Sunday, July 9, 2017

Goodbye, Adam West!

Michael Salsbury
I suppose it's a sign of getting older that so many people I've come to regard as fixtures in my life are gone.  I lost my grandfather in 2004, my mother in 2008, and my remaining grandmother just a few weeks ago. Adam West has been one of those fixtures.  When I was very young, I watched him regularly as Batman.  For many years, this was the only portrayal of The Caped Crusader that I knew.  While other actors have played the character since then and done a fine job of it, it's still Adam West's Batman that I think of first and foremost.

West's deadly serious portrayal of Batman is a pleasure to watch. West's Batman always had the exact, perfect gadget for any situation.  Everything in his Batcave was labeled, despite the fact that he and Robin clearly knew what everything was.  No matter how ridiculous the situation his character was placed in, no matter how campy or minimalist the set, no matter the eye-rolling cringe-worthiness the line he was given to say ("Confound it, the BATteries are dead!"), West delivered us a Batman who took his crime-fighting seriously... and never neglected his duties as a public citizen (even putting money in the meter when he parked the Batmobile).  I still enjoy watching the show today, even though I probably know most of the episodes by heart.

As campy and silly as the show was, the always-by-the-book Batman West portrayed had an effect on my young mind. It taught me that no one, whether a rich millionaire, deputized crime fighter, or well-loved superhero is above the law or beyond the rules. West's Batman would never have so much as parked illegally in his fight against crime. We don't see heroes on television like that anymore. Today's television heroes are rarely so upstanding.

I got to meet Mr. West briefly in the 1990's.  I was living in Pittsburgh at the time.  He was making an appearance at a convention to celebrate the Night of the Living Dead movies, at a facility near the shopping mall used in the original Dawn of the Dead film.  I stood in a line to get his autograph. He misplaced his marker after signing for the person in front of me, so I got to stand and chat with him while someone got him a new one.  West was very kind and cordial to me, though he was understandably distracted when a lovely young woman in a white skin-tight dress showing a lot of skin and curves appeared to my left.  

A good actor can become inextricably identified with a role they play on television or in the movies. So it was with Adam West. His portrayal of Batman got in the way of him getting other acting jobs for quite some time. Thankfully, there were shows like Family Guy and The Fairly Oddparents that were willing to give him a chance.  While his legacy as Batman deserves a place in entertainment history, I'm glad that he won't be known exclusively for that.

Earlier this year, an animated Batman movie was released that featured Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar reprising their roles from the 60's.  I rushed to buy it as soon as I found out it was available.  It was great to see (or at least hear) West performing the role that made him famous.  It was also a little sad, too, in that you could tell by the sound of his voice that West wasn't a young man anymore.  That meant we might lose him at any time.  Sadly, that time has come and gone.

Thank you, Mr. West, for taking on the role of Batman and bringing so many hours of joy into my childhood.  Thank you for being nice to me at that convention all those years ago.  You always have been the first and best Batman to me.  I will miss you now that you're no longer with us, but will take comfort in knowing a part of you will always live on in Batman reruns.

About the Author

Michael Salsbury / Author & Editor

In his day job, Michael Salsbury helps administer over 1,800 Windows desktop computers for a Central Ohio non-profit. When he's not working, he's writing, blogging, podcasting, home brewing, or playing "warm furniture" to his two Bengal cats.


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