When Tony Marino died on May 28, 2021, at the age of 90, his role as Battman for a short time was rediscovered and explored. That led to the question—who was Robin to his Battman? In an earlier story (Holy mystery, Battman! Who was Robin?), “Trapper” Tom Leturgey considered the names believed to have been Robin. The piece prompted this interview that, once and for all, settled the debate — Alex “Sandy” Macaluso was Robin.
“I just didn’t care that they said it was the other guy,” said Alex “Sandy” Macaluso from his home in Rochester, New York on the second of June. John Foti, a similar-looking wrestler had been identified as Robin, the Boy Wonder some time ago. “I had never even met him,” said the retired auto shop owner.
In 1966, Macaluso joined his childhood friend Tony Silipini, who had just started wrestling in the Northeast as “Battman.” Already a successful grappler as Tony Marino, Silipini had been wrestling with Pedro Martinez in New York when the Batman television show became an overnight hit. Of course, Battman needed a Ward, and Macaluso, at 5’10” and nearing 200 pounds, fit the Columbus, Ohio-built costume. “I made Battman’s original mask,” said Macaluso. Silipini’s daughter, Deborah Jenssen, remembers the Caped Crusaders “running around the house” when they got their gear. Macaluso chuckled and agreed with the memory.
Macaluso and Silipini grew up in the same neighborhood, were members of the same YMCA (“I used to borrow Tony’s ID card to get in,” Sandy said), and played every sport imaginable together. “We had Tony play basketball because we didn’t have a fifth,” Macaluso, 88, explained. “He wasn’t very good,” but the budding bodybuilder “was rough under the boards.”
The friends would drive from Rochester to Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, for television tapings and their only two matches as the Dynamic Duo. “We would drive into town and Tony would wear his mask,” Macaluso continued. “And he’d say, ‘Put your mask on.’ He was a stickler.” Macaluso was surprised how much Marino would protect the gimmick. “We would eat for free in this Greek restaurant,” he laughed. “We wouldn’t even leave a tip. Tony said, ‘They are glad we eat there.’”
Macaluso jokingly remembered one day when main eventer Bobo Brazil happened upon the Dynamic Duo changing after a match. Macaluso had shaved his legs and extremities to resemble the Boy Wonder, and Brazil asked Battman what he was doing a “boy” in the locker room! Marino quickly retorted that Macaluso, then 34, “was married with four kids!”
Usually, Robin simply accompanied Battman to the ring and would take part in promos, but Macaluso was a shooter in his own right. He boasted a 28-2 record wrestling at 175 pounds in Madison, New York, where he and Silipini (a champion 215-pound heavyweight) attended together for a while. Macaluso said he would train with some of Pedro Martinez’s undercard talent. “They’d make $25 a night,” he said. Sometimes, Robin would make the save and assist Battman if his opponent got an illegal upper hand.
The two became iconic in the professional wrestling world when they were featured on the October, 1966 cover of Wrestling Revue Magazine. The pictures, taken in Toronto at the Maple Leaf Gardens, featured shots of the duo with fans, including the son of a referee on the card. “Tony was mad, because the referee’s son was looking at me, and not him,” Macaluso jokes. “We had a rivalry since we were 12 years old!” [Look closely and you’ll notice that they are never referred to as Battman and Robin on the cover, but The “Deadly Duo,” perhaps as a way to skirt copyright infringement that isn’t possible today.]
In July, 1966, Battman took bookings without Robin throughout Canada and Macaluso wasn’t on those cards. Macaluso told Marino that he didn’t need wrestling because of the auto business he had with his brothers. “I told him I quit.”
By October 1966, Marino was entrenched as Battman in Pittsburgh, as promoter Bruno Sammartino—who never really enjoyed the Caped Crusader gimmick—knew that the character was popular. But, Silipini also traveled to Canada and the some of the Northeast as Tony Marino. Macaluso never appeared as Robin again and he never looked back.
Despite not continuing as The Boy Wonder, Macaluso and Silipini remained friends. “I last saw Tony about two years ago at his son David’s house here in Rochester,” he added. Macaluso learned of Silipini’s passing in May 2021 at the age of 90 as a result of this conversation.
Macaluso divides his time in Rochester and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with Jean, a high school sweetheart he reconnected with during a walk at a nearby shopping mall. Both had been previously married with kids and widowed. They’ve been together for 20 years and jabber together like teens. “I still weigh 180 pounds,” he said. “I walk two miles a day and feel like I’m 25.”
No one is sure how John Foti was identified as Robin. Interestingly, Foti did wrestle “Batman” twice in November 1966 in Canada. It was originally believed to be Marino’s “Battman”; however, it was later discovered that was a version portrayed by frequent-foe Leo Burke. Foti took his own life in 1969 at the age of 41 and no one ever questioned that declaration, except for Macaluso’s daughter, Sheila. She had politely tried to right the wrong; however, it took Silipini’s daughters Deborah and Pattie to independently confirm Robin’s true identity. “I’m not lying about being Robin,” he conclude. “I’m not getting paid for being Robin.”