mixed up to give himself a drink and bathroom break. Jackie asks him to turn it up. Lloyd requests “Moulin Rouge” and proceeds to break it down. Eight women crowd the dance area. Batman calls for a toast to the birthday girl. An old friend named Joyce whispers in his ear.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I’ve never said anything like that on the microphone,” Beatty says, handing it over to her.
“We are drinking to keep our vaginal walls strong!” Joyce states triumphantly.
Lloyd is dancing to every song. “I wish I had a room full of her,” Batman says. And he does.
Lloyd sidles up to the reporter: “Did Joyce tell you?” she asks. “We were called the Cooter Girls.”
“Did you say ‘cuter girls’?”
“Nooo! The Cooter Girls!”
Batman is getting ready for his ballad break. “I’m gonna play ‘Unforgettable’ for the vagina-wall girl,” he says. “The day that Linda was born, this was number one.” He plays “Chances Are” too before segueing into “Play Me Some Mountain Music” to lead off a hillbilly set. The guys are digging on some Hank Jr., now.
It’s 9 p.m. and the dance floor is full and the husbands and sons are chanting along, “‘Why do you drink?’ Ta get drunk!” Batman’s contract is ending but he’s going to keep going for at least another hour.
“It’s been a great day,” Beatty says. “I think we played every genre of music today. I even played Tchaikovsky today.”
For sure, somehow, he’s heard the news.
> Email Edward Ericson Jr.