Apr. 30—You cannot miss the "Batmobile" as it rumbles through the streets of Lewiston and Auburn.
It is not the old style from the popular TV series that Adam West drove, but a smaller, more-nimble machine that owner Ernest Vincent "Vinny" Donatelli drives, turning heads and getting waves and sometimes curious looks.
Kids often jump up and down waving and screaming as he stomps on the gas and the deep throttle of the engine overpowers the music blaring from an invisible sound system.
"I do it to put a smile on faces and to make people feel good, but mostly I do it for the kids," the Auburn resident said.
Donatelli grew up in the Boston area and his big hulking frame and booming voice are stereotypical of someone from the North End. He was a professional boxer but moved to Maine to get out of the violent business and eventually started a restaurant in Lewiston, My Cousin Vinny's.
That only lasted a year and since then he has become disabled and this "hobby" has kept him busy and given him so much satisfaction.
Donatelli was a huge "Batman" fan when he was a kid and remembers how good and safe it made him feel, even after he realized there was no real-life Batman.
"It's just something people associate with good battling evil," he said. "That's something everyone can identify with and feel positive and safe, especially for some of these kids that don't have a lot of hope with whatever family situation they are in. When I drive past, it makes them feel like they have someone out there looking after them."
The vehicle is a customized Polaris Slingshot. He bought it online and customized it even more by adding simulated machine guns mounted on the front fenders. The sound, feel and thrill of its acceleration makes it fun to drive and turns the heads of most drivers he passes, he said.
Most of the time he drives with a simple "Batman" face covering, glasses, and his signature black beret, but over the years he has purchased numerous "costumes." He recently spent $600 on a new ensemble that includes knee-high boots, cape, hood with ears, and fancy gloves. He wears that to special outings for charity, which is he is looking to do more of in the future.
Donatelli is not a real-life crimefighter. He does not get calls from the police commissioner nor does he have a sidekick or butler to look after him, but he does have a secret "Bat Cave" where he stores the "Batmobile" in the winter.
His positive outlook, good-natured spirit and passion for making people feel good and smile epitomize the fictional character's words from the movie "The Dark Knight": "Sometimes the truth isn't good enough. Sometimes people deserve more."