OCEAN CITY — In 1981, Mike Beatty and his wife, Cindy, sent a humorous telegram — remember, this was ’81 — to a friend in Ocean City. The friend owned a bar, where Beatty would be playing as a disc jockey the following week.
As part of the joke, they decided to use a trick name. They considered “Fred and Wilma,” along with some others, before they settled on signing it “Batman and Robin.”
When they showed up for the gig at the now-defunct Bayside Pub — the current location of Buxy’s Salty Dog Saloon — the sign out front was in on the joke: it welcomed “DJ Batman.” Beatty’s been going by the moniker ever since.
“I guess it stuck,” Beatty said as he set up for his twice-weekly “DJ Batman’s Hair of the Dog” radio show on Ocean 98, a show he’s been doing Saturdays and Sundays for about six years as a supplement to his prolific DJing.
After his radio show, Beatty planned to stop in at M.R. Ducks, so he could get instructions on where he’d be setting up his gear a few days later. He would be playing the bar for the first time as the first DJ to ever play there, he said, and he was nervous.
Beatty said M.R. Ducks is one of two bars in Ocean City he’s always had his eye on but had not gotten to play, and that he was both nervous and excited to do the show.
The last time Beatty was nervous for a show? “Last night, and then the night before that,” Beatty said, despite having DJ’d more than 8,000 times in his life at venues all over the East Coast and in the Caribbean. “Every night and every crowd is different.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Joey Cappo said to Beatty about his upcoming gig. Cappo was finishing his Saturday morning show in Ocean 98’s studio, the inner sanctum of Seacrets. “You’re gonna rock it, and it’s not going to be a problem.”
After so many appearances, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a jockey start to slack a little bit, to start playing a specific playlist over and over again, based on a cookie-cutter evaluation of the venue and crowd. But Beatty doesn’t do that, he says. He approaches his craft meticulously, spending the entire week putting together playlists for his radio show. Then, he’ll alter them as the show progresses, based on requests and his own change in mood or remembrance of a song that would fit appropriately into one of the 30 or so song slots.
Beatty’s experience and dedication is reflected by his music collection and the equipment he has used through the years. He switched from records to cassette tapes before going to CDs. He now uses MP3s and a laptop computer. He’s got more than 62,000 songs on a tiny flash drive that fits easily in his pocket.
“That’s my radio show. It’s unbelievable,” Beatty said as he looked at the tiny device in his hand, reflecting on the days when one-third of his van would be filled with music recordings. These days, he sometimes gets to work on his scooter.
Through the years, Beatty developed a sleep pattern not too different from a bat’s. He sleeps twice a day, for three hours each. He rests in the hours before he has to leave for a show, and then sleeps for another three after returning home, which is around 2:30-3 a.m.
“I’m usually up early, because I love getting to see the sunrise,” Beatty said. “I miss a lot of sunsets, though.”
Beatty’s adeptness for working a crowd has improved, as well. He’s come up with some entertainment tricks, like something he calls the “15-year Theory,” based slightly on nostalgia. Beatty maintains that if you play a song that was released about 15 years ago or more, people of the generation that grew up with it tend to love it. Years ago, he would get run out of a place for playing disco, he said, but now it’s something some people constantly want to hear.
“If you play ‘MMMBop’ now, certain crowds absolutely love that, and it works,” Beatty said about Hanson’s huge 90s hit. “You learn there are no bad crowds, only bad entertainers, and there’s a song out there that can get every crowd.
“When it works, man, there’s nothin’ better.”