5:45pm PT by Burt Ward
'Batman' Co-Star Burt Ward Fondly Remembers "Debonair and Suave" Adam West (Guest Column)
I met Adam at a screen test for Batman. I’d been to the costume trailer and they dressed me in the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever put on in my life. The tights pulled the hair on my legs, the mask bothered my eyelashes, the vest had these edges that punctured through my t-shirt. I didn’t know what the costume was. I didn’t know Batman. I thought it was some kind of Shakespearean deal. So I get over to the soundstage and there’s this guy dressed in a bigger, worse-looking outfit. He’s got this big cowl over his head. And if you ever looked closely at Adam in the cowl, it made his eyes cross. I thought that was hilarious, so I started laughing. And that was the beginning of a 52-year friendship.
He was very debonair and suave, kind of almost British. But he had a unique delivery. In some ways, Adam was a little difficult for other actors to get used to because he had a stilted speech. He would say, “Okaaay, Robin” in a way that could throw you off balance. But I realized he was playing a game. He understood that this was a 30-minute show, so if he talked slowly the camera would have to be on him for 29 minutes. Sometimes in a scene he would turn unexpectedly off his position and walk right up to the camera and completely block me out of the scene. After a couple of times, I learned to just sneak up under his cape and get in front of him.
The ratings for the show were through the roof — something like a 55 share the first night, meaning 55 percent of all the TVs in North America were watching it. It got so big every star was being pressured by their kids to get on the show. That’s why they created walking up the side of buildings, where the window would open and Sammy Davis Jr. would come out or Jerry Lewis or Colonel Klink. Big stars would tell us that they had to beg to get to come out a window.
People always asked Adam if he felt like he’d been typecast, if Batman had hurt his career. But I know he loved it. He loved being a star. After the show became such a hit, he got offered everything. They offered him Bond but he turned it down. He thought Bond should be played by a Brit. I got offered a little movie called The Graduate — 20th Century Fox wouldn’t let me do it — but that’s another story. We both looked at it this way: You take a glass and you fill it to the top. You can either fill it with a bunch of different movies or fill it with one huge success that makes people around the world love you and want to shake your hand. Adam filled his glass with the adoration of the world.