×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Burt Ward Remembers Adam West: ‘He Knew Batman Meant Something to People’

It took a generation, but Adam West finally got his due as a hero among superheroes.

West, who died June 9 at the age of 88, became synonymous with Batman after he donned the mask and cape for the 1966-68 series that was a smash for ABC. The half-hour show was so of its era — a pop art painting writ large as a tongue-in-cheek action comedy — and so popular that for a brief period, ABC aired the episodes twice a week.

The campy attributes made it easy for the industry to dismiss the show as a mindless TV confection aimed at teenagers who read comic books. West famously struggled in the years after “Batman” to move his career forward. But he never succumbed to bitterness. His lean years in the 1970s only made him more appreciative of the recognition and the work that came later in life.

“He never felt he’d missed out,” says Burt Ward, who played West’s sidekick, Robin, on “Batman” and remained a close friend for a half-century. “He knew that ‘Batman’ meant something to people. Having people stand in line for hours to see you [at events like Comic-Con] — it’s not such a bad thing.”

By the early 1990s, those kids who had made “Batman” appointment TV (at the same Bat-time on the same Bat-channel), and a younger set who grew up with the show in reruns, celebrated West as the actor who would always be the seminal Bruce Wayne/Batman in their eyes. Most important that generation was able to hire him. West enjoyed a resurgence during the past 25 years thanks to the adoration he received from creatives such as Seth MacFarlane, Kevin Smith, Conan O’Brien and Seth Green. There was newfound appreciation for the comedic chops it took for West to pull off his performance in “Batman.”

West was a regular in MacFarlane’s Fox animated comedy “Family Guy,” playing the inept Mayor Adam West of Quahog, Rhode Island, from its early days through the most recent season. He did sitcom guest spots, kids’ shows, pilots (the 1991 Conan O’Brien-Robert Smigel-produced NBC cop-show spoof “Lookwell” is legendary), movies, commercials and a stream of autograph and photo-op appearances. He made a career out of being Adam West — and by all accounts, he loved every minute of it.

“I was always impressed when I’d watch him at Comic-Con by his grace with the fans,” says Ralph Garman, fellow “Family Guy” voice actor and longtime friend. “He was always warm. He recognized how much it meant to the fans to meet him.”

Garman, a self-described “Batman” fanatic whose office is packed with memorabilia from the ABC show, led the campaign to secure a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for West in 2012. They worked on numerous projects together, including the “Hollywood Babble-On” pilot for AMC that included the bit “West on West,” featuring the actor’s dramatic readings of Kanye West lyrics. “No matter what the project was, he came in with ideas and energy. He always had good suggestions,” Garman says. “He loved the process. He loved working with other actors and writers.”

There wasn’t much difference between the on-screen person and the off-screen man, Ward and Garman say. West had a fabulous sense of humor and a great intellectual curiosity about the world. He was a wine aficionado, a tennis player, a cook and an art buff. He was by turns “dignified, suave, silly and playful,” Ward recalls.

West and Ward clicked “within 30 seconds” of their first meeting for the “Batman” pilot on the 20th Century Fox lot in 1965, Ward recalls. They had a similar sense of humor that was key to making the show work. Over the next 50-odd years, the two were constantly together on the personal-appearance circuit and on “Batman” retrospective and reunion projects. The Wests and the Wards bonded as an extended Bat-family.

West in recent years got a kick out of helping Ward promote his latest business venture, the Gentle Giants line of organic dog food, by telling fans that he kept in shape by eating a bowl of it every morning. Ward never asked him to plug the product — it was something that he did for a laugh and out of generosity to his Boy Wonder.

“He was just somebody who was fun to be around,” Ward says with a catch in his voice. “I loved him.”

More TV

  • Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith

    Walt Disney Archives Founder Dave Smith Dies at 78

    Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith, the historian who spent 40 years cataloging and preserving the company’s legacy of entertainment and innovation, died Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 78. Smith served as Disney’s chief archivist from 1970 to 2010. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and served as a consultant to the [...]

  • TV Writer Christopher Knopf, Former WGA

    TV Writer Christopher Knopf, Former WGA West President, Dies at 91

    Prolific Emmy-nominated television writer Christopher Edwin Knopf, former president of the Writers Guild of America West, died in his sleep of congestive heart failure on Feb. 13. He was 91. Knopf was born in New York and attended UCLA, leaving during his senior year to join the Air Force during World War II. He finished [...]

  • Jussie Smollett The Black AIDS Insitute

    Jussie Smollett Case: Two Suspects Released Without Charges as New Evidence Emerges

    After two days of questioning, the Chicago Police Department announced Friday evening that it has released two suspects in the Jussie Smollett case without filing charges. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that detectives had developed new information in the case. Police no longer consider the men to be suspects. “Due to new evidence as a [...]

  • GOTHAM: L-R: Guest star Cameron Monaghan

    TV News Roundup: Fox Drops 'Gotham' Final Season Trailer (Watch)

    In today’s TV news roundup, Fox released a new trailer for an upcoming episode of “Gotham” and Disney has announced the cast for its upcoming “High School Musical” series.  FIRST LOOKS Showtime released a new trailer and the official poster for the upcoming fourth season of “Billions,” premiering March 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. In [...]

  • Chris Rock

    Chris Rock to Direct Kenan Thompson Comedy Pilot at NBC

    Chris Rock has come onboard to direct the NBC single-cam comedy pilot “Saving Kenan,” Variety has learned. Rock will also executive produce the pilot, which stars “SNL” mainstay Kenan Thompson. Thompson will play a newly widowed dad determined to be everything for his kids while begrudgingly letting his persistent father-in-law become more involved in their lives [...]

  • Peak TV Saturation TV Placeholder

    Apollo Global Management Buys Majority Stake in Cox TV Stations

    Private equity giant Apollo Global Management has cut a deal with Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises to buy a majority stake in Cox’s 13 TV stations as well as three newspapers and a handful of radio stations in Ohio. Apollo has been in the hunt for broadcast TV stations for some time. Cox’s station group, which includes [...]

  • Ken Jeong TV Take Podcast

    Listen: Ken Jeong on His Return to Stand-Up and New Netflix Special

    Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety’s television podcast. In this week’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, talks with Ken Jeong about his Netflix comedy special, “Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho,” and being a judge on Fox’s “The Masked Singer.“ Jeong started working on his new standup act after ABC canceled his show “Dr. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content