Adam West, in an interview with lehighvalleylive.com, once called himself “the luckiest actor in the world.”
He was known for his iconic role as the Caped Crusader in the campy 1960s “Batman” TV show, and more recently as himself (more or less) in the animated show “Family Guy.”
He died Friday night at age 88 after “a short but brave battle with leukemia,” according to a family statement on West’s verified Facebook page.
Former lehighvalleylive and Express-Times staffer Dustin Schoof got a chance to talk to West in 2011 ahead of the star’s appearance at Wizard World convention in Philadelphia.
That story is in full below.
Not many actors can say their careers have been bookended by two of the most influential pop culture television shows in history.
Adam West can.
West, 82, portrayed Batman and his billionaire playboy alter-ego Bruce Wayne on “Batman.” The show ran for three seasons from 1966 to 1968 on ABC. Though short-lived, its impact on pop culture is nearly immeasurable, as new generations of Batman fans discover the show for the first time through syndication.
“I’m the luckiest actor in the world,” West says over the phone. “I only did the show for two years and yet people think I’m still doing it.”
In 1998, West landed another hit TV show. “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane cast West as the voice of the kooky, taffy-loving mayor of Quahog – an exaggerated, if not slightly unhinged, version of himself.
“Because of ‘Batman’ it seems people believe in my honesty and the fact that I can make fun of myself so they’ll kind of listen to anything,” West says. “But I have taste, even if I say some stupid thing. The trick is to walk a tight wire and have fun with it.”
He adds, “I can ad-lib and it works. But you have to know the character.”
West says conversations with fans tend to skew more toward his days battling Gotham’s criminal underworld as the Caped Crusader.
“It’s a funny thing. ‘Batman’ is always, I guess it doesn’t override the other, and I don’t want to get into percentages, but generally (I’m recognized) mostly from ‘Batman’ and then ‘Family Guy’ always comes soon after, right on the heels of it,” West says. “People will see me and yell, ‘Hey, it’s the mayor.”
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West will likely get similar shout-outs this weekend. He’ll appear today through Sunday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center as part of the Wizard World Philadelphia comic book and pop culture convention.
“People have fun with me,” West says of meeting fans. “They’re really funny with all of their memories and the shows, all the shows I’ve done. I don’t mean to be corny, but to see how happy I make people … older fans bringing their kids, it’s a whole family spectrum.”
West says it’s tough to pin down exactly why or how “Batman” has endured.
“It’s my incredible charm,” West deadpans before turning serious. “I get a great deal of fan mail. Much of it is, ‘Oh boy, you were like a father to me’ or ‘I had happy times because of you’ and I think that’s part of it. We approached it as a comic book extension with a little more tongue-in-cheek presentation. In doing that, we were making a broad, all-family show and giving it humor and some kind of, I guess irony, from time to time and then being very sincere in our crime-fighting for the kids. It just destroyed the little devils.”
He chuckles and adds, “I have many victims.”
But the wholesome, family vibe of “Batman” is in stark contrast to the adult-oriented punch lines delivered by West’s mayor character on “Family Guy.”
“Sometimes they’re so absurd and bizarre and funny it is difficult,” West says. “You have a good laugh, sober up and go on.”
West says he was collaborating with MacFarlane on a different project when the writer approached him for the role.
“He’d written a pilot for me and we had the same kind of comic sensibilities so he figured I would be the guy to bring the mayor to life in some zany way and he just called,” West says.
With two immensely popular shows under his utility belt, West says he feels lucky to be a part of TV history.
“It’s always nice to a part of a hot show,” West says. “I think I’m really one of the fortunate ones. I can’t really explain much about it. I’m not a critic. I’m just really grateful to be doing it.”