Adam West has passed away at 88 – here’s a bit about the Batman I knew and loved…

Adam West has passed away at 88 – here’s a bit about the Batman I knew and loved…

I’m getting really saddened by the loss of so many great entertainers lately. Carrie Fisher and Bill Paxton left us far too soon, and it seems like every week we hear another shocking report about a beloved Hollywood figure leaving us very suddenly. When I received the news about Adam West earlier today, who passed away at 88 after a brief but brave battle with Leukemia, I was overcome with disbelief more than anything. If you had spent any time around West you’d know him to be full of life and quite animated with his personality, even in his later years. Adam was a frequent guest at autograph shows and comic cons, meeting the fans and posing for photos. One of his demands (which didn’t always go over well with folks in line) was that ALL of his autographs had to be personalized. The way he saw it, if you wanted an autograph it needed to be for YOU, not so you could re-sell it later. As a fan, you really have to appreciate that.

I first met Adam in a rather strange way. In the early 1990s, I got into collecting comic books as a teenager – don’t ask me why I never admired them as a kid, I honestly couldn’t answer that. I started attending the Dallas Fantasy Fair, which at the time was the third largest pop culture event in the United States, run by show promoter Larry Lankford (who also is sadly no longer with us). My connection with the DFF began as a fan, then I became a dealer, and within the first three years I started working for the show… small tasks at first, like lifting boxes and basic labor. I was still pretty young too, not even 19 yet. In those days, having celebrities at the shows wasn’t a regular thing, though occasionally you’d see someone like Mark Goddard (from LOST IN SPACE) or Butch Patrick (little Eddie from THE MUNSTERS). I believe it was the Spring show in 1993 when Larry had first booked Adam West, which was pretty exciting, and the DFF was really starting to pick up steam in those days. I’ll never forget there was a vendor couple, older man and woman, and during dealer set up the older man kept talking about wearing his ill-fitting classic Batman costume (which he did, for the WHOLE show), and the woman kept rambling on about how excited she was that Adam West was there… like way beyond normal excitement, she was clearly obsessed with him. She even told us she had Adam’s face put on a custom pillow case so she could “sleep with him” every night. This was a BIG girl too, the kind that looked like she could take you down if she wanted – an interesting couple to say the least.

Anyway, as the show went on, I hit a bit of a break and had some downtime, so I wandered over to get a look at Adam West at his signing. They had capped the long line, so I walked to the front and stood off to the side of his table, just watching him do his thing. Some big dopey guy asked me who I was, and I told him I worked for the show. He explained to me he was “security” and there to keep an eye on things. As I looked around, I noticed there were other “security” guys trying to look tough on either side of the table, and two women at the signing table with Adam, one on either side. The guy next to me started rambling on about how he had worked security at these shows for many years and was always put in the most important spots to keep things under control… I started tuning him out after a while, as let’s just say he wasn’t someone I was anxious to become buddies with. Then it happened. I looked to the left toward the end of the line, and here she comes. The obsessed woman. I watched as someone at the end told her “The line is capped”, and she walked right past them. I watched her go to the front of the line and cut right in front, slamming her hands down on the table and leaning in to talk to Adam. No one did anything. She began talking loudly saying things like “Adam, I just LOVE you so much and I HAD to see you!” Adam looks up and his eyes get really big – it would later come out this was not his first time experiencing this fan. He starts to nervously say “Hey, hey, HEY!” while looking around for help. Then she moves around the table, past one of the female assistants and starts full on bear-hugging Adam, who now looks like a freaked out kitten. While this is going on (and on, and on…), not a single one of the “security” guys is doing a thing, especially the dope next to me. So I finally jumped over to behind the table, recalled my judo training and football tackle strength, grabbed her arm, put it behind her back and literally pulled her off him. I then walked her to the end of the line and told her not to return.

After I was sure she was gone, I walked back to Adam and asked “Mr. West, are you okay?” Adam then dramatically looked around to the left and right and said, “Yes, thanks to YOU, I am okay.” He still had a line of fans, so I left and walked around the show waiting for my next assignment. I wasn’t even thinking about this as some heroic or tough guy act, I was just doing what I felt needed to be done in the moment. Later that day, the promoter Larry came up to me and said “So… Adam West told me about what you did.” Now in my head, all I could think was maybe it wasn’t my place to have done that, and I might be about to get in trouble as a result. I casually responded “Oh, yeah, sorry, I hope that wasn’t wrong of me to do.” Larry then said “How would you like to be my head of security?” That moment led to me moving up quickly in the ranks with the Dallas Fantasy Fair team, and began a rather fun though infrequent relationship with Adam West.

The next show we did was a little out of town event with Adam (Larry used to schedule these one-day shows on Saturday and Sunday, so we might be in Austin one day, then Houston the next), and I got to sit with him during the show while he signed for the fans. It was a treat listening to Adam interacting with the adoring public, recounting stories from his time on the 1966 BATMAN series, and joking with them when they least expected it. I also witnessed what I would define as a truly un-explainable superpower he had. A little boy would walk up (there were no name tags or anything to give info away), and Adam would look at him and say “Your name is… David.” Or a little girl would come up and he’d say “Your name is… Jennifer.” And he would be right, every single time! I witnessed him do this countless times throughout the day, and really started paying attention to see if there was some tell he was cluing in on… nope, he was just doing it, and nailing it over and over. I finally asked him toward the end “Hey Adam, how the hell are you doing that?!” He replied “Mark, I honestly don’t know, I’ve just always been able to do it. I can look at a child and just know what their name is, I really can’t explain it.” There were a few other special moments that happened that weekend that solidified Adam’s real life heroic status in my eyes. More than any other time around him, that was a weekend that will always hold a special place in my heart.

After that I experienced many other fun interactions with Adam, including some that I’ll refrain from sharing here – let’s just say Mr. West still knew how to party, and never lost his youthfulness. There’s likely some incriminating photos out there of the two of us in a bar setting, I’ll leave it at that. One thing I always loved about seeing Adam was the special gleam in his eye when he’d see me coming to say hi. In the later years that changed a bit, it seemed as if he wasn’t recognizing me the way he used to, but I had to remind myself he was well into his 80s at that point. I’ll leave you with one of my most treasured moments, where I did a short but sweet interview with Adam during his appearance at the 2010 Trek Expo in Tulsa, Oklahoma – we talked about BATMAN, FAMILY GUY, his adoring fans and more… I love his sweet little off camera compliment at the end. We literally did this in a stairwell next to a busy hallway, but it was the only semi-quiet place we could find during the show. What you don’t hear in this interview is my impersonation of Adam, and him saying to me “Mark, you do the absolute BEST impression of me I’ve ever heard!” Maybe one day I can honor him in some way with that impression. Goodbye, Adam. You taught me that even fictional superheroes can been some of the coolest heroes in real life. Rest in peace, old chum… and watch out for the tiger lady! (that’s a joke only Devin Pike and a few others will get)

Be Sociable, Share!

About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started Bigfanboy.com, which has become one of the Dallas film community’s leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and Bigfanboy.com regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.