Why Adam West Will Always be the True Batman Forever

Batman (Adam West), right, and Robin (Burt Ward) POWnced on American pop culture with their campy 1960s TV series. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)

Batman (Adam West), right, and Robin (Burt Ward) POWnced on American pop culture with their campy 1960s TV series. (Photo: 20th Century Fox)

With all due respect to Ben Affleck, Christian Bale and Michael Keaton, Adam West is Batman.

At least West — who died Friday — is for millions who grew up with the campy Caped Crusader he played on ABC’s whirlwind Batman phenomenon in the late ‘60s.

Many baby boomers were too young to understand the tongue-in-cheek nature of the dialogue, as when a nightclub maître d’ asks: “Ringside table, Batman?” and a man wearing a cowl, cape and purple body suit responds: “No, thank you. I’ll stand at the bar. I would not wish to be conspicuous.” The absurdity of that comment flew by a child’s consciousness like a poorly aimed Batarang.

West’s bromide-dropping, milk-drinking depiction was completely at odds with the forbidding Dark Knight, a great character of comic books and and more recent films, and the TV show’s primary-color, over-the-top take is often derided by superhero purists. But he was the Batman we knew. He was ours. We all tend to bond tightly with elements of our youth, no matter how biff-bam-pow silly they may seem later through the more jaded vision of adulthood.

I had the good fortune to meet Adam West three years ago at San Diego Comic-Con. First impression: At 85, the guy looked fantastic. Handsome George Clooney, a later Batman, should be as lucky in his twilight years.

And West was still able to cause a scene, as fans — some born decades after the 1966-68 series ended — milled about, gawking and taking pictures of this beloved Batman. We got away via elevator, dashing my hope that he would have something in his utility belt to facilitate an escape.

Multiply that lobby reception by a million and you get an idea of the Beatles-esque fan craze that briefly surrounded the TV series, whose cliffhanging, two-night episodes briefly dominated pop culture. Millions of adults were watching, too. However, the series faded quickly, getting too ridiculous, even for itself, with increasingly ludicrous “special-guest villain” cameos (Lola Lasagne? Really?).

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SOURCE: Bill Keveney
USA TODAY