Holy Nostalgia! Batman ‘66 Exhibit Brings Back Great Memories
Take a tour of The Hollywood Museum’s new exhibit
Monday, January 22, 2018
In 1966 ABC launched the "Batman" TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward as the Caped Crusaders. Although canceled after three seasons, the show has remained a fan favorite.
'Batman' TV show
"Batman" burst onto TV screens on Jan. 12, 1966 and, like millions of people worldwide, I was glued to my TV set enjoying sensory overload.
Roger Neal recalled watching.
"It was amazing, the colors were like wow! Even the Bat fight words that were in the burst, those colors, coming at you on the screen," he said.
Pow! Zap! Whack-eth! This show popped right off the screen
"It was done in such a way nobody had ever seen anything like that before," Alex Zsolt said.
"It was always a two-parter," Neal added. "I would get so nervous at the end of the first part of the episode, Batman and Robin, are they gonna die, is something gonna happen to them? I had to tune in Thursday night to see if they are going to be OK."
"It was neat having that cliffhanger," Zsolt said. "You don't know if Batman and Robin will escape. But if you tune in tomorrow night, same Bat time, same Bat channel, you will find out if they get out and how they get out of their caper."
For the first two seasons, "Batman" was on twice a week as a two-part cliffhanger. It brought the DC comic book characters to vivid life with Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin, the Caped Crusaders.
Zsolt was not old enough to be around when the show premiered but he came to it in reruns thanks to his brother.
"From the gadgets to the cars, and everything was labeled, it was just fun," he said.
It was those gadgets and props that captured Zsolt’s imagination and made him a fan of the show decades after it debuted. It is that kind of fandom that pays tribute to the longevity of the show. That is why Neal approached The Hollywood Museum to do a Batman '66 exhibit and tap collectors like Zsolt for items to display.
Batman '66 Exhibit
"The biggest challenge was getting the items," said Neal, who is the exhibit organizer. "Some collectors were very nervous letting these items out of their possession, especially like the original Batman and Robin costumes, Mark Hardeman who has those, that collector did not want to ship them so he drove them in here and will drive back to pick them up."
Those original costumes have aged in 50 years and you can clearly see how Batman's gloves and part of his cowl have faded from their original color. So to give people an idea of how they would have looked in pristine condition, Zsolt contributed screen accurate costume replicas as well as a few other items.
"There's a Bat shield down there, which I love," Zsolt said. "I'm a pianist and so what was fun for me was with the Bat shield was it actually uses piano hinges that I riveted together and that's one of the props that I make. Knowing that I have some of my collection in here it’s exciting, it's honoring to able to be a part of it but at the same time it's a little weird because I am able at home to go up and enjoy my collection. If I want to hold something I can but right now everything is behind glass."
Usually most of the items in his collection are sitting in his office.
"They say your office should be a fun area so I have a Batman, a Robin, a Batgirl replica. So when you walk into my office, I’ve never had anyone not smile," Zsolt said.
The exhibit was guest curated by Wally Wingert, who is not just a fan of the show but he also has voiced The Riddler for "Batman" video games and for the recent animated features produced by Warner Brothers Home Video and DC Entertainment. Wingert's love for the show comes through in its design. The exhibit is divided into four areas: the Wayne Manor study (complete with Bat poles), the Bat Cave (with the original Bat computer and a street legal Batmobile from suit actor Tom Woodruff), the Rogue's Gallery, and rare collectibles (where you can find everything from Batman kids' skates to Caped Crusader puppets).
The exhibit is a delight for anyone who grew up with the show and remembers the Penguin's total dehydrator form Big Ben Distillery or played with the Batman Colorforms set. But there are also things that anyone will love like a list of all the fight words and all the actors and the villains they played including reference to the Puzzler, played by Maurice Evans, who was the replacement villain of sorts when Frank Gorshin did not return as The Riddler.
As Neal put it, "Batman '66 is not complete without those heinous villains that we love to hate."
Zsolt remembers them fondly.
"Can I say something about the villains?" he said. "Even though you knew they were villains and they shot them with those crooked angles so we knew they were crooked, even with that there was something you loved about the villains."
Indeed there was. There was also something irresistible about the show, which was played entirely straight by the actors yet never took itself too seriously. Plus it tapped into some of the best talent in Hollywood to play the villains: Frank Gorshin, Burgess Meredith, Ida Lupino, Tallulah Bankhead, Cliff Robertson, Roddy McDowell, George Sanders, Anne Baxter, and even director Otto Preminger. And of course those "purrfect" feline fiends Lee Meriwether, Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt as Cat Woman.
The Hollywood Museum is located in the historic Max Factor Building at Highland and Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood. The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. The exhibit runs through March.
If you want to extend the tour, check out Bronson Caves just a few miles away. It is the location for the Bat Cave, and you can get your geek on walking through. Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed ... to Batman '66!
To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.