The Bat-flags are at half-mast today as we say goodbye to Adam West, star of the classic 1966-69 Batman television series. Following a battle with leukemia, West passed away at age 88.
A Seattle native, West began working in local radio before moving to film and television. Stardom truly struck when he was cast as the pre-Dark Knight on the series, which became an absolute pop culture phenomenon that burned out almost as quickly as it started. But during that first year, especially, Batmania swept America. So much, in fact, that West and co-star Burt Ward (who played Robin) starred in a feature film version that brought along four villains from the TV show.
(Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox)
Following the end of the show, West found his career stalled due to typecasting, which eventually resulted in his voicing the character for an animated series, and reprising it in a live action special. More recently he had gained a new generation of fans as Mayor Adam West on Family Guy. Last year, for the 50th Anniversary of his Batman series, he voiced the character alongside Ward in the animated film, Return Of The Caped Crusaders. He recorded a sequel before his death.
At the time, FHM spoke to West, but up until now that interview has remained unpublished.
FHM: In a weird way, with all the excitement over the 50th Anniversary and the release of the series on Blu-ray, does it feel like 1966 all over again?
Adam West: “Yes, in a way it does, because the excitement is noticeably the same. I mean, if I put a thermometer into the excitement water it would read about the same as when the show broke in 1966.”
FHM: On a personal level, what’s your feeling having been involved with something that has touched people so deeply for so long?
Adam West: “What does an actor want? I guess to be loved every time he goes out onstage or before the camera. ‘Love me! Appreciate my work! I’m really doing my best here!’ If I made people happy, and I know I have; and I’ve given them a lot of laughs, then I’m a happy guy. Of course, there was a time when I was typecast so terribly, and up for a number of big features I couldn’t get. The producers casting would say, ‘No, what would happen if he went to bed with the leading lady? They’d forget the whole story — "Look, it’s Batman in bed."' That was a problem, but I decided years ago to love the character, because people love it, and I should be grateful to have that. My God, to be one of the few icons around... this is neat.”
FHM: When you find yourself in that kind of insanity back in the day, is it hard to cope with when they kind of turn off the applause sign, so to speak? The show burned very brightly for a couple of years, but then burned out.
Adam West: “Well, in a sense it is. For example, oh my God, I guess at three or four in the morning some nights I get something biting at me like piranha fish, because I’m thinking I don’t deserve this, and I can’t deal with this. Look, I grew up on a farm in Walla Walla, Washington, I worked in the fields for years, among other things, and when things break that big for you and you become like a rock star, of a kind, it’s tough to deal with. But I’ve been very fortunate, I just stayed drunk! [in a lower voice] He said comfortable, not drunk!”
FHM: What people may not realize, is that at the time you were getting the kind of attention that The Beatles did.
Adam West: “In the Sixties, there were three Bs: Batman, Bond and Beatles. And I was asked to play Bond after Sean Connery for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. And then The Beatles talked to me about playing drums instead of Ringo — but he turned out to be a great guy."
FHM: Well, you got Batman. One out of three ain’t bad.
Adam West: “[laughs] Exactly.”
FHM: The history of the character is that Bruce Wayne is this kid who sees his parents get murdered and he becomes Batman, a very serious, dark kind of thing. Yet you get cast in a show that wraps all of that up in a happy face.
Adam West: “You really hit the nail on the head. Batman’s nutty, so I kind of played it that way, and super serious and always moving, musing, trying to put clues together, and very physical and solemn. We didn’t need all those explosions and flame and people blowing up. We didn’t need that, because we planned to be funny and yet be wonderfully exciting for the kids. Which was an evident homage to DC comics. It wasn’t the Dark Knight; I decided to be the Bright Knight."
FHM: George Reeves who played Superman in The Adventures Of Superman, died without knowing the impact he had made. You’ve been lucky to see over the decades how much that love is there for you and your portrayal of Batman and the impact you’ve had.
Adam West: “Thank you for saying that. I feel actually quite humbled by that. Again, I say I’m probably the luckiest actor alive. The fact that I’ve become kind of an icon and people have had affection for me… this is wonderful. I wake up sometimes late at night, and I think, ‘Why me? What happened?’ I was a farm boy from Walla Walla, Washington, I don’t know what the hell happened to me. It just did.”
To the Batcave, Old Chum!