Beloved Cultural Icon Adam West

Adam WestAdam West is 86 years old today. Hooray! Really: hooray! I don’t think there is a more beloved American actor. First, he brought us the only superhero to the screen that is as campy and ridiculous as superheroes ought to be. And then in recent years, he has played the charming Mayor West on Family Guy, the only man who is truly deserving of Meg. I love him to death and I hope he lives to be 124 — the theoretical limit for humans.

He was born in Walla Walla, Washington — a town so generic that even two names can’t make it memorable. He got his bachelor’s degree in literature and then he was drafted into the Army for what I assume must have been the Korean War. In the army, he became an announcer for American Forces Network television. As a result, after the war, he pretty much fell into television.

He was a bit player throughout the early 1960s until he landed the ultimate gig in the title role of Batman. Although it only ran for three years, there were 120 episodes. Plus, of course, there was the 1966 Batman film. This probably did not make him rich. As I recall, actors of that time only got residuals for the first half dozen repeats. The rest of the money went — Of course! — to the money men who made no creative contribution to the show.

This led to a difficult time for West following the show. He was typecast. But he still managed to work. He did what he could to push past that, including working in low budget films like Zombie Nightmare (which is actually a pretty damned good film). Eventually, of course, he became the cultural icon that he is today. I think for a long time, people thought the original Batman television show was an embarrassment. But it wasn’t. It was brilliant. Really: go back and watch it. You’ll see. Here are highlights from the 1966 film:

Happy birthday Adam West!

Leave a Reply