ADAM WEST FINAL INTERVIEW ON SST CAR SHOW
WITH RICK WALKER
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EDITORIAL TRIBUTE - by Rick Walker
Adam West - an actor whose career was defined by the Batman role he played in the 1960's on television died Friday at the age of 88.
When I heard the news I was deeply saddened. Like hundreds of millions of others, Adam West had a huge impact and influence on my life. As a kid I used to rush home to watch old episodes of the "Batman" TV series after watching Walter Cronkite deliver his final lines on the CBS evening news. When I was three I had a Batman costume complete with cape, and one of the coolest diecast Batmobile cars ever - with functioning rocket launcher on the back.
It was Adam West who seemed to make it all "real" for me as a kid, even as he brought campy humor to adults.
I first met Adam West at a comic convention. I had requested an interview and was supposed to have a few minutes with him, but it didn't happen. The crowd at the convention was huge. There was a line up of fans that stretched the length of the convention centre and out the door down the hallway. The line up stayed that long all day long, with every fan holding $40 U.S. in hand waiting for an autograph and a photo with the "Caped Crusader". Needless to say I never got the interview because Adam West was just far too busy pleasing the fans. Considering the fact that he was there decades after the show was "cancelled" it was clear he was as popular as ever. In fact it was apparent he more popular than ever. It impressed me, and honestly confused me a little. I was and am a big "Batman" fan, but the degree of Batmania surrounding Adam West seemed inexplicable even to me at the time.
ADAM WEST AND JULIE NEWMAR
ARRIVING IN THE BATCOPTER
The last time I met Adam West was in 2008 at the "Fleetwood Country Cruize-In" in London Ontario. Adam West was there as a celebrity guest. It was his job to meet and greet fans at the largest outdoor car show in Canada at the Steve Plunkett Estate. Steve Plunkett flew Adam West and Julie Newmar ( Catwoman ) into the show in the "Batcopter". When they landed they were greeted by Batmobile deisgner and builder George Barris, other celebrities and Mr. Plunkett who then escorted Adam West and Julie Newmar over to an original Batmbile. The crowd loved it, and went crazy when Adam west climbed back into the car that he used to pilot as Gotham City's premier crime fighter.
ADAM WEST WITH BATMOBILE DESIGNER GEORGE BARRIS
On this occasion I not only had the opportunity to interview Adam West I also spent some time over lunch listening to some of his stories. It was all made possible by Steve Plunkett who who hosted the car show and allowed us into his backyard to do the interview. Without his hospitality and generosity none of it would have been possible. The interview would not have happened, the tens of thousands of fans who got to meet Adam West that day would never have had the experience.
I found Adam West's sense of humor dry. It was in many ways like my own. I found him difficult to interview. He was one of sharpest people I have ever met, and he sometimes wouldn't give a straight answer. You really had to listen to him, and he didn't hesitate to correct you if you made an error. In fact I think me calling him the "original Batman" annoyed him on this particular day. It was my stupid mistake. "No I'm the Classic Batman", he quickly corrected. I should have known my Bat-History better.
Through it all Adam West was gracious, and generous with his time. It was an interview I won't forget ever. It was an experience I will cherish.
ADAM WEST AND JULIE NEWMAR IN THE "BATCOPTER"
A spokesperson said Adam West had been battling Leukemia.
“Our dad always saw himself as The Bright Knight, and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans’ lives. He was and always will be our hero,” his family said in a statement.
Tributes have been pouring in from around the world on social media.
Dawn Wells who played "Mary Ann" on Gilligan's Island tweeted,"Adam West and I did "Love Letters" together and many appearances together. So sad to hear of the loss of another hero... Batman. He will be missed."
ADAM WEST & GUESTS WITH PHILANTHROPIST STEVE PLUNKETT ( FAR LEFT )
Rock star Alice Cooper wrote: "So sad to hear of the passing of the one TRUE #Batman #AdamWest! He was a true American icon and a lovely man." https://t.co/irBH7e64mF
Pee Wee Herman paid tribute by simply posting: "RIP Adam West..." accompanied by a GIF of West doing the "Batusi" a dance he did as Batman on the TV show.
I wish now that I had done a better job with the interview. I could have asked better questions I guess. I wish I had, but over lunch, after the interview he did talk about his life after the "Batman" TV series. He spoke about working on other movies and tv shows, and I think he appreciated people more if they appreciated his full body of work as an actor.
West also admitted he was a little bitter about not being able to reprise his role as Batman in the Tim Burton movies that came in the 1980's. Of course in hind sight Michael Keaton was a better choice. West was 60 at the time, but I can't help but feel it would have been classy to give West some sort of cameo at least in the film.
West also laughed about the fun they had while making the TV series.
"All that camp, and all the Pow, Wham, stuff it was just so much fun", he said. "The amazing thing really though is that we got away with it."
Even though he was constrained as an actor by the success of his role as "Batman" he told me that he had learned to "Embrace Batman, and just go with it".
Early in his career he as a rising star, and appeared on shows like, “Lawman,” “Cheyenne,” “The FBI Story,” “Colt .45,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “Maverick,” “Hawaiian Eye,” “Bonanza,” “The Rifleman,” “Perry Mason,” “Gunsmoke,” “The Real McCoys,” “Bewitched,” “The Outer Limits” and “The Virginian,” and others.
ADAM WEST - STILL ROCKIN WITH THE BATMOBILE
In recent years he became an important voice over artist on programs like "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy", and also appeared on shows like "The Big Bang Theory". Even as a voice over artist though, "Batman" was also lingering in the shadows.
When I asked him if he ever got tired of meeting fans at conventions, he replied frankly saying he was grateful that the role had provided an ongoing income stream for him.
“The money makes it worthwhile. it has been a trade off. Many years ago I made a deal with Batman", said West. "For a long time Batman kept me from getting good roles, and I found that frustrating. Nobody wanted to take a chance on me, because I guess they were worried I would distract the audience. I was stereotyped or pigeon holed. However, Batman was always there with me you see. and very few producers or directors would take a chance on me walking on to the screen because they thought I would be taking away from the story and causing a distraction.. So I decided that since millions of people love Batman, I might as well love it too. Why not? So I made a deal with "Batman". I made a deal with myself. I saw the comedy in it all. I saw that people loved it, and they still do. I just learned to embrace it."
Today people still embrace "Batman". The series is seen around the world. The Batmobile remains the world's most famous movie car of all time, and Adam West is and will always be the "Classic Batman".