Adam West (born September 19, 1928, died June 9, 2017) was an American actor best known for his lead role in the 1960s TV series Batman and the film of the same name. He was known for portraying eccentric versions of himself, as well as his voice work on animated series such as The Fairly OddParents and Family Guy.
West was born William West Anderson in Seattle, Washington to Otto West Anderson and Audrey V. Speer. He had a younger brother named John. He attended Walla Walla High School during his freshman and sophomore years, and later enrolled in Lakeside School in Seattle. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Literature and a minor in Psychology from Whitman College in Walla Walla where he was a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity and participated on the speech and debate team.
In Hawaii, West landed a role as the sidekick on a children's show called El Kini Popo Show, which featured a chimp. West later took over as star of the show.
In 1959, the actor moved to Hollywood and took the stage name "Adam West." In his autobiography Back to the Batcave he explains that he chose "Adam" simply because he liked the way it looked and sounded with "West", his mother's maiden name. His close friends and family still call him "Bill".
He appeared in the film The Young Philadelphians with Paul Newman, and guest-starred in a number of television Westerns. He guest starred on Edmond O'Brien's syndicated crime drama Johnny Midnight and soon snagged a supporting role as police Sergeant Steve Nelson in the crime drama, The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor. He portrayed Wild Bill Hickok in the episode "Westbound Stage" of the 1960 NBC western series Overland Trail, with William Bendix and Doug McClure. He starred in an episode of the original television series The Outer Limits titled "The Invisible Enemy". He made a brief appearance in the film Soldier in the Rain starring Jackie Gleason and Steve McQueen and in the 1964 film Robinson Crusoe on Mars. In 1965, he starred in the comedy western The Outlaws Is Coming, the last feature film starring The Three Stooges.
Producer William Dozier cast West as Batman and his alter ego, Bruce Wayne, in the hit television series Batman, in part after seeing West perform as the James Bond-like spy Captain Q in a Nestlé Quik television ad. West beat out Lyle Waggoner for the Batman role.
The popular, campy show ran on ABC from 1966 to 1968; a film version was released in 1966.
In 1970, West was offered the role of James Bond by Cubby Broccoli for the film Diamonds Are Forever. West declined, later stating in his autobiography that he believed the role should always be played by someone British (despite the fact that an Australian had already played him).
After his high-profile role, West, along with Burt Ward and Yvonne Craig (who played crimefighting sidekicks Robin and Batgirl), was severely typecast. West's first post-Caped Crusader role was in the 1969 release The Girl Who Knew Too Much. His lead performance against type as cynical tough guy Johnny Cain did not erode his Batman image; the movie was a box office disappointment.
For a time, West made a living doing personal appearances as Batman. In 1972, when Ward and Craig reprised their Batman roles for a TV public-service announcement about equal pay for women, West was absent. Instead, Dick Gautier filled in as Batman. One of his more memorable Batman appearances post-series was when he made an appearance in the Memphis, Tennessee based United States Wrestling Association to engage in a war of words with Jerry "The King" Lawler while wearing the cowl and a track suit and even name-dropping Spider-Man, though he is a Marvel Comics hero .
West subsequently appeared in the theatrical films The Marriage of a Young Stockbrocker (1971), The Curse of the Moon Child (1972), Partizani/Hell River (1974), The Specialist (1975), Hardcore (1977), Hooper (as himself; 1978), The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood (1980) and One Dark Night (1983). West also appeared in television films as The Eyes of Charles Sand (1972), Poor Devil (1973), Nevada Smith (1975), For the Love of It (1980) and I Take These Men (1983).
He did guest shots on the TV shows Love, American Style, The Big Valley, Night Gallery, Alias Smith and Jones, Mannix, Emergency!, Alice, Police Woman, Operation Petticoat, The American Girls, Vegas, Big Shamus Little Shamus, Laverne & Shirley, Bewitched, Fantasy Island, The Love Boat, Hart to Hart, Zorro, King of Queens, and George Lopez.
His typecasting kept him from landing more substantial roles. In recent years, West exploited his fate to poke fun at his status as a pop culture icon.
Return to Batman
West often reprised his role as Batman/Bruce Wayne, first in the short-lived animated series, The New Adventures of Batman, and in other shows such as Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show, The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians (succeeding Olan Soule in the role). In 1979, West once again put on the Batsuit for the live-action TV special Legends of the Superheroes.
West made an appearance in a 1992 episode of Batman: The Animated Series on Fox, but not as Batman (as the role of Batman was already being played by Kevin Conroy). Instead, he portrayed Simon Trent, a washed-up actor who used to play a superhero in a TV series called "The Gray Ghost" and who now has difficulty finding work. West later had a recurring role as the voice of Mayor Grange in the WB animated series The Batman.
The actor vocally reprised his role as Batman for the CGI animated short film Batman: New Times. He co-starred with Mark Hamill, who vocally portrayed The Joker and had originally played the role on Batman: The Animated Series. West also voiced Thomas Wayne, Bruce Wayne's father, in an episode of the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
1990s – 2000s
During the 1990s, West's status as a pop culture icon led to appearances as himself in the film Drop Dead Gorgeous and in several television series, including NewsRadio, Murphy Brown, The Adventures of Pete and Pete, The Ben Stiller Show and The Drew Carey Show. In 1991, he starred in the pilot episode of Lookwell, in which he portrayed a has-been TV action hero who falsely believes he can solve crimes in real life. The pilot, written by Conan O'Brien and Robert Smigel in their pre-Late Night period, aired on NBC that summer but was not picked up as a series. It was later broadcast on the Trio channel, under the "Brilliant But Cancelled" imprint.
Noticeably, he played a washed up superhero in the Goosebumps television series episode "Attack of the Mutant". The boy hero is a comic book geek whose favorite superhero, Galloping Gazelle (West's character), is portrayed as fading and on the verge of retirement. Towards the end, the boy is shocked to learn that the Gazelle is real, though he must save the day by himself.
In 1994, West, with Jeff Rovin, wrote his autobiography, Back to the Batcave published by Berkeley Books. He also appeared as a guest in the animated talk show Space Ghost Coast to Coast in an episode titled "Batmantis," where he displayed his book.
In 2003, West and Burt Ward starred in the TV-movie Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt, alongside Frank Gorshin, Julie Newmar, and Lee Meriwether. Jack Brewer portrayed West in flashbacks to the production of Batman.
In 2005, West appeared in the CBS show The King of Queens. In the episode, Spence first asks Lou Ferrigno to go to a sci-fi convention. But when Spence meets West (playing himself), he leaves Ferrigno and asks West to come with him.
West appeared prominently in the 2006 video for California band STEFY's song "Chelsea" as "Judge Adam West", presiding over the courtroom scene.
In 2007, Adam West portrayed a defense attorney for Benny on the show George Lopez, and starred as "The Boss" in the movie comedy Sexina: Popstar PI.
Following the release of a Batman game, a host of the show X-Play visited Adam West on the show.
In 2009, West played himself in the episode "Apollo, Apollo" of 30 Rock.
West built a career doing voice-over work on a number of animated series (often as himself), including appearances on The Simpsons, The Critic, The Boondocks, Histeria!, Kim Possible, and Johnny Bravo. He also appeared in five episodes of Nickelodeon's cartoon, The Fairly OddParents, as a cat-obsessed version of himself who is famous for playing a superhero called Catman, and who actually believes he is Catman. Catman is a parody of his earlier character as Batman. A later appearance of Adam West in The Fairly OddParents world was a parody of himself, hired to play the role of the Crimson Chin in the movie of the same name. West also voiced many characters related to his famous Batman character, as mentioned above in the typecasting section.
Since 2000, West made regular appearances on the animated series Family Guy, on which he played Mayor Adam West, a parody of West himself, the lunatic mayor of Quahog, Rhode Island. His role gave him a new wave of popularity since Batman. Some of his voice-over performances were playing the role of Uncle Art in the Disney film Meet the Robinsons, and voicing the young Mermaid Man (along with Burt Ward, who voiced the young Barnacle Boy) in the cartoon show SpongeBob SquarePants.
West also played the voice of General Carrington in the video game XIII, and has voiced other video games like Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, Chicken Little: Ace in Action, Scooby Doo! Unmasked and Goosebumps: Attack of the Mutant.
West also did voice-over work for superhero-themed commercials for the investment firm The LendingTree.
He also spent a month doing radio commercials, entitled, "What's Adam West Watching?", promoting Fox Broadcasting Company shows.