Holy Heartbreak….Batman succumbs

Published 1:57 pm Tuesday, June 13, 2017

He was born in Seattle, Washington on a September day in 1928.

William West Anderson lived basically a normal life as a youth. His dad, Otto, was a wheat farmer; his mom, Audrey, was a pianist and opera singer who gave up her Hollywood dreams to take care of the family.

Young William attended an all-boys high school. He later graduated with a major in English literature from Whitman College, located in Walla Walla, Washington. There, during his senior year, he worked for a local radio station, doing everything from Sunday morning religion shows to the news. He also starred in a couple of plays at the local theater.

In the Army, he served as an announcer on American Forces Network television, then worked as the station manager at Stanford University while enrolled a graduate student.

He scored a job at a television station in Sacramento, CA, then moved to Hawaii where he hosted a two-hour weekday show in the late 1950s with a diaper-wearing chimp named Peaches.

It was in the cards for him to land jobs in Hollywood. He secured a contract with Warner Bros. at $150 a week and played bit roles on several TV series — Colt .45, Maverick, Hawaiian Eye, 77 Sunset Strip, and Cheyenne, just to name a few.

He got his first regular TV role when he played the role of Det. Sgt. Steve Nelson on the 1959-62 ABC/NBC series The Detectives.

He would eventually make the move over to the big screen, but landed in “forgettable films” such as Geronimo (1962) starring Chuck Connors, Tammy and the Doctor (1963) with Sandra Dee, and in The Three Stooges film The Outlaws Is Coming (1965).

One year after the Stooges, his life would change forever.

I was 12 years old when first introduced to my childhood hero. By that time, William West Anderson was better known as Adam West – the star of the campy TV series Batman.

Each week, youngsters such as myself (and I bet many adults as well) would be left in a tizzy as Batman and his sidekick Robin (portrayed by Burt Ward) were surely doomed to die as the show would end with the Dynamic Duo in dire straits. The weekly cliffhanger would make us scream for more, and we all followed the advice from the show’s announcer who implored us to tune in next week, “Same Bat time, same Bat channel.”

While it was slapstick comedy at its best, Batman was our hero….fighting to save Gotham City from a revolving set of villains such as the Riddler (Frank Gorshin), Joker (Cesar Romero), Penguin (Burgess Meredith), Egghead (Vincent Price) and Catwoman (Julie Newmar).

Each week, as trouble brewed, the City Police Commissioner James Gordon (played by Neil Hamilton) would use the Bat phone on his desk to contact the Caped Crusader. Typically, Batman and Robin would be given the “lowdown” on the case by Gotham City Police Chief Miles Clancy O’Hara (Stafford Repp).

The Dynamic Duo – who actually led double lives with Batman as millionaire Bruce Wayne, and Robin was Wayne’s young “ward” Dick Grayson – would open a secret door within Wayne’s mansion where they would slide down poles to a vast Bat Cave where the Batmobile was kept.

Perhaps the funniest character on the show was Alfred Pennyworth (English actor Alan Napier) who portrayed Bruce Wayne’s butler and protected the secret double life of his boss.

Batman only lasted three seasons, but it is forever etched in the memory of my childhood.

A piece of that childhood died this past Friday when Adam West passed away in Los Angeles after a short battle with leukemia.

The man that kept us on the edge of our seats 50 years ago slipped away quietly, surrounded by his family, to include his wife Marcelle, six children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Thanks, Batman, for all the BAM!, BIFF!, BONK!, CRRAACK!, EEE-YOW!, KAPOW!, KLUNK!, SPLATT!, THUNK!, WHACK!, WHAMM!, ZAP! and ZOWIE! of life.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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