It was almost five years ago that I first asked in this column, why has no one ever seen Sen. Patrick Leahy and Batman in the same room at the same time? Certainly the Senator has made no secret of his respect for the Caped Crusader, they are both broad-shouldered and tall, and there is that revealing coincidence to be found in the letters “DC.” Is it just a fluke that Sen. Leahy works in a city with that moniker and the Dark Knight is published by a comic book kingdom that uses those very same initials?
Next Sunday night at 7 p.m. at the Majestic 10 Cinemas in Williston, Vermont, we may learn a bit more. Warner Brothers will be showing a special screening that night of the final film in director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, “The Dark Knight Rises.” The movie doesn’t open nationally until July 20, so for Batman geeks like me, this is a huge gift. And there in the audience will be Senator and Mrs. Leahy.
It’s interesting — perhaps even instructive — that the event is exactly the sort of charity fundraiser that Bruce Wayne hosts on a regular basis in Gotham City: Proceeds from the evening will be split between the Children’s Wing at the Kellogg Hubbard Library in Montpelier and the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center at the Leahy Center for Lake Champlain in Burlington.
Moreover, Sen. Leahy will not merely be in the audience. He will also be on the screen. This is the fourth time that the Senator has appeared in a Batman film, always donating his fees and all royalties to the Kellogg Hubbard — where, as a boy, he had his very first library card. Most recently, he played a partygoer in the 2008 movie, “The Dark Knight.” When the Joker, brought to life by the late Heath Ledger, approaches him with a knife, the Senator responds, “We’re not intimidated by you thugs.”
Just for the record, this line of dialogue would look great on a t-shirt, especially if you happened to be playing rugby against Karl Rove. It has become a classic. “I was walking down the street and a well-dressed woman of a certain age recognized me and said, ‘I know you’re not intimidated,’” Sen. Leahy told me.
Warner Brothers won’t reveal much about the Senator’s role this time, but we do know he is in a scene with Lucius Fox, the man who essentially runs Wayne Enterprises, and. . .Batman. Of course, this proves nothing about the Caped Crusader’s true identity. Fox is played by Morgan Freeman and Batman by Christian Bale. They’re actors. Good Lord, even I’ve played Batman: When I was a little boy, I jumped out a second story window at a friend’s house because I had left my utility belt in the living room and Mr. Freeze — my friend, Lonnie — was hobbling up the stairs after me. He had a broken leg, but those crutches made great freeze guns.
Consequently, I decided to be straightforward and simply ask the senator why he and Batman — the real Batman, not an actor — have never been seen together in the same room.
“Highly classified,” Sen. Leahy said. “There’s a reason I can’t talk about that.”
We’ll see. In any case, next Sunday night will be terrific. We can watch a summer blockbuster nearly a week before the rest of world. We can be superheroes ourselves and raise money for two great Green Mountain institutions. And, just maybe, we’ll learn once and for all whether the man behind the cowl is a Gotham City playboy or a U. S. Senator from Vermont.
My money? It’s on the senator.
If you go
• WHERE: Majestic 10 Cinemas
• WHEN: Sunday, July 15, 7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.)
• TICKETS: $100 and can be purchased at the Kellogg Hubbard Library (223-3338) and at ECHO’s admission desk (864-1848 or online atwww.echovermont.org ).
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This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on July 8, 2012. Chris’s new novel, “The Sandcastle Girls,” arrives in a few days on July 17.