Date of Birth : 19 September 1928, Walla Walla, Washington, USA
Birth Name : William West Anderson
Height : 6' 2" (1.88 m)
He breathed life into Batman. Adam West was born Billy (William) West Anderson in Walla Walla, Washington, to parents Otto West Anderson and his wife Audrey. At age 10 Adam had a cache of comic books, and "Batman" made a big impression on him--the comic hero was part bat-man (a la Count Dracula) and part world's greatest detective (a la Charlie Chan and Sherlock Holmes). When his mom remarried to a Dr. Paul Flothow, she took Adam and his younger brother, John, to Seattle. At 14 Adam attended Lakeside School, then went to Whitman College, where he got a degree in literature and psychology. During his last year of college he also married 17-year-old Billie Lou Yeager.
Adam got a job as a DJ at a local radio station, then enrolled at Stanford for post-grad courses. Drafted into the army, he spent the next 2 years starting military TV stations, first at San Luis Obispo, CA, then at Fort Monmouth, NJ. Afterwards, Adam and his wife toured Europe, visiting Germany, Switzerland and Italy's Isle of Capri. When the money ran out, he joined a childhood and college buddy, Carl Hebenstreit, who was starring in the kiddie program "The Kini Popo Show" in Hawaii. Adam would eventually replace Carl but not the other star, Peaches the Chimp. In 1956 he got a divorce and married a beautiful girl, originally from Tahiti, named Ngatokoruaimatauaia Frisbie Dawson (he called her "Nga" for short). They had a daughter, Jonelle, in 1957 and a son, Hunter, in 1958. In 1959 Adam came to Hollywood. He adopted the stage name "Adam West", which fit his roles, as he was in some westerns.
After 7 years in Tinseltown, he achieved fame in 1966 in his signature role as Batman, in the wildly popular ABC-TV series "Batman" (1966) (though he has over 60 movie and over 80 TV guest appearance credits, "Batman" is what the fans remember him for). The aeries, which lasted three seasons, made him not just nationally but internationally famous. The movie version, Batman (1966), earned Adam the "Most Promising New Star" award in 1967. The downside was that the "Batman" fame was partly responsible for ruining his marriage, and he would be typecast and almost unemployable for a while after the series ended (he did nothing but personal appearances for 2 years).
In 1972 he met and then married Marcelle Tagand Lear, and picked up two stepchildren, Moya and Jill. In addition, they had two children of their own: Nina West in 1976 and Perrin in 1979. You can't keep a good actor down -- Adam's career took off again, and he has been in about 50 projects since then: movies, TV-movies and sometimes doing voices in TV series. Adam wrote his autobiography "Back to the Batcave" in 1994. One of his most prized possessions is a drawing of Batman by Bob Kane with the inscription "To my buddy, Adam, who breathed life into my pen and ink creation".
Actor. Born William West Anderson, on September 19, 1928, in Walla Walla, Washington. William was raised on a family-owned farm by his parents, Otto and Audrey Anderson. His mother was a talented singer, who battled depression and alcoholism. In 1943, his parents divorced and he moved with his mother to Seattle, where he attended Lakeside High School. William continued his education at nearby Witman College, earning a degree in literature and psychology. While still a student, he worked as a radio disc jockey and helped launch a military television station.
In 1955, a college acquaintance offered him a role as a sidekick on the Hawaiian children’s program, The Kini Popo Show. Accepting the offer, William moved to Hawaii, where he became a local celebrity among children and adults. While supplementing his income by working as an island tour guide, he caught the attention of a vacationing Hollywood agent, who invited him to screen test for Warner Bros. Studios. After delivering a successful audition, William was signed to a contract and moved to Hollywood. He adopted the stage name Adam West before making his feature film debut in a small but memorable part in the 1959 drama The Young Philadelphians (starring Paul Newman).
Throughout the 1960s, West enjoyed a steady stream of supporting parts in television and film. In 1961, he landed a recurring role as Sergeant Steve Nelson on the hit TV series The Detectives. His most notable film project was as the straight man to the Three Stooges in the Western spoof The Outlaws is Coming (1965). Later that year, West traveled to Italy, where he starred in the spaghetti Western The Relentless Four.
Although West enjoyed moderate success in films, his big break came when he was chosen to play the crime-fighting superhero Batman in the 1966 TV series. The show's producers, who sought to bring a touch of satire to the comic book character (and his stuffier alter ego Bruce Wayne), felt that West's flair for tongue-in-cheek comedy made him the perfect candidate for the role. Burt Ward was contracted to play Robin, completing the Dynamic Duo. Batman premiered to high ratings and equally impressive critical acclaim. The popularity of the series swelled to a phenomenal level, making household names of West and Ward. Batman boasted an impressive lineup of guest stars, including Cesar Romero (as The Joker), Julie Newmar (as Catwoman), Vincent Price (as Egghead), and Roddy McDowall (as Bookworm).
In the summer of 1966, West starred in the full-length feature Batman. The theatrical version pitted the superhero against an all-star cast of villains, including Frank Gorshin's Riddler, Burgess Meredith's Penguin, and Lee Meriwether's Catwoman.
After two successful seasons, escalating production costs and flagging ratings caused ABC to cancel the Batman series. Typecasting brought West’s career to a grinding halt. With an overwhelming sense of failure, he was reduced to making guest appearances as Batman at county fairs and rodeos.
Pundits of a less-than-kind nature summed up actor Adam West’s career thusly – he played Batman on TV. That's all. To a certain extent, that was true. None of his credits prior to or after the iconic 1960s series eclipsed it in popularity or cultural influence, and for many years, the actor relied on public appearances in his Batman costume to make ends meet. But like many actors who found themselves typecast by a single role, he handled the public myopia and critical brickbats with exceptional good humor; that self-deprecating attitude eventually helping to make him an in-demand guest star and voice-over artist for numerous cartoons, including a fictional (and deeply deluded) version of himself on “Family Guy” (Fox, 1999-2002; 2005- ).
Born William West Anderson in Walla Walla, WA on Sept. 19, 1928, West was a comic book fan from an early age; ironically, counting Batman among his favorites. When in his early teens, his mother remarried and took him and his brother John to live in Seattle, where West attended the private Lakeside School. After graduation, he studied literature and psychology at Whitman College in Walla Walla. While a senior there, he met and married his first wife, Billie Lou Yeager. He later continued his education with post-graduate classes at Stanford.
West’s rich, sonorous voice was a natural for radio, so he naturally segued into DJ jobs during and after his stints in college. In the early 1950s, he was drafted into the Army and served two years, during which he traveled through Southern California and Europe with his wife. After his discharge, he worked a series of day jobs before trying his hand at acting. His first job – sidekick on a forgotten children’s television program called “The Kini Popo Show” – required him to move to Hawaii. He eventually replaced the show’s original star (his friend Carl Hebenstreit), and in 1956, divorced Yeager to marry a local girl, Ngatokoruaimatauaia Frisbie Dawson, with whom he had a daughter, Jonelle (born 1957) and son, Hunter (born 1958).
After landing a few bit parts in minor pictures, West realized that he needed to live in Hollywood if he was to succeed in acting. He and his family moved there in 1959, where he began making the rounds under a new name – Adam West. It was not long before Warner Bros. signed him to a contract and placed him in numerous television series and features. His big break came in 1959 as Diane Brewster’s impotent husband in “The Young Philadelphians” opposite Paul Newman and Robert Vaughn. Countless guest shots followed before he was signed to “The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor” (ABC, NBC, 1959-1962), a police drama built for the veteran leading man. The series folded in 1962, leaving West to return to a regular routine of television appearances and the occasional film role, though the latter tended towards the low-budget or schlocky end of the spectrum, including such gems as “Tammy and the Doctor” (1963); “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” (1964); “The Outlaws is Coming” (1965), with the aging Three Stooges; and an Italian Western, “The Relentless Four” (1965).
After seeing West play a James Bond-esque spy on a TV ad for Nestle’s Quik, producer William Dozier tapped him to play the Caped Crusader in a deliberately camp, pop art-influenced TV series based on the venerable comic book, called simply “Batman” (ABC, 1966-68). The series’ tongue-in-cheek tone, helped immensely by West’s straight-faced and deliberately stilted performance as Batman/Bruce Wayne, caught on immediately with children and adults. Even Hollywood was not immune to the show’s wacky charms, with a host of actors who ordinarily would not have deigned to appear on a TV show of its caliber, lining up to play one of the rotating rogues’ gallery of villains. A 1966 feature film of the same name was released at the end of the show’s first season, only cementing Bat-mania’s grip on TV viewers. With this new success, West found himself at the center of a pop culture and marketing phenomenon rivaled only by the Bond franchise or music acts like The Beatles.
But by the launch of the 1967-1968 season, much of the fizz had gone out of “Batman;” the episodes became interchangeable, and not even the arrival of shapely Yvonne Craig as Batgirl could pull the series out of its tailspin. By 1968, the death knell had been sounded for “Batman” – a last-ditch attempt to rescue the show by NBC was neutralized when ABC demolished the sets. And West found himself back among the pool of unemployed actors hunting for their next gig. Unfortunately, his meteoric rise to stardom had also left him hopelessly typecast as Batman. For the next decade, he bounced between unremarkable TV appearances and failed feature films – though there were a few exceptions, most notably “The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker” (1971) and “Hooper” (1978), both of which made excellent use of his dry comic skills. More often than not, he was forced to don the Batman suit for personal appearances at conventions and county fares. In 1977, he and Burt Ward – who had played Robin in the live action series, and whose post-“Batman” career was in an even worse state than West’s – reteamed as the Dynamic Duo for “The New Adventures of Batman” (CBS, 1977-1981). West would later go on to voice Batman in several cartoons, including “Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show” (ABC, 1984-85) and “The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians” (ABC, 1985-86). He also wore the Batsuit for the bizarre live-action special “Legends of the Superheroes” (1979), and still managed to survive with his dignity intact.
By the 1980s, West was a regular face on episodic series, even starring in the short-lived comedy “The Last Precinct” (ABC, 1986), which gave him a good opportunity to display his comic chops. But feature work for him was dire – including such horror movies as “One Dark Night” (1983), or lame sex comedies like “The Happy Hooker Goes to Hollywood” (1980), the latter of which requiring West to dress in drag. But by the early 1990s, a generation of kids who had grown up watching “Batman” during its initial run or later in reruns, began to reach out to him for small but showy roles in their TV and movie projects. The best of these was “Lookwell” (1991), an NBC pilot penned by Conan O’Brien and Robert Smiegel about a thick-skulled star of a cancelled TV cop show (West) who believes he can solve crimes in real life. The pilot was never picked up, but it showed that West had honed his comic style – smug, self-satisfied, and completely oblivious to his own ineptitude – to a precise level. He soon found himself in demand to play variations of this part (often as denser versions of himself), and with the sudden boom in all things Batman – thanks to the 1989 feature version with Tim Burton – West found himself in the middle of a career revival. He even went on record as admitting he was disappointed that he was not offered a shot at the lead for the Burton film, but dealt with the blow admirably.
West balanced regular voice-over work on cartoons – including a stint on “Batman: The Animated Series” (Fox, 1992-95), as Simon Trent, an actor typecast by a superhero role – with frequent television and the occasional film role. The best of these was Peter Weller’s father in Michael Tolkin’s droll “The New Age” (1994), and the comedy “Drop Dead Gorgeous” (1999), which cast him as the host of an appalling teen beauty pageant. He also made peace with his costumed past by publishing his autobiography, Back to the Batcave (1994), and appearing alongside Ward in “Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt,” a 2003 TV special in which he and Ward recounted the highs and lows of their time in the spotlight. His voice-over work became more high-profile as the 1990s slipped into the next decade: he could be heard voicing failed heroes, pompous authority figures, and even comic versions of himself on “The Simpsons” (Fox, 1989- ); “Kim Possible (Disney Channel, 2002- ); and recurring stints on “The Fairly OddParents” (Nickelodeon, 2001- ), as himself; “The Batman” (WB, 2004-08), as Mayor Grange); and most notably “Family Guy.” In the latter show, he hilariously voiced a fairly demented version of himself; albeit one who serves as the mayor of the fictional Quahog, Rhode Island. West’s voice was also heard in the animated features “Chicken Little” (2005) and “Meet the Robinsons” (2007).