Adam West, the star of the 60s TV series Batman, died in Los Angeles. A rep said that he died after a short battle with leukemia. His family said in a statement,
“Our dad always saw himself as The Bright Knight, and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans’ lives. He was and always will be our hero.”
As a kid, Batman, which premiered on in 1966, was my favorite TV show. I ate on plates with Batman & Robin on them and slept of sheets printed with the signature POW! and WHOMP! of the show. As much as The Monkeys were a cheesy substitute for The Beatles, Batman was THE kitschy superhero of the 60s.
West’s role of Batman and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, made it hard for him to be taken seriously and to get other good roles. He continued to work throughout his career, but options remained limited, just like The Beverly Hillbillies Buddy Ebsen, because of his association with the character.
Last February, The Big Bang Theory celebrated its 200th episode — marking the 50th anniversary of Batman — with a guest appearance by West.
Asked by Variety what the character of Batman meant to him over the years, West said,
“Money. Some years ago I made an agreement with Batman. There was a time when Batman really kept me from getting some pretty good roles, and I was asked to do what I figured were important features. However, Batman was there, and very few people would take a chance on me walking on to the screen. And they’d be taking people away from the story. So I decided that since so many people love Batman, I might as well love it too. Why not? So I began to reengage myself with Batman. And I saw the comedy. I saw the love people had for it, and I just embraced it.”
With actors like Julie Newmar (Catwoman) and Burgess Meredith (Penguin) as two of the cameo villains, the show was almost an instant success, urging viewers to tune in for the next episode at the “Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel”
West wrote a book titled Back to the Batcave in which he said that he was “angry and disappointed” not to have been offered the chance to reprise the role in the Burton movies, despite being 60 at the time. At the time, the publicity seemed to put West back on the cultural radar.
He is survived by his wife Marcelle, six children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Adam West was 88.
(Photos, Batman publicity stills; via Variety)