Adam West, Star of 60s Batman, Dead at 88

It was January 12, 1966. By my expert calculations I was 11 and it was the day before my mother’s 31st birthday, and I was in our downstair rec room with my dinner, waiting anxiously for the new Batman TV show. My father was there too, in his white leather recliner, watching with us. I loved Batman comics, and I was so excited I could barely stand it — had been since it was announced before Christmas.

I wasn’t disappointed: Wayne Manor was gigantic, Alfred was a perfect British butler (at least as far as I knew, I was 11 years old and in a basement in Pueblo, Colorado), Batman was handsome and elegant as Bruce Wayne and if he wasn’t quite as muscular as the comic book Batman, still, well, he was Batman.

So, today we got word that Bruce Wayne died. Um, I mean Adam West — the real Bruce Wayne. (I’m sorry, I thought Michael Keaton was a good Batman, and Christian Bale was excellent … he even came close to being a good Bruce Wayne, but Adam West was still the best.)

So, ’60s flashback over. Adam West, the actor who played Batman in the ABC TV series and was followed by the role for the rest of his life, died Friday at 88.

West had been a fairly successful contract journeyman actor who had appeared in roughly every half-hour episodic western and cop or detective show in the early ’60s when he got the role of Batman in the ABC series.

At 11, I think it was just cool. BIFF BAM POW and the Batmobile, Oh my gosh the Batmobile, the coolest car ever. (George Barris had built it, by customizing the Ford Futura concept car, which was only the second coolest car ever.) But that wasn’t what had my dad snickering in his white leather recliner — it was the sly deadpan humor. Things like Batman telling Catwoman that she gave him a funny feeling in his utility belt.

Julie Newmar later said: “The secret of it was playing it very straight. The comment from the head producer was always, ‘Straight, straight, straight – do not play it for laughs!’ – because the straighter you play it, the more ridiculous it really is.”

West struggled in later years because of typecasting as, well, Batman, but then revived his career largely by playing Adam West, including lots and lots of voiceover work.

Adam West was survived by his third wife Marcelle, six children, five grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and millions of fans.