It’s a story I’ve told before, but in light of the subject of this week’s column, it bears repeating:
Time for another time-travel trip in the Wayback Machine. Set the dials for the year 1975. Li’l Scott has been forcibly called inside from playing in the front yard. Visibly miffed at this development (though not really able to verbalize it at age 4), Li’l Scott is plunked down in front of the TV while dinner is prepared. It’s 4:30 in the afternoon, and the dial is turned to Channel 2. “Here, watch this. You’ll like it.” On the screen, Adam West and Burt Ward are duking it out with Cesar Romero and his hapless henchmen (probably named “Tee” and “Hee” or something like that), while giant colored graphics fly across the screen: “Pow!” “Thunk!” “Biff!”
Li’l Scott has been introduced to Batman. Things would never be the same.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the BATMAN TV show, and the Batman character in general, is in large part responsible for my lifelong love of the comic-book genre. Although the Adam West TV show was the entry point, my parents encouraged the interest with the excellent 1971 hardcover collection BATMAN: FROM THE ’30S TO THE ’70S, which instilled in me an appreciation for and understanding of the history of the character (and the genre as well). The resulting interest in comics and literature wound up leading me to a college scholarship and several related careers, not the least of which is a job writing comics myself. So as you might imagine, I’ve got a soft spot for the one true Batman, Adam West.
Which made my evening last Saturday night particularly gratifying, as I joined a sold-out crowd at the Jon Lovitz Podcast Theatre at Universal Citywak for An Evening with Adam West. The brainchild of Los Angeles radio personality and unparalleled BATMAN fan Ralph Garman, the evening was thought up as a benefit to pay the bills for Adam’s upcoming and long-overdue Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (people don’t realize that the Star comes with a $30,000 price-tag for installation and upkeep, and someone has to foot the bill).
The result was a thoroughly enjoyable and hilarious look back at Adam West’s four decades in show business, ably moderated by Garman, who handled the affair INSIDE THE ACTORS STUDIO-style, right down to the blue index cards.
To his credit, Ralph didn’t merely wallow in Batman trivia, fanboy-style, but instead took us through Adam’s entire career, from his time in the army to his days doing morning television in Hawaii, to his days as a contract player at Warners.
We also got to see some rare clips from Adam’s career, like this scene from THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS (1959), where Adam plays a closeted gay man trapped in an arranged marriage. The guy’s got some chops!
One of the most fun clips of the evening was Adam’s commercial for Nestle Quik as “Captain Q,” the James Bond-esque parody that garnered the attention of BATMAN producer William Dozier and got him the role of the Caped Crusader.
And of course, there was plenty of discussion of Adam’s time wearing the cape and cowl, including a look at the first screen test with Burt Ward, and this hilarious clip I’d forgotten about, featuring a “conference call” between Bruce Wayne and Batman:
But the real joy of the evening was just listening to Adam tell stories. (Including the fact that he once did a pilot about Alexander the Great with William Shatner! How did that not get picked up? I’d watch that with those two if they made it today!) He’s sharp and funny as ever, and his rapport with Ralph was easy and engaging. As fun as the evening was, it was also inspiring, listening to a guy who’s had unbelievable career highs followed by some struggles due to typecasting, but never gave up, never quit working, and now finds himself enjoying a remarkable third-act career resurgence. You really get the sense that Adam enjoys and appreciates his fans, and seeing so many people come out to celebrate the guy warmed this Bat-fan’s jaded heart.
Photo by Steve Landes.
The good news is, even if you missed it, you can still enjoy the show in the comfort of your own earbuds. The evening is now available as a podcast for a measly two dollars, with all the proceeds going to Adam’s Walk of Fame fund. You can download it at http://ralphgarman.bandcamp.com/ And while you’re at it, check out Adam’s web site at http://www.adamwest.com/. If you’re looking for something to buy, I particularly recommend ADAM WEST NAKED, Adam’s self-produced commentary on the entire BATMAN TV series, since it looks like we’re not getting those on DVD any time soon.
Scott Tipton would like to thank Ralph and Adam for an incredibly fun evening, and on a personal note to Adam West: Thanks for the career. Thanks also to Steve Landes for the photo. If you have questions about Batman or comics in general, send them here.