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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Friday, June 16, 2017

JUST ANOTHER ADAM WEST ANECDOTE

I won't assert what many fans of "1966 BATMAN" have asserted: that Adam West-- who passed on June 9, 2017-- was the Only Real Batman. Over the years I've enjoyed the show and West's performance in it. Indeed, I shudder to think how the show would have been sunk had the producers decided to cast Lyle Waggoner in the role. But yeah, I could always imagine a Batman who was more true to the comics. Strangely, at some point-- possibly in his biography?-- West made the claim that the show did reflect what was going on in the BATMAN comic. Assuming he actually looked at some comic book before making that statement, what might he have seen that might've given him that impression? Some issue from the "Bat-Mite" period, perhaps?\




But that's merely speculation. Twice I saw Adam West, strictly from the POV of a fan attending a convention. The first time I went before him and got his autograph-- for a friend, since I don't collect autographs-- I found him a personable guy. I think I asked him something about his failed TV pilot LOOKWELL, but I don't remember what he said any more than I recall my question.

The second convention-encounter makes a slightly better story. West was taking questions from the floor and I was one of many in the audience. It seemed to me that the questions were either slow in coming or rather mediocre-- maybe both-- so I came up with one. Since I have a mild interest in how actors block out action for the camera, with or without the use of stuntpeople, I asked something about a scene from "The Bat's Kow Tow." At the end of the episode, Batman pursues Catwoman (played by the pneumatic Julie Newmar). Somehow she eludes him long enough to get up on a building-ledge one story up from the alleyway where Batman's running around looking for her. The camera cuts to make it look like she leaps down from the building, lands on Batman's back and knocks him to the ground, after which they play out the remainder of the scene.

So I asked about how the stunt was done, making the caveat that I was pretty sure Julie Newmar had probably just jumped off a ladder or something. I didn't think it was too likely Newmar would have had a body double for such a scene-- her body was pretty hard to double!-- but I thought West might have some little story about how the scene was done, even if he had to admit that some stuntman had taken the fall, not him.

While a straight answer might have been mildly entertaining, West then showed his ability to think on his feet and get a much bigger laugh out of the audience. Knowing that pretty much any straight guy in the audience would have loved to have had any physical contact with Newmar-- even that of having her fall on top of him-- West merely pointed over his shoulder, at his own back, and said simply, "See my back? SHE'S STILL THERE." And yes, he got his big laugh.

I suppose it's possible that West might have recycled some schtick he'd done before, in some other context. Any actor who makes the rounds of conventions cobbles together lots of jokes or tall tales with which to amuse listeners. But I'd like to think he was quick-witted enough to cut through the trivia-nature of the question in order to come up with something on the spot. It would go a lot toward explaining the intelligence with which West imbued the character. West's Batman could say the most cornball things, and yet, because West sold us all on the idea that Batman believed every word he said, there was a strange sense of conviction that served as a great counterpoint to all of the absurdities. And partly because of West's talent, a show that might have been pure silliness became a part of our entertainment mythology, in a way that not even good silly shows like GET SMART could ever emulate.





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