Actor Adam West died on Friday in Los Angeles of leukemia, aged 88. He was, of course, best known as television’s Batman. That campy series only ran from 1966 to 1968, but it was so influential that Batman’s special dance — the Batusi — was referenced in the movie Pulp Fiction nearly 30 years later.
The short-lived original Star Trek series also started airing in 1966 and outlasted Batman by just one year. I’m fascinated by the fact that both these shows had such staying power after their original runs. I grew up watching both of them in reruns, and I’m not sure I understood that new episodes weren’t being made. I definitely preferred Batman to Star Trek though. First of all, there was Eartha Kitt as the second Catwoman in the series (Julie Newmar played the role first).
Then there were Robin’s exclamations (“Holy Diversionary Tactics!”), followed by general zaniness, like the time Batman couldn’t get rid of a bomb.
— Meredith Frost (@MeredithFrost) June 10, 2017
I mean, don’t you hate it when this happens?
But, because I’m a Family Guy fan, Adam West wasn’t just Batman to me. He was Quahog‘s Mayor Adam West. Entertainment Weekly has a list of top 10 Adam West Family Guy moments. I’ve always loved the “cat launcher” scene, especially because Mayor West thinks it’s hilarious that one cat is named Paul, but my favorite is “My name isn’t Adam We … or is it?”
Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane issued a moving statement about Adam West’s death, and I hope the show will be able to do some kind of funny tribute. Maybe the Noid can be brought back to life for that.
Here are my recommendations for additional reading/viewing about Adam West:
- A 1966 Los Angeles Times interview.
- In this 2014 article, West spoke about how he struggled with his career after the success of his Batman days.
- 2014 Guardian interview about enjoying his post-Batman life.
- Talking about Family Guy this May
- West on Batman guest stars Liberace and Tallulah Bankhead. (Guess which one had the lines, “The Caped Crusader! And what a magnificent cape it is too!”)
- An interview with Burt Ward, who played Robin to West’s Batman, which starts off with, “When I entered Batman as a naive 20-year-old who had only dated a couple of girls, I met Adam West, who immediately introduced me to the wildest sexual debauchery that you can imagine.” Eek!
- West’s 1994 memoir, Back to the Batcave, was described as “BATASTIC!” by one happy Barnes & Noble customer.
Another recent death that hit me hard was that of EMD — aka the Educated Rapper, aka Jeffrey Campbell — of the 1980s hip-hop group UTFO. He died of cancer at age 54. I wrote about UTFO’s big hit, “Roxanne, Roxanne,” in this 2012 post. I still listen to that song regularly when I’m at the gym!
Finally, I was reading Sunday’s New York Times when I spotted a particularly long obit in the paid notices section. I took a second look and my jaw literally dropped because it was for Libet Johnson — one of the Johnson & Johnson company heirs — who died from Alzheimer’s at 66. She was a notable New York personality and I hadn’t heard that she was sick. Just last year, she was getting coverage for a variety of real-estate transactions, which was a normal thing for her.
If you ever regret that you weren’t born into an incredibly rich family — and we all have those days — read up on the Johnsons and you’ll appreciate being ordinary. The title of Jerry Oppenheimer’s 2014 book sums it all up: Crazy Rich: Power, Scandal, and Tragedy Inside the Johnson Dynasty. Pop culture experts might remember the tumultuous life of Libet’s niece, Casey Johnson, who was Paris Hilton’s friend and craved Hilton’s fame.
Casey died of complications from untreated diabetes in 2010, when she was just 30. She had been cut off by her billionaire father — Libet’s brother, Jets owner Woody Johnson — because of her erratic behavior. That behavior included a 2006 public spat with her then-56-year-old Aunt Libet, whom 26-year-old Casey accused of stealing her 38-year-old boyfriend.
Around the same time that Casey took her boyfriend-stealing accusations to Vanity Fair, the five-times-married Libet embarked upon a nasty court battle with a different ex-boyfriend over their adopted Cambodian son. It lasted six years, seeming to come to an end in 2013, though a new proceeding was filed against the ex-boyfriend in January 2016. That boy is still a minor, who has now lost his mother. Maybe he won’t be cursed with as much wealth as the rest of the family. According to New York Magazine’s story on the custody fight, “although [the son] was not an heir to the Johnson fortune, Libet gave him ‘some financial security’: a trust fund of $100,000.” That’s odd, considering Libet regularly bought and sold real-estate worth millions, but it’s good to have real motivation to work. As one of Casey’s younger sisters told the New York Times in 2011, “It’s depressing when you’re not working. You just have too much time to spend thinking about stuff that’s not productive.”
Read more about the tribulations of the Johnson family here.