That headline is not just clickbait my fine-feathered friends. Actor and professional handsome guy, Adam West, really did save this humble podcaster’s life.
As all of you reading this undoubtedly know, Mr. West played the title character in the superhero TV classic Read More which was first broadcast in the U.S. on the ABC television network in 1966.
The show was campy, ridiculous and a riot of primary colors (a fact I only realized much later in life since my family only had a black and white set) but as a kid, it was a half-hour escape from the realities of growing up in the South Bronx of the 1970s.
Now don’t go feeling bad for me, life was tough but there was hope. My family did their best to shield me from danger but I had to find my own way of dealing with those “mean streets”.
Imagination, fueled by Mr. West’s bat-shit crazy interpretation of the world’s greatest detective, became my weapon of choice.
Batman was both an escape and a coping mechanism for dealing with the devastation in the Bronx brought on by fires, drugs, and crime – the effects of which were clearly visible to even very young kids like myself.
I spent hours plotting elaborate scenarios where Adam West in his spandex, cape and cowl swooped in to defeat the gangs that frequently settled their beefs with guns and knives outside our first floor windows.
I was tired of having to hide behind furniture in hopes of avoiding a stray bullet listening to my mother and grandmother plead with my granddad not go outside. The man was huge and an ex-boxer who could beat the snot out of the gang-bangers with his fists, but he couldn’t stop a bullet or a knife.
But Batman could!
In my imagination, Batman would say to my abuelo in perfect Spanish, “Thank you citizen of Gotham for your bravery and courage but Robin and I will deal with the Savage Skulls and the Black Spades today!”
The Dynamic duo would then crash through the windows of our apartment, stopping to assure us that they would pay for the damage, and proceed to beat down both gangs. The music would swell and the fight graphics would fly, many with tildes and upside down exclamation points.
After vanquishing the street thugs, Mr. West as Bruce Wayne (wearing an ascot of course) would cut the ceremonial ribbon at the opening of a new playground or building built with his millions in the rubble-strewn lots that were dotting my neighborhood with increasing frequency.
Bruce and Dick Grayson (Burt Ward, natch) would then join the dads in a game of stickball and pound back a few Rheingold’s and cuchifritos. The moms giggled about the handsome Mr. Wayne and made excuses to saunter by the men in their kitten heels, swinging their hips with just a little more enthusiasm than usual.
These fantasies helped ignite my love of comic books, which then fostered my love of books and of storytelling in general. New worlds opened up at school for me, keeping me off the streets. Watching reruns of Batman, reading or creating elaborate flights of fancy with my toys at home kept me safe.
I always meant to thank him in person, at a comic book convention or in an interview for one of my shows, but kept putting it off. Sadly, I’ll never get that chance. The best I can do now is to thank him here and hope he gets the vibe wherever his soul may be residing.
My eternal gratitude to you for saving my life, Adam West. You were there for me as Batman when I needed you most and helped show me a different path. This is the first time in my life I’ve quoted Bob Dylan but it fits perfectly:
“I’ll remember you. When I’ve forgotten all the rest. You to me were true. “