Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Batman' West happy to feed fan nostalgia

Star of '60s TV series coming to pop-culture expo

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Adam West is not one of those celebrities who looks at the clock while he's making public appearances.

The man who will forever be known as Batman -- and to a lesser extent, his alter ego, Bruce Wayne -- realizes his career peaked "some time ago" and if fans of the 1960s television show continued to love it decades later, then he was going to love it, too.

"I have learned that if you want a career that lasts more than 10 minutes, you better get out there and make an effort and meet the fans. When they stop coming up for autographs, it's all over, kid," he said from his Palm Springs home.

West, now 84, is to appear this weekend at the 2013 Central Canada Pop Culture Expo at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. He'll be joined by his two former co-stars, Burt Ward, who played Robin (Dick Grayson when not wearing a costume), and Yvonne Craig, who played Batgirl and Commissioner Gordon's daughter, Barbara.

There are a dwindling number of villains with whom West can appear at various events. Malachi Throne, who played False Face, died last month at 84. (The first two actors to play Catwoman, Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether, are two of the few still alive.)

West said three of his favourite villains were The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith) and The Joker (Cesar Romero). He described Gorshin as "manic and excellent" in everything he did.

"He really put everything into that character. He was always dangerous to work with, on the edge," he said.

Gorshin was also renowned for smoking five packs of cigarettes a day and eating hotdogs when he wasn't working.

"He had incredible lungs. I used to tell him he could smoke under water," West said.

West used to like going out to dinner with Meredith, whom he described as an "incredible raconteur."

The Penguin was also a smoker and used a long cigarette-holder on the show.

"He would allow smoke to drift up under my cowl as we spoke face-to-face. I could use that irritant as an actor. He was a brilliant performer. He always had something going on, filling the space," he said.

There was a lot of West in the campy character of Batman during the show's three-year run.

"The tongue-in-cheek aspect and his enthusiasm and curiosity, I really magnified that. I used a lot of the quirkier aspects of my personality to create that character. You can't make it dull. (The show's producers) wanted it square and dull at first. I couldn't do that. The adults had to see the gags, the satire and the laughs. I was determined to do that. I got a lot of criticism at first from the studio people, and I just kept at it," he said.

Although he will never escape Batman, West has remained in demand throughout his career. For example, he does the voice work for Mayor Adam West, the lunatic mayor of Quahog, R.I., on the popular animated series, Family Guy.

"I try to be a little cool and keep up," he said with a laugh. "I'm like Madonna, I keep reinventing myself. You really have to if you're going to last this long in this crazy business," he said.

West said he had no interest in doing a cameo in any of the Hollywood productions of Batman.

"They did their thing and we did ours. They have the Dark Knight but -- and I don't mean to be glib -- I'm the Bright Knight," he said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 3, 2013 A5

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