Our collective childhoods all suffered a loss over the weekend with the passing of Adam West. While West is most famous for playing Batman on television between 1966 and 1968, his career spanned over 60 years.
West was born on September 19, 1928 in Walla Walla, Washington. He majored in literature at Whitman College and then got drafted into the armed forces where he served as an announcer on the American Forces Network. After his discharge, he worked as a milkman before moving to Hawaii to pursue a career in television. He quickly landed a role on El Kini Popo Show, where he starred alongside a chimp.
He eventually moved to Hollywood in the late 1950s and acted in dozens of movies and TV shows before being cast as Batman in 1966. West played Batman with a fun, comedic style that is seemingly unthinkable in today’s world of The Dark Knight trilogy and whatever the fuck it is Ben Affleck thinks he’s doing. The show was a smash hit and West became a star the world over. This was both a blessing and a curse, as West was never really able to escape the monumental shadow of Batman.
So great was West’s star power in the late ‘60s that West was personally invited to meet Pope Paul VI who told West that he had seen every episode of Batman. James Bond producer Albert Broccoli offered West the role of the super spy in Diamonds Are Forever. West refused the proposal, believing that Bond should always be played by a Brit.
West’s personal life during this period is somewhat legendary. He was once kicked out of an orgy for staying in character as Batman. He also found himself banned from Aspen, Colorado for a decade and a half for reasons that have really never come to light.
He worked steadily after the end of Batman, but the work was often not that great. For many years he would work events in character as Batman, until he hit what he described as a personal low while waiting to be fired out of a cannon at a carnival in Evansville, Indiana while dressed as the caped crusader.
His career did enjoy a sort of renaissance in the late ‘90s when he started doing more and more voice work. The highlight of this period was his recurring role as the mayor of Quahog on Family Guy, a role in which West was finally able to escape the shadows of his past and truly connect with a new audience.
Adam West passed away in Los Angeles on June 9th after a battle with leukemia. He was 88.