LOS ANGELES (AP) – Adam West, whose straight-faced portrayal of Batman in a campy 1960s TV series lifted the tight-clad Caped Crusader into the national consciousness, has died at age 88, his publicist Molly Schoneveld said Saturday.
West died Friday night after “a short but brave battle with leukemia,” his family said in a statement.
West played the superhero straight for kids and funny for adults. He initially chaffed at being typecast after “Batman” went off the air after three seasons, but in later years he admitted he was pleased to have had a role in kicking off a big-budget film franchise by showing the character’s wide appeal.
“You get terribly typecast playing a character like that,” he told The Associated Press in a 2014 interview.
“But in the overall, I’m delighted because my character became iconic and has opened a lot of doors in other ways, too.” He returned to the role in an episode of the animated “The Simpsons.”
“He was bright, witty and fun to work with,” Julie Newmar, who played Catwoman to West’s Batman, said in a statement. “I will miss him in the physical world and savor him always in the world of imagination and creativity.”
Burt Ward, who played Batman’s sidekick, Robin, was friends with West for more than 50 years.
“We shared some of the most fun times of our lives together, Ward told the Variety entertainment media outlet. “This is a terribly unexpected loss of my lifelong friend. I will forever miss him.”
A whole new generation of fans knew West as the voice of nutty Mayor Adam West on the long-running animated series “Family Guy.”
“Adam West was a joy to work with, and the kind of guy you always wanted to be around,” ”Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane said in a statement.
MacFarlane added: “His positivity, good nature, and sense of fun were undeniable, and it was always a big jolt of the best kind of energy when he walked in to record the show. He knew comedy, and he knew humanity… Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have given, Mr. Mayor. You’re irreplaceable.”
In April 2012, West received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Born William West Anderson in Walla Walla, Washington, he moved to Seattle at age 15 with his mother after his parents divorced.
He graduated from Whitman College, a private liberal arts school, in Walla Walla.
After serving in the Army, he went to Hollywood and changed his name to Adam West, and began appearing on a number of television series, including “Bonanza,” ”Perry Mason” and “Bewitched.”
“Batman” was the role he would remain associated with throughout his life.
The TV show was among the most popular in 1966, the year of its debut, and some of the era’s top actors signed on to play villains. Burgess Meredith squawked as the Penguin. Eartha Kitt purred as Catwoman. And Cesar Romero cackled as the Joker.
Years later, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck would don Bruce Wayne’s camouflaging cape and cowl.
“Adam West exemplified heroism,” Affleck wrote on Twitter. “Kind, funny and an all around great guy. Thank you for showing us all how it’s done “
Filmmakers Edgar Wright and Leslye Headland were among those lamenting West’s death on Twitter.
“Farewell Adam West. You were MY Batman,” Wright wrote. “Such a super funny, cool, charismatic actor. Loved the show as a kid, still love the show now. POW!”
Headland wrote: “My childhood hero & still my favorite Batman. RIP Adam West. #pow”
West was married three times and had six children. He had homes in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, but he and his wife, Marcelle, spent most of their time at their ranch near Sun Valley, Idaho.
“Our dad always saw himself as The Bright Knight, and aspired to make a positive impact on his fans’ lives,” West’s children said in the statement. “He was and always will be our hero.”
Ridler reported from Boise, Idaho