Monday, June 12, 2017

Adam West, 1928-2017, R.I.P.


Recently tweeted by Mark Evanier, author of the highly-recommended News From Me blog: "A lot of folks seem to think Batman died yesterday. Adam West wanted you to remember he was an actor, not a comic book character."

Having said -- well, quoted -- that...

Yeah, yeah, I'm very well aware that Adam West (born William West Anderson) wasn't Batman. He only played Batman on the television series, plus in the feature-length Batman movie in 1966, and in several voice-over cartoon incarnations over the years after the Batman TV show ended. And I was old enough to understand that he was "only" an actor portraying a fictional character even when I watched Batman as a child during its original run.

However, the main reason I'm writing this post is to wax nostalgic over the impact the Batman show and its star had on me during its run. And that's why the forty-seven or so photos that follow my ramblings, all of Adam West, are mostly Batman-related shots of Mr. West, who died June 9th at the age of eighty-eight after a short battle with leukemia.

So pack a lunch.

I was just the right age when the ABC network advertised its "Second Season" in January of 1966.("Second Season" sounded so much more dignified and impressive than "mid-season replacements.") I'd just turned nine years old the previous November. I was old enough to follow the plots, dialogue, etc., old enough to know that the actors and actresses were just that, actors and actresses, and even old enough to realize that the show wasn't taking itself totally seriously. But fortunately, I was a bit too young to realize that the powers that be (powers that were?) behind the show were somewhat contemptuous of comic books and those who read them.

I read comic books, and had been following them since before I could read. I taught myself to read using just about any comics I encountered, but primarily by reading issues of Batman, and Detective Comics (in which Batman and Robin starred). So to see that the "Caped Crusader" and his kid sidekick, "Robin, the Boy Wonder" were getting their own television show was incredibly thrilling to myself and my peers. (Sure, there had been the 1950s show, The Adventures of Superman, but none of "us" were old enough to clearly remember that.)

The Batman show started a short-lived phenomenon. It was almost like a small-scale version of Beatlemania -- it was even called "Batmania" which had so gripped the world a couple of years earlier. Several actors, actresses, and other celebrities lobbied to play villains on the program, or even show up in cameo appearances.

The over-the-top, irreverent tone of the series became known as "camp," and for quite some time it (adversely) affected the tone of entertainment in general and comic books in particular. (For example, thanks to the Batman TV show, one of my favorite TV series, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., took on a tongue-in-cheek camp attitude during its third season. Accordingly, U.N.C.L.E. sank in the ratings and was cancelled after its fourth season.)

Even now, fifty-odd years later, a huge percentage of the public still can't think of comics without using expressions like "Holy [whatever]," like Robin did on the show, and references to comics are often illustrated with sound effects like "Pow," "Zap," "Bam," and the like.

In fact... I'm writing this post at the local public library, and I just noticed that the wall beside their "graphic novels" section is emblazoned with "Swat," "Zap," "Pow," and "Bang!" And this is 2017, fellow babies!

But the average nine-year-old back then didn't have a sense of comic book history, of course, and we didn't realize that the character of Batman was originally intended to be a "darknight [sic] detective," much more serious in tone than the goofy guy in the TV show. I was really excited by the fact that comic books seemed to be "in" for a while. So where Batman was concerned, I watched the show, bought (some of) the many toys, bought an LP of stories about the character, bought two different paperback books (one a collection of old comic book stories, the other a novel about Batman fighting several of his major villains), went to see the Batmobile at an auto show in nearby Worcester, Massachusetts, collected the trading cards (three different sets, IIRC), and read... well, I was already reading the comic books.

As I aged, I saw comic book fans start taking themselves and their "heroes" much more seriously. (Some would say too seriously.) To a lot of them, mostly those who hadn't watched the TV show as kids, the '60s version of Batman was something to be scoffed at, not admired. They much preferred Batman as he appeared in stories like those written by creators such as Denny O'Neil & Neal Adams, Steve Englehart & Marshall Rogers, and writer/artist Frank Miller in The Dark Knight Returns.

Over the years, I saw Adam West in a number of later roles. I even saw him once at a comic book convention (but didn't get to meet him) several years ago. He told the audience that an actor's job is to do just that, act. (He used that statement as a matter-of-fact explanation as to why he took roles in films such as The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood.) And when asked what his greatest acting role had been, he replied "I haven't done it yet."

And now, in no order whatsoever, here are a number of photos of Adam West, many with his various co-stars.

The third-season cast of The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor. Along with Mr. Taylor (far right),
West is pictured with Mark Goddard (later of  Lost in Space) and Tige Andrews (later of The Mod Squad).

 
West with my personal favorite of the three women who played
Catwoman in the 1960s, the incomparable Julie Newmar.

A casual moment with West's third-season Batman co-star,
the late Yvonne Craig, who played Batgirl.

 
With the cast of The Big Bang Theory on their 200th episode,
the fiftieth anniversary of the Batman TV show.

West on an episode of  Perry Mason.

West and Frank Gorshin (The Riddler) flanking Batman's co-creator, Bob Kane.

With Burt "Robin" Ward at a comic convention.

 
West was signed for Batman after producer William Dozier saw him
as Captain Q, a James Bond type, in a Nestlé Quik commercial.

Adam West and Burt Ward in a 1989 appearance at an auto show,
looking much like they did in the 1960s! But note that the cape,
cowl and gloves are black rather than blue, as they were in the TV show!
(And many thanks to Betsy Brock for sending the article in which this photo appeared.)

A more recent shot of West with Julie Newmar.


 With (of all people) actor Richard Deacon in The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood!

Playing himself in 1978's  Hooper with Burt Reynolds and James Best. 

Frank Gorshin, Yvonne Craig, Adam West, and (again) Julie Newmar.


Once again with Julie Newmar! Why? Because I can!

Burt Ward and Adam West.

  
With the late Van Williams, who played television's Green Hornet.


1964's Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

 With Jill St. John

As Dr. Jekyll (becoming Mr. Hyde) in a comedy short from Night Gallery.




*Whew!!!* Thanks for your time!

33 comments:

  1. Yep, I do agree that everyone has their favorite Batman....

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    Replies
    1. And their favorite Zorro, too, I imagine.

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    2. I love that photo of Jill St. John. What a beauty!

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    3. When I found that photo of the two of them, I wondered how and why Adam West and Jill St. John had been photographed together. It occurred to me later that she had appeared in the very first two Batman episodes, so the photo was probably taken at some corresponding publicity event about the premiere of the show.

      No, I didn't join Pinterest. I was doing an image search for Lord-knows-what (can't remember) and I found one of those. It led me to someone's Pinterest page, where I saw the other one.

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  2. Batmen come and go, but for me, Adam West is the real Batman. One of the Batmobile replicas lives here in Jax. I had the pleasure of seeing it parked in front of a sports bar. It was in handicapped parking without a permit, but I think a Batmobile gets special consideration.

    Love,
    Janie

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  3. I was too young to remember when it actually aired but I saw all the episodes when they were reruns in the 1970's. And it was so much fun to see all the huge stars in their villain roles. My mom and dad used to rent an apartment from a couple with teens in the 60's and the teens couldn't wait to get home and watch Batman. Adam West was also in Bewitched and, thankfully, he was able to find some great work in his later life on the Family Guy and other shows like you showed up above

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    1. He had his ups and downs over the years, but overall, he seems to have had a good life.

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  4. I LOVED the old Batman series and movie with West. I think one of the things I liked best about him was that he didn't take himself too seriously. My kids got to know who he was while watching "The Fairly OddParents" where he played a superhero named CatMan. He was hilarious and his wit was every bit as understated as the old days of "Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb."

    RIP, Adam West. And what a nice tribute, David!

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    1. Yeah, "Some days, you just can't get rid of a bomb." Great line. Glad you enjoyed the tribute.

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  5. Enjoyed your tribute! We watch lots of reruns of old westerns. West had many roles in them before Batman. Really amazing who you can see in those before they were household names.
    Visit me @ Life & Faith in Caneyhead. 😉

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    1. I have a ten-DVD set of old Western TV shows, plus other DVDs of old TV shows, and like you, I absolutely love watching for all the actors and actresses who later became famous.

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  6. I, on the other hand, am old enough to remember The Adventures of Superman; in fact I remember my little brother being scared by the train in the "more powerful than a locomotive" part of the intro. And at the time of Batman I was old enough to understand the satire and the camp, which was what made the show for me. I was never really into comic books, but I thoroughly loved that TV show. And from what I understand, Adam West was quite a character on his own. So here's to Adam West!

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  7. He sure was wise enough to know that it's a job and didn't have a big head like many prima donna actors. Everyone does still use the pow, wham, bam and such. I always found it way too corny. But then I liked the 80's TMNT show as a kid and that is beyond corny now. Changes with age I suppose.

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    1. Right. I see Batman episodes now and appreciate them on a wholly different level.

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  8. I was a teenager in '66 and of course didn't think much of the show. Both my older sister and I got that it was meant to be satire, but we MUCH more into Star Trek, which came out the same year.

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    1. I think I only watched one Star Trek episode when it was originally broadcast. It was "The Menagerie," and my older sister and I were laughing because the back of the Talosians'(?) heads looked like somebody's butt!

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  9. i used to watch reruns with my dad. i was very sad to learn about his passing.

    and to answer your comment on my blog, i'm fine. real life has its everlasting grip on me right now. no time because of summer reading program. this is one of the most busy times of year for librarians.

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  10. Glad you're okay. Thanks for letting me know.

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  11. I saw him in that episode of The Big Bang Theory. Another wonderful tribute Mr Silver Fox.

    I imagine wearing tights back then took courage, but then again he was 🦇 man. Costume design has come a long way for batman.

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, superhero suits in movies and TV nowadays are more like body armor. Even Superman's, and he doesn't need it.

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  12. Hey, I tagged you in a meme! Please be a sport and play along.
    Life & Faith in Caneyhead. 😉

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll have to give it some thought. I usually don't participate in memes and awards... but I sincerely appreciate the offer.

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    2. I'll still love you if you don't, but it would really tickle me if you did!

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  13. Thought you'd enjoy this...

    http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2017/06/16/bat-signal-lights-up-los-angeles-city-hall-in-tribute-to-late-adam-west.html

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    1. That was great! Thanks so much for sending the link. (I strongly recommend the article to anyone reading this comment!)

      And I loved the 1989 photo of Adam West and Burt Ward in their costumes, looking very much like they did 20 years earlier.

      Thanks again.

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    2. I just updated my post to include the photo from that article, as well as a link to the article itself!

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  14. I've popped over from Barbara in Caneyhead. Interesting blog. I enjoyed reading all the Batman, Adam West info. I watched Batman faithfully as I am roughly the same age as you. However, I grew up and never revisited the topic and did not know the show's campiness.

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    1. We each took something different from the show, I think. My friend Paul used to watch it with his dad. His father would laugh, and Paul would say "Daddy, this is serious!"

      Thanks for stopping by my blog.

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