Every Sunday afternoon, sometime in the late sixties, I’d be glued to our tiny, LoFi TV waiting to see how Batman and Robin had extricated themselves from whatever bizarre contraption the Joker, Riddler or the Penguin had lured them into. It may be camp and kitsch now, but it wasn’t then. It was life and death. You can wax lyrical about any of the pseudo film noir versions of the character that have appeared in the last few years, but you’ll never get more than a grudging “s’alright…” from me. There’s only one Batman – spoiler alert – it ain’t Christian Bale.
I met Adam West once, in rather unusual circumstances. I worked in A Very Big Record Shop for half of the eighties and we’d often have in store signings by artists desperate to prop up their ailing careers or newer artists trying to drum up support for some piece of tawdry nonsense they were attempting to sell to people who should know better. Anyhoo, some marketing genius decided the time was right to issue the first Batman movie on VHS. There will now be a short pause, while younger readers Google “VHS”. To promote this momentous event, Mr West was dusted off and sent on a signing tour of Very Big Record Shops, one of which was the one I worked in. The day duly arrived for him to appear and much to my chagrin, I had drawn the short straw and I was timetabled to be in a different department to Batman. I sulked off to the staffroom and started to make myself a peanut butter sandwich, while scowling and muttering. I thought I was alone in the room. I wasn’t. I turned around from my terrible pre-school lunch, only to find Adam West – my pre-school hero – staring intently at my sandwich. We looked at each other for about 10 seconds, which seemed to last about an hour before I spoke. “Would you like a sandwich?” It was the best I could do, under the circumstances. Batman remained silent, but a confused look spread across his face. He considered my proposition for a quite a while, before he replied “Do you think I’m hungry? Do you think I need food?” Not in an aggressive way – he was genuinely asking me if he needed something to eat. It was that point that two of his minders/assistants/nurses appeared and led him gently, but firmly onto the shop floor. On the way however, he scribbled over every one of those insurance and public liability documents that shops are legally bound to display, thus rendering them null and void. What a guy.
I did get him to sign my copy of the Jan and Dean version of the Batman theme tune tho’.
When he appeared as the fantastic “Mayor West” character in “Family Guy”, I was delighted. I was also thrilled that his on-screen persona matched exactly that of the man I had a brief and bizarre interaction with sometime in the eighties.
So farewell, Batman. The final Batsignal has illuminated Gotham’s sky and you’ve answered the call. Chief O’Hara thanks you. Commissioner Gordon thanks you. The grateful citizens of Gotham thank you.
And Rushbo thanks you.