As I sit here, contemplating my own mortality, I realize that death is a natural part of life. We all have to deal with it at one point or another, but the death of a beloved childhood figure tends to hit closer to home than others. However, the death of Adam West is so much more really. It is the death of a cultural icon, and that’s tragic.
Adam West was born on September 19, 1928, in Walla Walla, Washington. He had a degree in literature from Whitman College in Walla Walla, where he was a member of the Gamma Zeta Chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. The real life hero that he was, Adam served his country when drafted into the United States Army as an announcer on American Forces Network television. This was Adam West, the person, the man.
Adam West the cultural icon was, in many ways, a different man altogether. Active from 1954-2017, over seven decades Adam West delighted fans and audiences, working along side legendary actors like Paul Newman and The 3 Stooges, portraying characters like Doc Holiday and Wild Bill Hickock. Hell! He was even offered the role of James Bond in the movie Diamonds Are Forever, but turned it down because he felt that the character should be played by an English actor.
It wasn’t until 1966 that Mr. West put on that famous cape and cowl and Batusi’d into our hearts as Gotham City’s Caped Crusader, Batman.
I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. West a few years ago. He was large than life, yet approachable and friendly. He was a Golden Age celebrity still thriving in the modern world. Growing up my mother used to mimic the iconic show by saying the words POW, BAM, and BOP, just like when The Dynamic Duo faced members of their legendary rogue’s gallery.
Batman: The Series, and the theatrical movie, where just a blip on the radar when you look at the long history of television shows, but perhaps no other show, especially a superhero TV show, would live on in infamy like this one did. Adam West’s cadence and distinct voice, along with his witty smile and comedic timing, brought Batman to life.
While the series was short lived, West often reprise his role, first in the short-lived animated series, The New Adventures of Batman, and in other shows such as The Batman/Tarzan Adventure Hour, Tarzan and the Super 7, Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show, and The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians In 1979, West once again donned the Batsuit for the live-action TV special Legends of the Superheroes.
Since then there have been appearances in Batman: The Brave and The Bold and Batman: The Animated series as quasi-batman characters. He has also played various parodies and versions of himself in cartoons and sitcoms, like: Johnny Bravo, Fairly Odd Parents, Futurama, Family Guy, The Simpsons, Scooby Doo, Lego Batman 3, Rugrats, Kim Possible, Powerless, and The Big Bang Theory.
Adam West was 88 years old when he valiantly lost his battle against Leukemia. I hope that Adam West lived his life with the knowledge that he touched the hearts of so many people along the way. As I set here, watching my Facebook feed explode with memories, pictures, and anecdotes, I know that the legend of Adam West will live on forever.
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