Saturday, June 10, 2017

GOOD-BYE, ADAM WEST (1928-2017)

It's kind of hard for me to undersell the impact Batman and Adam West had on me as a boy. I was six years old when the show premiered, and it was the first program I can remember seeing previews for and *begging* my mom to commit to letting me watch it when it finally came on. Like most every boy my age in the mid '60s, I had a makeshift costume, a lunchbox, a plastic Batmobile, the Batman TV soundtrack (I still own the original LP), and of course the comic books, which never seemed quite as captivating to me compared to the vivid pop-art energy of the series. And hardly least of all, Batman introduced Julie Newmar's Catwoman to me, who in turn introduced a whole other set of feelings to this six-year-old-- fear and sex all rolled up into one inexplicable but ooh-la-la! package. (I'll spare you, and my mom, the details.)

But all of it revolved around West and his unique ability-- was it that sonorous, slightly quizzical delivery?-- to somehow play Bruce Wayne and Batman straight-up, yet ensure that a clever camp sensibility remained the foundation of his performance. He never wink-wink-nudge-nudged the audience, and certainly I probably wouldn't have been aware of it at six years old even if he had. Throughout his run as Batman there was a three-ring circus of exploding craziness surrounding Gotham City, and he was the steadfast-and-true ringleader, the one against whose unflappable reserve and intelligence all the rest of the silliness demanded to be measured. I loved him. I loved the show. It was the center of the universe for me when I was too young to know any better. And what a delight it was to discover, years later as an adult, that Batman wasn't the simple crap-fest that so many of the shows I liked as a kid often turned out to be, but instead a wholly aware, sharply funny collage of color, sound and pop absurdity, all built around the sturdy totem provided by Adam West.

As did everyone to whom that series meant so much, I woke up this morning to the news that Adam West passed away at the age of 88 after a brief battle with leukemia. Holy Undertaker, it is the end of the line of Batman this time! But what bat-tastic memories he made. Thanks, Mr. West. This morning my bat cowl is off to you. 


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