This comes as both quite a surprise and a shock to me; In my own mind, while Adam West was still alive, I thought that he would be very healthy and that he would live forever. But as a certain actor by the name of Matt Smith once said on a TV program a few years back, “When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go”.
Adam West was born William West Anderson on September 19th, 1928 in Walla Walla, Washington; His father was a farmer while his mother was an opera singer and concert pianist who would then give up her dreams of Hollywood to care for her family. After his parents’ divorce, West moved with his mother at the age of 15 to Seattle and then attended Walla Walla High School during his freshman and sophomore years, and then he later enrolled in Seattle’s Lakeside School; He graduated from Whitman College with a bachelor’s degree in literature and a minor in psychology.
West was then drafted into the United States Army; While there, he began to serve as an announcer on American Forces Network television, and after he had been discharged, he began working as a milkman before moving to Hawaii to pursue television. where he had been picked up for a role as a sidekick on a children’s show called El Kini Popo Show; West would later take over as the star of that show.
Adam West and his wife and two children moved to Hollywood in 1959, and that is where he took that stage name, because, according to his autobiography Back to the Batcave, West chose Adam simply because he liked the way it looked and sounded with his middle name, which of course is “West”. He began to appear in the film The Young Philadelphians, which starred Paul Newman; He would then go on to play the role of Doc Holiday in the three Warner Bros.-produced westerns that aired on ABC: Sugarfoot, Colt .45, and Lawman. He would also portray Wild Bill Hickok in an episode of another western, this one entitled Overland Trail.
Adam West then claimed the role as police sergeant Steve Nelson in the crime drama The Detectives; Later on, he starred in the 1964 film Robinson Crusoe on Mars; I remember back in Philadelphia when I was young, one New Year’s Eve I saw the very beginning of this film on Philly TV right after the annual special “Happy New Year, America” was over…Aw, those were the days…
In 1965, West was cast right alongside The Three Stooges in their final feature film together, The Outlaws Is Coming; It was his appearance of his spoof of James Bond in a Nestle’s Quik commercial(“Captain Q”, natch) that led television producer William Dozier to cast him in the role that would be forever linked to him, that of the Caped Crusader, Batman, in the popular ABC show that ran from 1966-68, while a feature-length film version of that certain campy program was released in 1966, the same year that the show premiered. Following the series’ cancellation, however, Adam West, along with his co-stars Burt Ward & Yvonne Craig, had been nothing more than severely typecast.
His first role, post-Batman, was in a film entitled The Girl Who Knew Too Much; Despite his against-type role as a cynical tough guy named Johnny Cain, it did very little to erode his Batman image, thus the movie failed at the box office. To make a living, Adam West made personal appearances as Batman, but in 1974, he did not appear to reprise his most famous role in a PSA about equal pay for women; Dick Gautier filled in instead.
In later years, West would appear in films such as Hooper (as himself) and in TV shows such as The Love Boat, Murphy Brown, and The Ben Stiller Show; His most recent role to date was that of the voice of the mayor in the animated adult comedy series, Family Guy.
This past year, he and Burt Ward returned to their most famous roles alongside Julie Newmar, returning to her role as Catwoman, in the made-for-DVD film Batman: Return Of The Caped Crusaders.
Adam West, a hero to generations of baby boomers one and all, was 88 when he died this past Friday; His entire family released this statement on his Facebook page: “It is with great sadness that we are sharing this news…Adam West passed away peacefully last night after a short but brave battle with leukemia. He was a beloved father, husband, grandfather, and great-grandfather. There are no words to describe how much we’ll miss him. We know you’ll miss him too and we want you to know how much your love and support meant to him throughout the years. Hug your loved ones today.”
I very well understand that many a childhood has been ultimately shattered, and are still as numb as I am right now, by this surprise passing; All that we have now are the memories of what Adam West was, is, and always will be, both in our minds and in our hearts. Thank you so very much for the memories, Mr. West…You deserve an eternal rest…Ol’ chum.