When 'Batman' Adam West Met Bob Shreve

Jun 12, 2017

My favorite memory of Adam West, the 1960s TV icon who starred as "Batman," was when he swung by to visit a local TV icon, Bob Shreve, on Channel 12's "Past Prime Playhouse."

West, who died Friday June 9 at age 88, visited the crazy overnight movie host in late 1975 or early 1976 while in town for a custom car show.

Dressed in a mask and cape, TV’s former “Batman” (1966-68) swung on a rope onto the set and told Bob that he was working on a case here in Cincinnati.

"It’s funny that you say you’re working on your first case, because I’m working on my third!” replied Shreve, who started hosting the “All-Night Theater” sponsored by Schoenling Beer in 1963 on WCPO-TV.

West celebrated his 87th birthday in Cincinnati while attending the annual Comic Expo at Duke Energy Convention Center in September 2015. His “Dynamic Duo” sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder (Burt Ward), also appeared with West. Promoters billed it as an early 50th anniversary celebration of TV’s “Batman,” which premiered Jan. 12, 1966.

Batman boxed the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) in 1967.
Credit ABC Television

"Batman" was the campy cultural touchstone for Baby Boomers who were teens or kids in the 1960s. Some of Hollywood's biggest stars appeared as villains in the sitcom: Burgess Meredith as the Penguin; Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt and Lee Ann Meriwether as Catwoman; impressionist Frank Gorshin as the Riddler; Cesar Romero as the Joker, and Vincent Price as Egghead.

"Batman" was such a huge sensation -- Pow! -- in 1966 that ABC aired two episodes a week. Both the Wednesday and Thursday episodes in the first season ranked in the Top 10 shows for the 1965-66 TV year. The over-exposure caused ratings to fall – Thud! – out of the Top 30 in its last two seasons. Thirty-five years later, ABC similarly burned out "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" in 2000 by airing multiple episodes a week.

Burt Ward and Adam West starred on ABC's "Batman" 1966-1968.
Credit ABC Television

Born William West Anderson, the actor was internationally known as the Caped Crusader/Batman/Bruce Wayne despite over 60 movie and 80 TV appearances.  His credits include "Maverick," "The Rifleman," "Bonanza," "Perry Mason," "Gunsmoke," "The Detectives," "Mannix," "The Big Valley," "The Happy Hooker Goes To Hollywood," "Laverne & Shirley," "Fantasy Island," "Murder She Wrote," "The Flash," "Mad About You," "Diagnosis Murder," "Black Scorpion," "Sugarfoot," "George Lopez" "The Last Precinct."

But he could never shake "Batman." He played himself, the former TV superhero, on "Big Bang Theory," "30 Rock," "King of Queens," "The Mullets," "Drop Dead Gorgeous," "NewsRadio," "Murphy Brown" and "Jenny."

I had heard that West was frustrated at being typecast by Hollywood, but eventually accepted his fate and celebrated being a pop culture icon.  

Credit ABC Television

On "Family Guy," he played daffy Mayor Adam West. And earlier this year, he narrated two episodes of NBC's "Powerless," about employees of Wayne Enterprises who cope with the collateral damage caused by superheroes and villains.

West died Friday night, June 9, after a short battle with leukemia, according to his publicist.

Shreve died in 1990 at age 77. He hosted all-night movies on Cincinnati TV from 1963-70 on WCPO-TV; 1970-75 on WLWT-TV; and 1975-85 on WKRC-TV.