Handsome actor who turned Batman into a pop-art phenomenon

Adam West: born September 19th, 1928; died June 9th, 2017

Adam West as Batman: He also appeared in close to a dozen feature films, among them ‘The Young Philadelphians’ (1959), ‘Tammy and the Doctor’ (1963) and ‘Robinson Crusoe on Mars’ (1964)

Adam West as Batman: He also appeared in close to a dozen feature films, among them ‘The Young Philadelphians’ (1959), ‘Tammy and the Doctor’ (1963) and ‘Robinson Crusoe on Mars’ (1964)

 

Adam West, the classically handsome baritone actor who turned a comic-book superhero into live-action pop art in the 1960s television series Batman, died on Friday June 9th in Los Angeles. He was 88.

The cause was leukemia, according to Molly Schoneveld, a spokeswoman, who confirmed the death.

Batman lasted only two-and-a-half seasons, from January 1966 to March 1968. But the show was such a phenomenon that West appeared in costume on the cover of Life magazine, the highest tribute to national popularity at the time.

Two episodes were broadcast each week for most of the show’s run and featured a number of celebrity guest stars. In addition to well-known villains such as the Penguin, played by Burgess Meredith, and the Joker, played by Cesar Romero, visiting stars included Zsa Zsa Gabor, Milton Berle and Liberace.

Moved to Seattle

William West Anderson was born on September 19th, 1928, in Walla Walla, Washington, the son of Otto West Anderson, a farmer, and the former Audrey Speer. He moved to Seattle after his parents divorced and his mother remarried.

Before Batman came along, West kept busy with guest roles on television series, including Perry Mason, 77 Sunset Strip and just about every western on television, including Maverick, Bonanza and Gunsmoke. He also appeared in close to a dozen feature films, among them The Young Philadelphians (1959), Tammy and the Doctor (1963) and Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964).

Adam West attends Comic-Con in New York in 2016. Last year he also guest-starred in the sitcom ‘The Big Bang Theory’ as himself. Photograph: Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Adam West attends Comic-Con in New York in 2016. Last year he also guest-starred in the sitcom ‘The Big Bang Theory’ as himself. Photograph: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

After Batman ended, West struggled to find meaningful acting jobs because he was so closely identified with his superhero role, but he continued to work in both movies and TV, often playing roles that spoofed his Batman character.

‘The Big Bang Theory’

Last year he guest-starred on the sitcom The Big Bang Theory as himself, hired to appear at a private birthday party where things go wrong.

West married three times and divorced twice. In 1950, in his senior year of college, he married Billie Lou Yeager. They divorced six years later. He married Ngahra Frisbie in the mid-1950s, and their marriage lasted about a decade. In 1971 he married Marcelle Tagand Lear, who survives him, along with their two children, Nina and Perrin West. He is also survived by two children from his second marriage, Jonelle and Hunter Anderson; two stepchildren; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

– New York Times Service