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Four Good Reasons To Keep Watching The Miami Marlins This Year

By Eric Quinones

The 2015 season for the Miami Marlins has been a long one to say the least. It’s been a season filled with disappointment as the team has the 5th worst record in the Major Leagues.

Injuries have been a big factor as to why the team has struggled so much this season, but with the final month of the season upon us here are a few reasons to keep watching the Marlins through their final game.

Reason #1: Dee Gordon
Although the Marlins may be out of the playoff picture and don’t have much to play for but their pride, Dee Gordon is in a battle to try and win the National League batting title.

Gordon came into play today hitting .328, which puts him second in the league behind the Washington National’s slugger Bryce Harper who is hitting .336. Although Gordon has some ground to make up and needs Harper to fall off a bit, it will be fun to watch each one of Gordon’s at-bats through the end of the season.

Reason #2: The return of Giancarlo Stanton
The return of Giancarlo Stanton, one of the best players in the Major Leagues, is right around the corner and something that Fish fans should be excited about. Stanton has been on the disabled list for the last two months with a broken bone in his left hand. Stanton is due back in mid-September with an eye on finishing the season in strong fashion.

Stanton, the most prolific power hitter in all of baseball, was leading the MLB in homeruns with 27 at the time that he broke the bone in his left hand. He’s one of the most exciting players to watch play, especially when he’s up to bat. Earlier this season, Stanton hit a homerun literally out of Dodger Stadium. That’s an example of why he is considered the most powerful hitter in the Major Leagues.

Reason #3: The return of Jose Fernandez
Jose Fernandez will have a few more starts for the Fish. Fernandez, who came back this season from Tommy John surgery was 4 – 0 with a 2.30 ERA., before being put back on the disabled list with a right biceps strain. Fernandez looks to join the starting rotation once again on September 19th against the Washington Nationals .

Every time Fernandez pitches, especially at the home ballpark, he seems to lift his team to a high level of play. His teammates feed off of his energy, and he always puts fans in the stands. If everything goes as planned, Fernandez should be the Marlins ace going into the 2016 season.

Reason #4: Getting a closer look at Nicolino and Conley
As the Marlins look to close out their 2015 season on a high note, starting pitchers Justin Nicolino and Adam Conley look to show the Marlins why each of them should be considered for the Marlins’ starting rotation for the 2016 season. Both left-handed pitchers were two of the team’s top pitching prospects coming up from the minor leagues this season. Nicolino has been the more consistent of the two. He is 3 – 2 with a 3.07 era. Conley on the other hand has struggled a bit more in his stint with the Fish. He is 3 – 1, but his ERA is 5.02. With that being said, both have shown promise and have also shown that if they can consistently command their pitches they will have a good shot at being considered for the team’s rotation next season.

The 2015 season hasn’t always been fun to watch. The team has struggled throughout the year, but that doesn’t mean that fans should give up on watching this team until the very end. Although they won’t be making the playoffs, there are still players to watch that could impact the team next season.

Photo Credit: Arturo Pardavila III/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

In Miami’s Wynwood Art District, A 25 Year Old Artist Is Ready To Take The City By Storm

MIAMI- Nestled along Wynwood’s 5th Avenue there’s a mural of a figure painted entirely in black and white. Pictured on its monochromatic surface is a woman, naked except for the long ringlets of hair wrapped constrictively around her body. She sits contemplatively before the viewer, back bowed while pedestrians pass her by.

Surreal-looking spectacles like these can be found scattered throughout the city, all of them authored by Rolando Adrian Avila. At only 25 years old and with less than six of months of residence in Wynwood he’s poised to become one of the more prolific and better-known painters within Miami’s art district.

The Cuban-born muralist and former Angeleno (native of Los Angeles) has roots to South Florida dating all the way back to his days at New World Schools of Arts, a small and selective magnet school known both locally and nationally for its excellent arts and theatre programs.

“Unfortunately not everybody has a chance to do it. I come from a pretty poor family, and the only way I was able to travel and to go outside the city was because of art,” Avila said during a sit-down interview, “I got money to go to California from school, that was the only way. I feel like that’s important for an artist, to be educated. Education is everything.”

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To date Avila has created at least 12 murals in Miami, most of them concentrated within Wynwood and the surrounding art district. As a self-described “wall vampire” he often seeks out unadorned spaces within the area to renovate and embellish with his work, masking concrete in a monotint display of long-limbed bodies and lotus flowers.

Avila first emigrated from Cuba to the U.S. at the age of 13, eventually gaining a scholarship to attend Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. The most notable thing about his work at first glance is just how stripped-down his pieces tend to be, both literally and figuratively.

“Women in general are a lot more powerful than men to me, especially around [Miami].” -Avila said

The subjects he portrays are predominantly female and nude, implied to be the objects of a male gaze. But there’s also simplicity to the color composition of Avila’s work. He often picks a single shade to dominate the canvas, focusing attention and detail on the subjects of his murals by keeping the palette relatively monochromatic.

As for the nakedness, Avila doesn’t believe his primary subjects are likely to scandalize here as easily as they might somewhere else. Miami’s extensive beach culture brings with it an inordinate preoccupation with body image and physical beauty, making the city a quintessential place for nudity in art to be accepted and, in some cases, even lauded.

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“I feel like people [here] really respond to figurative work. I do these girls, and in Miami the body is something that is celebrated.” Avila said.

It’s true that there’s a definite sense of eroticism to Avila’s work, but more often than not it’s purposely coupled with mythological imagery and significance. The women depicted in his paintings and murals often show up in triplicate, a reference to the religious archetype of “triple deity” so often seen in classical literature and art.

They’re goddesses the way you imagine goddesses would look like in the 21st century; slender and statuesque, hair coifed and lips pouted perfectly as if posing for an editorial.

“Women in general are a lot more powerful than men to me, especially around [Miami].” Avila said, “It’s kind of like the whole idea of goddesses, this whole idea of the Greeks and the Romans. To them women were everything.”

These women often appear to be reveling too, frozen mid-pose on the canvas while onlookers are free to gawk at the display of their bodies. Avila’s work is, if anything, voyeuristic in nature. He plays with perception as often as some other artists play with the colors on their mixing palettes and it’s never made clear exactly how we should feel looking in on these private scenes.

The women within his murals almost always have their eyes covered or bound by their own hair, blinded to the audience’s gaze and unable to take in their own surroundings. They appear naked and vulnerable before the viewer, and yet the artist himself describes their sightlessness as transcendent, a reference to a harrowing experience his sister once underwent in Guantánamo after one attempt to emigrate to the U.S.

“At the time my sister was trying to get out of Cuba. She tried to get out through the water because her boyfriend was trying to bring her over here and she got sent back to Guantánamo two times,” Avila said. “She almost died, and they cut off her hair just to be assholes with her. I was doing an illustration at the time just about depression and so I did this woman with her hair wrapped around her face.”

Avila explains most of the story from inside of his studio, a modestly sized, brightly painted room located in the heart of Wynwood. Walking in you can see the artist’s half-finished paintings dotting the main wall that runs along the interior. A pile of surreal-looking prints rest in the corner. The apartment building it’s housed in is also home to the studios of his colleagues, many of whom he spoke about as having an influence over his body of work.

“I think [it’s] one of the most important things as an artist. Especially when I was at Art Center what I learned was [being influenced by] other artists.” Avila said.

Like him, some of these individuals feel conflicted over the commodification of Wynwood’s art scene and the ensuing gentrification of the area. The popularity that events like Art Basel bring to the neighborhood creates more substantial opportunities for urban artists to work and promote themselves, especially when corporate sponsorship becomes a viable reality.

But all that promotion comes at a cost, mainly that the rise in property values now mean that a significant portion of Wynwood’s local artists can no longer afford to live in the same neighborhoods that their murals have helped to commercialize in the first place.

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“I think artists should be paid a good amount of money to do what they do because it takes time and it’s hard, you know? If people appreciate it then [they] should appreciate it by helping.” Avila said. “That’s why I feel like I have a responsibility to make sure that happens, especially now that I’m getting lucky enough to get some projects and [have] some people like my work.”

A recent exhibition of Avila’s entitled Paradox Lost ran almost a month ago as part of an Art Walk experience originally hosted by Minimax Events. The display was held at the Mana Production Village, a raw space popular in the area for accommodating everything from art openings to film crews.

Aside from the show, one of Avila’s upcoming public projects includes plans to beautify a local apartment complex sometime in October. His intent is to turn the space into a hybridized showcase for both fine art and street art, one style juxtaposing the other in a strange marriage of aesthetic to functionality.

Collaborating with him on the project will be Reinier Gamboa, another Wynwood artist well known for his figurative painting style and use of religious and tropical iconography.

A contemporary of Avila’s, the Cuban-born Gamboa also spent his youth at New World. His body of work has been exhibited everywhere from the non-profit Locusts Project in Miami to the Nucleus Gallery in California.

“I want to be a fine artist that does walls,” Avila said at one point, explaining the changing nature of his field’s accessibility to the general public, “If you think about it that’s what artists do in their careers. They start by canvas and then later on in their life they do a mural somewhere. I want it to be the other way around.”

Photos: Bea Sampaio/ Rise News

Have a news tip or a good story? Send us an email to editor@risenews.com

Tailgate In Style: Here Are The Best Miami Food Events For This Upcoming Week

This piece was originally published by our partner MIAbites.com and is produced by them. 

Each week MIAbites will feature The Weekly Nibble, highlighting “foodie” events and special promotions for the upcoming week.  Please note that specific details, dates and prices are subject to change, so please call ahead to confirm event details.

Saturday September 12th – The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts is hosting their #ArtsLaunch2015 with all day events. Farmers Market, Free food Tastings at Café at Books & Books, Brunch at Brava!, Interactive workshops with New World Symphony and Miami City Ballets and lots more. Visit website for complete schedule of events. Arsht Center 1300 Biscayne Blvd Miami, FL.  

Saturday September 12th– Ortanique on the Mile. 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Chef Cindy Hutson will host an interactive cooking class at her restaurant, Ortanique on the Mile. This hands-on cooking experience with Hutson will teach guests to create recipes like Baby Gulf Shrimp SaladNew Zealand Lamb Korma and Puttin’ On The Ritz Pie. Price: $108 pp (includes tax and gratuity). Ortanique on the Mile 278 Miracle Mile. Coral Gables, FL. 305 446 7710

Sunday September 13th–  BLT Prime is hosting a Tailgating for a Cause event., Dolfans can celebrate the beginning of football season in style with a fun and charitable Tailgate Season Kickoff Cooking Class & Lunch at BLT Prime.  Chef de Cuisine Dustin Ward will lead the interactive culinary experience which will begin at 11AM with handcrafted cocktail making followed by a step-by-step demo of the menu including Grilled NY Strip with Onion Marmalade, Summer Squash Skewers and Honey Cake with Grilled Figs, all the while guests will indulge in complimentary beverages.  The three-hour class includes a cooking demonstration on the Champion’s patio outdoor grills, followed by lunch and Dolphins vs. Redskins season opener watch party. The class is priced at $75 per person and all proceeds will benefit St. Jude’s Research Hospital.  BLT Prime at the Trump National Doral Miami, 4400 NW 87th. Doral, FL.

Do you like this? Read more awesome restaurant reviews, tips and event listings at MIAbites.com.

Monday September 14th-   Marion, the new neighborhood meeting place one block south of Mary Brickell Village opens Monday, September 14, 2015 for dinner only, Starting Monday, October 5th the restaurant will be opening for lunch and dinner, from 11am to 11pm.  Serving up fare and products of the highest quality, handpicked by Executive Chef Jean Paul Lourdes, patrons have the option to sit down and dine on exquisite Mediterranean fare or grab-and-go one of the restaurant’s savory rotisserie chickens or its variety of pastries and other gourmet food items. Lourdes brings with him an impressive culinary pedigree, having worked at three-star Michelin restaurants in Paris, Tokyo, London and Hong Kong.   Marion 1111 SW 1st Avenue Miami, FL 786 717 7512.

Thursday September 17th Yelp Miami hosts “Big Bite in Little Haiti”.  From 8-10 pm, Big Bite event brings together the city’s top toques, bakers, and chocolate makers to fight for your vote in the “Best Bite” competition. Join us at the Little Haiti Cultural Center for flowing wine and local brews, live artist demos and surprise performances, all in the heart of the emerging Little Haiti neighborhood. For the full lineup of over 30 participating vendors and to RSVP, check out Yelp Events! Free entrance.  Little Haiti Cultural Center 212 NE 59th Terrace. Miami, FL.

 Looking ahead…

Friday September 18th–  The Forge welcomes the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America®: “Local Flavor from Coast To Coast” for an evening that begins with a tasting reception featuring an exciting lineup of Miami’s finest chefs, including Timon Balloo, Cindy Hutson, Brad Kilgore, Giorgio Rapicavoli, and Cesar Zapata. Then, enjoy a unique four-course seated dinner designed by James Beard Award Winners Rocco DiSpirito and Christopher Lee, with Pastry Chef Sergio Navarro. Evening emceed by award-winning Miami Herald food editor Evan S. Benn. Tickets are $250.  The Forge 432 W 41st St, Miami Beach, FL

Saturday September 19th–  Benefitting the United Way of Miami, The Intercontinental plays host to the Second Annual Young Leaders’B.Y.O.B.‘Build Your Own Brunch’ from 11-2 pm..  An interactive cooking and eating experience led by Chef Bradley Kilgore of Alter and two of his culinary friends: Chef Roel Alcudiaof The Cypress Room and Chef William Crandall of the soon-to-open Izzy’s Fish and Oyster. Miami Herald food editor and new Young Leaders member, Evan Benn, will host the cooking extravaganza. Spend a Saturday with friends learning to make the perfect brunch, from start to finish. At your table, you and your friends will follow along with our chefs and team up to cook each course, and then enjoy your culinary creations. Helping you along the way are culinary arts students from Johnson & Wales University who will teach you a few tricks of the trade, as well. Tickets are $100 for Young Leaders and $125 GA, with deadline to purchase Tuesday September 15th.  The Intercontinental  100 Chopin Plaza. Miami, FL

Saturday September 19th–  Sur La Table, the retail destination for those with a passion for cooking and a love for food, will welcome the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America®: “Local Flavor from Coast To Coast” into its kitchens for the third consecutive year. Free in-store activities of the day will include cooking demos by Taste America All-Star and James Beard-Award-winning chef Rocco DiSpirito, along with chef Cindy Hutson, who will showcase a recipe prepared with Lifeway Kefir. Stores will also offer book signings, tastings from local producers and artisans, and productdemos and tastings from national Taste America sponsors. For the full schedule of events and more information, please visit www.jbftasteamerica.org/event/miamiSur La Table Mizner Park 438 Plaza Real Boca Raton, FL.

( Information provided by various sources and subject to change. Please call ahead to confirm )

The above was produced by MIAbites, one of the leading sources for food news in South Florida. Be sure to visit their website for more great information. 

Cover Photo Credit: tdlucas5000/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

New Professional Club, Miami FC Announces Plan to Enhance South Florida Soccer

By Abel Iraola

While Miamians continue to be kept in the dark about David Beckham’s upcoming Major League Soccer club, a local team in the second-tier is hitting the ground running.

The Miami Football Club Miami FC was announced in May, already making strides to begin playing next April. The ownership group, led by legendary Italian defender Paolo Maldini and sports media rights mogul Riccardo Silva, have made major moves to ensure success for the new club.

Last week, Miami FC announced the hiring of Alessandro Nesta as the club’s first head coach. Nesta, a renowned Italian defender like Maldini, made his name as a key player for Serie A giants Lazio and Milan before heading to Montreal for MLS. They also hired Cesar Velasco to manage the team. Velasco comes with extensive experience in sports management, serving as director of communications, marketing and community relations for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Toronto FC and most recently, FC Dallas.

On Wednesday afternoon, Velasco held a Q&A on the club’s Facebook page to address supporters directly for the first time.

 

Although no major announcements came from the event, the general manager hinted that the new organization is aiming to make an impact in the often sports-averse Miami scene. The club hopes to avoid some of the pitfalls of running a second-tier club in a country not yet used to following teams below the major leagues.

Issues that have troubled other teams, including broadcast rights, stadium deals and player quality and development, were addressed during the hour-long question session.

Velasco said that that the club is currently in talks with broadcasters. The “goal is to have all Miami FC matches available for our fans,” Velasco said. It is still unknown where the club will play, but they are in negotiations and expect to make an announcement in four to six weeks. FIU Stadium has been rumored to be the preferred site, and it was confirmed on Wednesday that it is among the locations currently under consideration.

Looking ahead to on-the-pitch decisions, Velasco deferred to Nesta when questioned about the expected style of play, paraphrasing the coach’s recent response to a similar question, which indicated that he prefers an attacking style, however: “As an ex defender he will make sure he will have a strong defense,” Velasco said.

The club is looking at players both at home and abroad, and plans to make its first announcements within the next few weeks. They will also hold tryouts for local footballers in November.

Maldini, Silva and Velasco are intent on not only creating a successful club, but promoting the sport of soccer in South Florida.

Velasco said that a player development system is “a key objective.” However, he did not indicate whether that means they would follow an academy model.

Asked about Beckham’s MLS side, Velasco reiterated Miami FC’s support for Maldini’s former teammate.

“We support the project of the Beckham United Group to bring a team to Miami,” Velasco said. “This is great for soccer and all fans in South Florida.”

The front office remain confident that the club will succeed, drawing fans in Miami and across South Florida by building a championship-winning team. They plan to go full-strength into the NASL season as well as the U.S. Open Cup, the country’s domestic cup competition that spans all levels of American soccer.

“We believe in Miami and we believe in Miami soccer fans. We are building a club for Miami fans to call their own and be an active part of, hence ‘one club one voice’. We are working hard to build a championship caliber team for our city.”

The NASL’s spring season begins in April 2016.

Cover Photo Credit: miamifc.com

Batman of Birmingham: The Curious Story Of Willie J. Perry

Sheila Tyson still remembers riding home with Batman.

She was a little girl then, each arm loaded with a cluster of bulging grocery bags and each foot keeping time with those of her mother and siblings as they made their customary several-mile trek home from the store on foot. But on many lucky occasions, he would pull up alongside the family in a car effervescent with strobe lights, and he would ask through an enormous, toothy grin if they all wanted to pile inside.

“Mom had to buy groceries for seven children,” Tyson, now a city councilor for Birmingham, Alabama, said. “She didn’t have a car, and we didn’t have much access to public transportation. We didn’t have much at all. But we had Batman.”

By day, he was Willie J. Perry, a Birmingham native and resident of the city’s South Titusville neighborhood and shop manager at Lakeview district window distributor J.F. Day & Company. But in the mornings and nights before and after work, he was the Batman of Birmingham, cruising the city’s streets in a souped-up 1971 Ford Thunderbird he dubbed the Rescue Ship, carrying older folks to doctor’s appointments, repairing the engines and replacing the flat tires of stranded motorists, and rolling up at kids’ birthday parties to deliver presents and trips in the Ship.

He refused all offers of payment or reimbursement for his assistance, which he provided until literally the day of his death in 1985.

“We were living in a poor, black community, and we all knew about the Batman shows on the television, but we were convinced that Willie Perry was the real Batman,” Tyson said. “He was Batman for us, and you couldn’t tell us anything else.”

Tyson was speaking to a more than 100-person crowd assembled on August 3, 2015, at Birmingham’s Old Car Heaven to celebrate Willie Perry Day, a title assigned to the date by mayor Richard Arrington in 1982 to honor Perry’s contributions to the city.

But Willie Perry Day 2015 wasn’t just any old Willie Perry Day. The Rescue Ship, recovered from a city storage unit near Birmingham International Airport after being warehoused for years, anchored the event, along with the presentation to Perry’s family of a new resolution passed by the Alabama state legislature recognizing Perry’s legacy.

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Family members, old friends, and new admirers flocked to the vehicle, snapping pictures together and swapping long-ago tales of either salvation at Perry’s hands or adventures in the passenger seat. Many folks had not seen the car since they were children, and some were looking at it for the first time.

When it came to Batmobile embellishment, Willie Perry had more of a flair for flamboyance than Bruce Wayne did. The vehicle, equal parts burgundy, white, and gold, is charming in its devotion to garish idiosyncrasy.

Stickers bearing inscriptions like “Sexy Tiffany: International Lover” and “Angela: A Mean Sex Queen” blanket the Rescue Ship’s front and rear quarter panels, displayed in honor of Perry’s nieces and friends. Bat-shaped stickers, reminiscent of the logo for the campy 1960s Batman television series, announce the Rescue Ship’s name from each door.

A spoiler juts from the trunk, and cylindrical fluorescent light fixtures stacked into tailfins run the length of the car’s rear half. Two strobe lights sit lifeless along the top edge of the windshield. Look down through the cutaway ceiling, and you’ll see a dashboard covered in orange shag carpet, as well as a toaster oven, record player, Atari 2600 game console, and PA system. A clear plastic shield at the front of the hood bears Perry’s motto: “Will Help Anyone in Distress.” When he was on duty, Perry donned a white jumpsuit with brown trim and a white motorcycle helmet with a red bat logo on each side.

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“You can’t get the full picture with it just sitting here like this. Back then, this thing was a major attraction on wheels. It had all these lights going, and loud music playing, and you could talk on the PA system to people on the sidewalk while he drove by,” Denard Jones, a nephew Perry nicknamed “Bubba,” said as he stood examining the car in which his uncle had taken him for rides when he was four years old.

According to Lee Shook, a Birmingham-native radio DJ and filmmaker who has been working throughout the past eight years on a documentary about Perry and was instrumental in locating the car and organizing the event, plans are already in motion to restore the Rescue Ship to its original, operable condition.

“There are really two potential versions of where we would like to take this restoration process,” Shook said in a phone conversation one week after the event. “There’s the pipe dream version, in the best of all possible worlds, where we would get the car fixed back to its original condition and get it running again. I want it to be going down the street turning heads again, like it did when I was a kid.

“I would love to have the documentary debut at the [annual Sidewalk Film Festival] next year with the Rescue Ship parked outside the Alabama Theatre with all the lights going and the toaster toasting, with the bat signal going up in the air to let everybody in Birmingham know that it’s there. But if we can’t do that, we at the very least want to get it running so that it can be taken to events and parades around town.”

Shook said the restoration effort will be funded primarily through private donations to a Rescue the Rescue Ship fund accessible online.

“He was a genius, and he did great all through high school. He knew he could do anything he wanted, but he decided to put all of his efforts towards helping other people instead of just advancing his own career,” Stickney said.

To hear his friends and family tell it, Perry lived to improve the lives of the people around him, with or without the Rescue Ship. In fact, according to Shook, before he was Batman, Perry adopted a Spaceman persona, cruising around on a customized motorcycle looking for ways he could lend a hand.

Judy Stickney, Perry’s niece, recalls Perry picking her up to take her to work at the Red Cross every morning and swinging by every evening to carry her back home. She was one of several single, working mothers along a circuit he traveled each day, transporting them to and from their jobs before spending the day at his own.

“He was a genius, and he did great all through high school. He knew he could do anything he wanted, but he decided to put all of his efforts towards helping other people instead of just advancing his own career,” Stickney said.

Stickney stood reminiscing with her cousin Debbie Hill, who added, “He was a quiet man, and he was a powerful man.” Hill is enshrined on the Rescue Ship with a sticker reading, “Debbie: Fine.”

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Debbie “Fine” Hill.

“Whenever I needed a ride anywhere, I knew I could call him,” Joyce Darby, Perry’s niece, said. “He’d answer that phone in his car and say, ‘Alright, I’ll be there in ten minutes.’ And if he said he was coming to get you, he was coming.”

Perry regularly spent late Friday and Saturday nights carrying home people who were too intoxicated to drive themselves back from the restaurant or bar safely, then he would get up early the next morning to drive across town to deliver rides and presents at children’s birthday parties.

“We have some archival footage of him at the parties, and you can just see the pure joy, the awe, in these children’s eyes,” Shook said. “That really brought it all back to how he made me feel when I saw him as a kid.”

One time, he paid for the hotel room of four tourists who were stranded overnight in Birmingham during a snowstorm. On another occasion, he helped thwart an attempted pharmacy robbery. The tales of Perry’s good deeds are innumerable.

“He would have been helping people with or without that car. That’s just what he did anyway. His entire life, he was always looking for ways he could help someone out,” Nicole Blount, Perry’s niece, said.

“There was still a lot of anger and resentment in both the black and white communities, and he was this real person that did everything he could to help you, white or black, rich or poor.”

But the Batman alter ego and the Rescue Ship did play a substantial role in generating interest for and recognition of Perry’s actions, making him a sort of universal symbol of selfless altruism in a Southern city less than 20 years removed from the formal end of the Civil Rights Movement.

ABC featured Perry in a 1982 episode of the network’s That’s Incredible! television program. He and the Rescue Ship headed Alabama football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s funeral procession in 1983, and Michael Jackson tracked Perry down to ask for a ride in the car when the Jacksons were in town rehearsing for their 1984 Victory tour. According to Shook, comedian Redd Foxx approached Perry’s family about purchasing the vehicle following Perry’s death in 1985.

WatchThat’s Incredible! segment on Willie Perry from 1982.

“We’re talking about barely post-Civil Rights Movement Birmingham. Segregation was still very much an awful reality,” Shook said. “There was still a lot of anger and resentment in both the black and white communities, and he was this real person that did everything he could to help you, white or black, rich or poor.”

Birmingham, along with many other cities across the state, played a critical role in the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King, Jr., penned his eminent “Letter from Birmingham Jail” on the margins of a smuggled-in newspaper while serving an eight-day sentence there in April of 1963.

In June of the same year, Alabama Governor George Wallace made his notorious Stand in the Schoolhouse Door in an attempt to bar two black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. For most of the years Perry was cruising Birmingham in the Rescue Ship, Wallace was running the state.

Wallace served two more terms as Alabama governor between 1971 and 1979 and one final term between 1983 and 1987, campaigning in 1970 with slogans like “Do you want the black bloc electing your governor?” and “Wake Up Alabama! Blacks vow to take over Alabama.” Less than 30 years after Rosa Parks had been arrested for refusing to give up her spot on a Montgomery bus, Willie Perry was tooling around Birmingham sharing his passenger seats with anyone who needed them.

“He loved everybody, no matter what your skin color was. He had an impact on everyone he met,” Darby said. “He shared his life with everybody.”

If the size and diversity of the crowd at Old Car Heaven on the night of August 3, 2015, is any indication, Perry’s legacy has similarly transcended demarcations of race, age, or socioeconomic status.

“The vehicle that he used to do so much good ultimately took his life,” Shook said. “It’s this absolutely heartbreaking chapter of the story.”

Like Bruce Wayne’s, Willie Perry’s story is one ultimately scarred by tragedy. January of 1985 was a period of uncommonly extreme cold and snowfall for the Birmingham area. The night of January 24, after braving the elements to check on Mr. Day’s mother-in-law, Perry pulled the Rescue Ship into a garage at J.F. Day & Company to work on the car.

Nobody knows for sure whether Perry closed the garage door to insulate his workspace against the invading cold or if the door closed unintentionally, but accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from the Rescue Machine’s running engine ended Perry’s life that night. He was 44 years old. Perry was later found on all fours at the garage door, as if he had been trying to lift the door to get out. According to Darby, the snowfall at the time had been so substantial that his funeral services were delayed a week until the roads had been adequately cleared for people in the city to travel safely.

“The vehicle that he used to do so much good ultimately took his life,” Shook said. “It’s this absolutely heartbreaking chapter of the story.”

A chapter, yes, but not once did any of Perry’s friends or family suggest it was the end of the story.

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Shook intends for the documentary, tentatively titled Smiles Per Gallon, to look to the future as much as the past. Much of the film’s focus will be directed toward tracking the upcoming Rescue Machine restoration process in addition to tracing the history of Perry’s time as Birmingham’s Batman.

“Since Willie is no longer alive and can no longer speak for himself, we want to have his car sort of stand in for him in this story, and we want to tell the story of the car getting restored, this story of reviving his spirit with the car, as well as through the memories of all of these people whose lives he impacted,” Shook said.

Members of Perry’s family, spearheaded by the efforts of his daughter Marquetta Hill, are creating the Willie Perry Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing used cars for single parents in need of transportation for work or school. Shook envisions future Willie Perry Days as communal periods of citywide service efforts.

“He truly believed that he could make the world a better place just by making the effort each day to help people. That’s a very powerful message, and it seems like it’s one you don’t see very often now,” Shook said. “And that’s what we all can learn from Willie Perry. You don’t have to have a Batmobile. You don’t have to dress up in the suit. Just do something truly good and kind, something that will help somebody for no other reason than wanting to help. Make every day a Willie Perry Day.”

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