Burgh Man displays his powers of positive thinking
Pop culture's superheroes are known for their herculean strength, fancy gadgets and elaborate costumes.
But how many can juggle while rollerblading backward?
The act is a signature move of Burgh Man, Pittsburgh's resident superhero who's dedicated his life to helping people of all ages stave off evil influences through entertainment, laughter and fun.
Mark Bedillion, the man behind the mask, is a retired addiction and mental-health therapist who wanted to continue to teach others about living healthy lifestyles. He assumed his new identity in 2001, and has been performing for folks all over town ever since.
“I don't even know how I came up with the idea,” says Bedillion, whose secret headquarters are in Carnegie. “I just realized how much ability I had to help people. All the years I spent in the mental-health and addiction field, I realized how destructive people are. I want to try to help them not be so self-destructive. I realized you've got to try to teach the young people.”
People in town enjoying sporting events, festivals and parades have likely caught sight of Burgh Man — he's more than hard to miss. His costume consists of a long black cape, sparkly pants and full face mask. The entire thing is coated in flashing lights, from his helmet to his roller blades. He's usually coasting around with a set of fluorescent flashing juggling clubs in hand or a set of spinning plates whirling in the air. But he's always happy to pause for a photo with awestruck onlookers.
Burgh Man is accompanied by his partner Lady Burgh, a.k.a. Bonnie Provost, a retired Keystone Oaks teacher who relishes the opportunity to interact with Burgh Man fans. She sells everything from light-up rings, light sabers, chocolate bars, even Burgh Man water (Super Water for Super People). The pair travel in a van covered in cartoons depicting Burgh Man fighting off criminals and sending positive messages.
Bedillion also distributes comics based on his character. Illustrated by local artist Loran Skinkis, they tell tales of Burgh Man overcoming bullies, polluters and other evil forces.
Provost says Burgh Man's presence is often a welcome distraction for folks who gather around him for photos or try their own hands at plate spinning.
“I see that they just love Burgh Man,” she says. “They get calm and start laughing.”
Children flock to him, clamoring for a photo or a juggling lesson. Bedillion remembers one particular boy who asked his parents to buy him a Burgh Man lightsaber. They declined, and about a month later, Bedillion received a letter from a woman in New Jersey. That little boy was her grandson, and he was staying with her for a few weeks. He had not stopped talking about Burgh Man and all his light-up gear. Bedillion gladly sent her a lightsaber for free.
“Grandmas can be superheroes, too,” Bedillion says with a laugh. “Can you imagine that little boy's face when his grandmother gave him that?”
Like any superhero, Burgh Man needs to spend time honing his skills. Occasionally, he'll show up in full costume at Neville Roller Drome to take a few laps, entertaining the crowd at the same time. Jim Park, who owns the business with his wife, Sophie, says skaters get a kick out of seeing him slide by. The Parks are working with Burgh Man to develop fundraisers and community outreach projects.
“Anything that's positive for youth and builds skating, we're very much interested in,” Park says.
Jeff Heil of Observatory Hill hired Burgh Man to entertain at his neighborhood's annual block party last year, much to the delight of those in attendance.
“They loved it,” Heil says. “Everybody gathered around when he did the plate spinning. He gave all the kids light-up trinkets. It was a lot of fun.”
Burgh Man occasionally takes his act on the road. He's performed for survivors of the Quecreek Mine Rescue. He even tried out for “America's Got Talent.” He's basically happy to do anything that brings positive attention to his hometown.
“We were just named the smartest city in the country (by real estate site Movoto Blog), but I've been saying that for 10 years,” Bedillion says, pointing to the region's many corporate headquarters and universities.
He dreams of one day having a permanent station somewhere in the city where he can greet visitors and newcomers. He'd also love to see takes on his character in other cities.
“It's all about fun,” he says.
Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or email@example.com.