Catching up with Adam West

Adam West, the first actor to wear the bat cowl, has gone on to cult hero fame, He played Batman on the original ABC television series, which co-starred Burt Ward as Robin and aired 1966-68. The 86-year-old has been married three times and has four children. He is the voice of Mayor Adam West on Seth MacFarland’s animated television series “Family Guy.” And he’s been filming the PBS special “Adam West and TJ Lubinsky present: My Music: 1965, 1966, 1967” at TJL Production Studios.

Q: What do you think accounts for the continuing popularity of the original Batman series that ran on ABC for just two years?

Well, it was three seasons, 2½ years. We all set out to do an homage to the comic book. We said, “Let’s do this on several levels,” and this is what we accomplished. So for the kids, it was always exciting and kind of fun with all the super villains and so on, The adults realized that it was comedy. We were doing a comedic homage, really.

Q: So you were reaching two audiences at once.

A: Yes, exactly, and that’s why for 40 years or more it has been evergreen.

Q: I know your parents were divorced, but did they get to see your success as Batman?

A: My father did, yes and my stepmom. My dad was a farmer, a very good one and kind of a Gary Cooper-type, but he was always behind me whatever I wanted to do. They never prevented me or held me back. All I can say is they were understanding, they were kind and they loved the progress I made. And I didn’t have to borrow too much money (laughs).

Q: You have the leading man looks. Did you see yourself as the next Gary Cooper or Cary Grant when you started out?

A: I guess so, because that’s what they told me when I was under contract at Warner (Bros). I did “The Detectives” with Robert Taylor and I did a lot of Westerns, but that was kind of the way I was headed. Then, along came “Batman.” and everything changed. My career, the way it was going, was in a sense interrupted in a very dramatic way.

Q: Because you were typecast?

A: Yeah, because our classic “Batman” became so immensely successful that really the dinosaurs in Hollywood couldn’t think of me as anything but Batman.

Q: Do you think that has changed? If you were to do it today, do you think you would have less trouble moving on from that character?

A:Definitely, because people know what I do. I have done so much other work, and the younger crowd knows that.

Q: Yes, you do the voice over for the mayor, Adam West, on “Family Guy,” basically making fun of yourself.

A: I think I’ve always had that kind of self-assessment that what I do isn’t really that important. When “Family Guy” came along, I said yes. I knew Seth (McFarland) had written the pilot for me, and I welcomed the chance to create a character with my name that was making fun of myself … to use my quirkier aspects and some of my more absurd thinking in the character. Yes, it’s worked. I don’t mind making fun of myself. I think more people should have that kind of sense of humor.

Q: That attitude must have made it easier for you take the criticism. You have to have strong self-esteem to be in your business.

A: You know about that stuff. When I was coming up, I immediately went under long-term contract at Warner. When I left Warner, it was the same thing that you mentioned. It was really tough, I mean, ups and downs and all around. Just to hang in there and have persistence and keep pursuing your goal, it was tough. I got rejected. I got turned down. I went to dozens of auditions and walked out with nothing.

Q: At what point did you stop taking the critics seriously?

A: I think it was mostly after “Batman.” They had been pretty good to me. Then after “Batman,” it got relegated to words of convenience, like … “It was lucky” or “It was camp.” But than there were other writers and books that analyzed it much better than I could. All I did was go into the studio and try to bring something fresh with my concept of the character.

Q: On a personal level, did playing Batman improve your social life?

A: There was a period during “Batman” where I wasn’t married. After “Batman,” I married my current wife, who is great. All I can say is when you’re a rock star, things happen (laughing). Batman would never talk about kissing (and telling).

Q: So you are hosting the best of the 1960s songs. Do you have a favorite or a song that was the soundtrack to a great moment in your life?

A: Interesting. I love jazz and I like any music that is really good - “California Dreaming,” for example. I really like that stuff. “We’ll go walking in the park, talking in the dark”… Songs like that stay with you. I recently did a rap that Kanye West did. My cousin, Kanye (laughing). It was called “West on West.” It’s in a new show. You’d like it.

Q: Last question: Do you own a bat suit, and do people ask you to put it on?

A: Do you want to buy an old cape? (Laughing.) I have some things. As a matter of fact, I have all 120 of my original scripts with my own notes and so on. I just had an offer: $1 million for the scripts. Isn’t that incredible!

I’m the luckiest guy in the world. Believe me. I really am.