Adam West saved my childhood once.
Alright, that might be a little hyperbolic but here's what I mean. I was around six or seven years old when the first Tim Burton Batman movie came out in 1989 and I couldn't watch it because I was terrified of it. Well, I was terrified of Jack Nicholson's Joker, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that, it was true terror. Bone-chilling. I couldn't even watch TV in peace because I was afraid a commercial with him in it would show up on screen at random. No joke, it was a flat out phobia that I had for about five years. We all have something that terrified us when we were kids, right?
Anyway, one night my mother comes to me and tells me that the Joker is on TV, BUT she promises that I won't be afraid of him. Skeptical as hell, I followed her to the big TV in the basement and saw what she was talking about. It was of course, Cesar Romero's take on the character from the 1966 Batman TV show that at the time I never even knew existed. Back then the popularity of Tim Burton's Batman movie was so huge that just like today, everyone was cashing in on it. You couldn't escape it wherever you went. The Family Channel had decided that they were going to start airing the original episodes of the 1966 TV show, which intrigued me because even though Jack's Joker terrified me, I still thought Batman was cool.
So for the next three years, Batman '66 was my "go-to show" as a kid and Adam West and Burt Ward were awesome. I watched every episode of that show and my dad would tape them for me on VHS to watch later. It was great and helped me to still become a Batman fan even without being able to see the first movie. As I got older and especially after Batman Returns and Batman: The Animated Series came out in 1992, I grew out of my phobia of Jack's Joker and proceeded to inhale all things Batman as much as I could. The Animated Series then became my go-to show because it was a cartoon and one of my favorite episodes to this day is "Beware the Gray Ghost," the classic tale of actor Simon Trent who played the vigilante character on TV that Bruce Wayne grew up watching and partly inspired him to become Batman later in life. The second I heard Trent's voice in the episode I knew exactly who it was: Mr. Adam West himself, in a great guest voice role on one of the greatest cartoons of all-time. Absolutely awesome.
Batman '66 is one of those things that has a special place in everyone's heart for different reasons. It's a goofy, campy kids show, but at age seven it was the perfect thing for me in the midst of my "Joker-phobia" and my parents actually grew up with it when it came out, so I'm sure it was cool for them to see me watching the same show they watched at that age. Adam West was the heart of that show for sure, playing a version of the Caped Crusader that will live on and be revered until the end of time. When you ask people who their favorite Batman is, you're likely to get a least few people from the older generations that will say his name and that's pretty awesome.
It was that popularity that he gained from that show and his career as an actor that certainly got him what was the next most popular role in his life next to Batman, which was Mayor of Quahog, Rhode Island in Family Guy. If his dry and completely aloof humor in the show wasn't hilarious enough, the fact that he was actually Mayor Adam West in it was, and I've always thought that was a cool tribute to the man's career, to immortalize him yet again in animated form.
Without question, Adam West has made an indelible mark on pop culture and in the hearts of those who were fans of his work. He will indeed be sorely missed, but his career will always hold a special place for a lot of us.
Rest in peace Adam West, and thanks for saving my childhood. :)