Updated: April 23, 2016
ADAM WEST PHOTO GALLERY #07
AKA William West Anderson
Birthplace: Walla Walla, WA
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Batman, Mayor of Quahog
Military service: US Army (drafted)
Adam West was raised on his family's farm, and as a boy he liked Batman comics. As a young man he served a stint in the Army, then worked at odd jobs until his resonant voice got him work as a radio disk jockey. Living in Hawaii, West eventually found work as the sidekick and eventual star of The Kini-Popo Show, a local children's show co-starring a chimp.
West came to Hollywood in the late 1950s, where he had a career high point in 1959, with a supporting role in The Young Philadelphians with Paul Newman. More often, though, West worked in TV westerns like Bonanza with Lorne Greene, Maverick with James Garner, and The Rifleman with Chuck Connors, and such low-budget films as Voodoo Island with Boris Karloff, and The Outlaws Is Coming with the Three Stooges.
In 1961, West joined the cast of The Detectives, a police drama with a different 'star' detective each week -- Robert Taylor one week, Mark Goddard the next week, then it was West's turn to star -- but his turn did not last long, as the ratings were poor and the show was quickly cancelled. West starred in a 1964 episode of The Outer Limits as an astronaut on Mars, plagued by cheesy plastic monsters under the sand, and he was featured in Robinson Crusoe on Mars, which, despite the tawdry title, was actually a solid piece of sci fi cinema.
Still, West was nearly an unknown when he was cast as Batman, beating out Lyle Waggoner for the part. The program's producers thought Waggoner was a bit more handsome, but the role went to West on the strength of an amusing TV commercial he had made for Nestle's Quik chocolate mix, playing a comical spy in a deadpan manner that would prove perfect for Batman. The series was a smash hit, airing twice weekly in prime time, with West as the millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne who secretly patrolled Gotham as the heroic Batman, with Burt Ward as Wayne's young protégé Dick Grayson, who changed clothes to become Batman's crimefighting sidekick, Robin.
Those who take the 'Batman' myth seriously sneer at the campy TV series, but the characters did, after all, come from a comic book aimed at pre-teen boys. The series was cleverly written to appeal both to kids looking for a hero and adults looking for a laugh, and no matter how outlandish the situation, West's Batman always played it straight and stoic. The theme song was a pop hit single, and the show was a trailblazer in cross-marketing, with everything from Batman lunch pails to Batman board games. It even spawned a 1966 theatrical film starring West and Ward, with a swinging '60s soundtrack. In West's memoirs, Back to the Batcave, he wrote that Julie Newmar's performance as Catwoman had "caused curious stirrings in my utility belt."