When most people see Bob Meza’s restored World War II searchlight, they immediately call it the “Bat-Signal.” Meza calls it, “the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”
Meza was born and raised in Los Angeles. His career path brought him to the movie scene, specifically working for NBC.
Meza’s childhood was filled with beams of light and his family driving to see what they were bringing light to.
“The light always fascinated me, even as a child,” said Meza.
One day Meza and a buddy of his were in Burbank, when they saw one of the large searchlights from Meza’s childhood just sitting in a parking lot. An idea suddenly sparked in Meza’s head.
“I’d like to get one of these and restore it and keep the memory going,” said Meza.
He did just that.
Finding a searchlight with wheels was difficult enough, let alone one with as many original parts as possible. He managed to find one that still had wheels, but some parts were missing.
Meza had to scrounge the internet to find parts from all around the world. His search even inspired him to create his own website so those pursuing the restoration process of searchlights could find parts, and communicate, all in one space.
After retiring, Meza spent one year at his Canyon Country home, dedicating himself to restoring his General Electric carbon arc searchlight to its powerful, World War II-era glory.
“It’s equivalent to 800 million candles sitting in front of you, that’s how bright the light is,” said Meza.
Its visible beam stretches 5 miles into the sky and Meza estimates that it can be seen from approximately 30 to 40 miles.
Just as these searchlights attracted Meza and his family, his light now captures quite a bit of attention from the public.
“Every time it goes out, the beam goes up and people come to see the light and then they inquire about the light,” said Meza.
Meza’s light captured so much attention that it moved its way into the television and movie scene. It can be seen in “Gangster Squad,” “The Disaster Artist,” “California’s Gold,” and is set to be featured in “Oppenheimer.”
“I’m kind of known in Hollywood because I have the only light left pretty much that you can rent,” said Meza.
Meza said that his light is the only one left in Los Angeles and may be the only one left in California.