Sunday, June 18, 2017

Passages: Adam West....

Let the record show that Adam West spent about twenty years of his post "Batman" career desperately trying to "Escape the Cape" with absolutely no luck. He eked out a precarious living with personal appearances and the occasional guest starring role on television. The great irony of West's Career is that he was a classically handsome actor whose consistent go-to was to underplay the scene, this served him well when he was playing the Campy Caped Crusader as an island of calm amidst absurdist berserkers. Alas he was fatally typecast as a superhero and an over the top one at that, lost in that stereotype is the Westian dry wit and underplaying that kept the show on track for 2.5 years. I personally think the 1989 Burton-Keaton Batman was weirdly the making of Adam West, the film franchise lurched so far away from the old show's "Gilbert & Sullivan" vibe it gave the actor some territory to defend as the zeitgeist's "Batman Emeritus", West could credibly reinvent himself as the "Bright Knight" the family friendly Caped Crusader whose actions you'd never have to explain away to your kids. Every time the role got recast someone somewhere would track West down to get his opinion of "The New Guy". In the end, Adam West & Burt Ward MADE Batman into a inescapable cultural trope, the endless re-runs familiarized generations of audiences with the depth and extent of the Caped Crusader's priceless Rogue's Gallery, its that very saturation that made it easy for Tim Burton and his successors to bring Batman to the Big Screen. Adam West didn't need to "Escape the Cape" he'd handed it off with dignity and respect...and quietly segued into doing cartoon voice work. Say what you like, but Adam West was on An Odd Counterintuitive "A-List" of a disparate collection of Hollywood Actors whose fame derives literally from the cultural saturation that being in permanent re-run rotation on ye old UHF TV Stations. That is a mad tea party indeed, Co-ruled by William Shatner and Adam West, with its own collection of clowns Bob Denver, Alan Hale, Jim Nabors, Lucille Ball, Bob Crane, a vast sub strata of talented character players from Jonathan Harris to Leonard Nimoy & a potent reserve of distaff performers; Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara Eden, Elizabeth Montgomery, Tina Louise & Dawn Wells with dozens more. All of these actors had Fame, few of them were able to monetize it or parlay it into successive projects, And Adam West was the deadpan Emperor of Them All. His memoirs are instructive, chiefly but reinforcing the notion that even mediocre actors need to prepare and do their research. Its also a stunning compendium of all the risqué encounters one can rack up when you catch the cultural wave and ride it to glory playing Batman on TV for a few years. He held his ground to the last, and even managed to revive his version of Batman in recent animated feature (the inevitable sequel's voice tracks were themselves only recently completed, reputedly featuring is UHF Co-Emperor William Shatner as "Two Face" typecasting indeed). But time is no friend to the DemiGods of Our Youth and last week leukemia finally fetched Adam West off the way no Giant Carnivorous Clam ever could. If Warner Brothers really wants to honor the man who put "Batman" squarely in the center of the cultural zeitgeist they could start by scouring the vaults for UnEdited Episodes of ye old Television Show, the very expensive DVD release a few years ago while very good looking is still archiving trimmed episodes..."Adam West UnCut!" should be our battle cry!

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