Adam West (1928-2017) died this past Saturday at the age of 88. He lived a good Bat-life.
Adam West lived his life with Gumption.
An opportunity presented itself and he made the choice to pick it up. Once he had it – he embraced it. Adam West chose to be Batman – he owned it. And he enjoyed the Bat-journey for the rest of his life.
West was born in Walla Walla, WA. He received a bachelor’s degree in literature with a minor in psychology from Whitman College. He was drafted into the US Army where he served as a TV announcer for Armed Forces Network television. After his discharge, West moved to Hawaii to pursue a career in television where he starred in a children’s show, El Kini Popo Show, which featured a chimp.
In 1959, West moved to Hollywood and took his stage name Adam West (born William West Anderson). He appeared in the film The Young Philadelphians which starred Paul Newman. He also had guest appearances on several television westerns, the Perry Mason show, and the Outer Limits.
The Batman-Bruce Wayne role exploded onto the small screen in 1966 but ran it’s course by 1968.
That role immortalized West as Batman. It also typecast him and stymied his acting career.
Throughout the rest of his life, West was active in voice-over work and live appearances as Batman or himself.
West and the Batman character were forever forged and became one.
I can relate. My resemblance to Tom Hanks and my 15-year portrayal as Forrest Gump for Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant has been both a blessing and a curse. In a manner similar to West’s life, my life has been forged with a character.
On actually portraying the character, West told the Hollywood Reporter: “You can’t play Batman in a serious, square-jawed, straight-ahead way without giving the audience the sense that there’s something behind that mask waiting to get out, that he’s a little crazed, he’s strange.“
I often feel a little crazed as I perform in front of hundreds of people portraying Forrest – fully aware of the role’s absurdity, yet being 100% committed and fully present.
On what the character meant to West over the past five decades, he told Variety: “Money. Some years ago I made an agreement with Batman. There was a time when Batman really kept me from getting some pretty good roles, and I was asked to do what I figured were important features. However, Batman was there, and very few people would take a chance on me walking on to the screen. And they’d be taking people away from the story. So I decided that since so many people love Batman, I might as well love it too. Why not? So I began to reengage myself with Batman. And I saw the comedy. I saw the love people had for it, and I just embraced it.“
I too, have struggled with my character. I’ve had to make an agreement to live with my character. Co-exist. Embrace it. Give people what they love. And most importantly – love it myself!
Finally, West told an audience at Comic-Con in 2014. “We created this zany, lovable world … I’m so grateful! I’m the luckiest actor in the world, folks, to have you still hanging around.“
I’m delighted that Adam West enjoyed his life. I’m grateful for his inspiration. I’m appreciative for the roadmap he’s provided on how to live life with an alter-ego. Adam West is a role-model to me.
Adam West exhibited real Gumption throughout his entire life.
West picked up the Batman opportunity when it appeared back in the mid-60s. He made the choice to embrace the character during the filming of the show. And after some initial struggle, he learned to embrace the character for the remainder of his life. West enjoyed his life journey as Batman.
- A lesser man might have chosen to be bitter from the burden of the character.
- A lesser man could have been angry that it typecast him and prevented him from other opportunities.
- A lesser man might NOT have enjoyed his life journey as the result of a single role that took over and became his life.
But Adam West was a better man. He took responsibility for this thoughts, actions, and interactions. Adam West lived his life with Gumption!