Batman ‘66 Exhibit
Cinema Junkie / February 2, 2018
Fifty-two years ago ABC launched the TV show "Batman" and forever changed the pop culture landscape.
Beth Accomando: Welcome back to another edition of listener-supported KPBS Cinema Junkie Podcast. I’m Beth Accomando. On January 12th, 1966, this happened. [Film introduction music]. That’s right, the Batman TV show arrived and delivered a pop culture burst of sensory overload.
Roger Neal: It’s amazing. The colors were like wow. It was done in such a way that nobody had ever seen anything like that before. Even the Bat fight words that were in the burst, those colors coming at you on the screen. And it was always a two-parter.
Clip: Can this – I mean, this be happening. Batman being made into a pineapple frosting freezy and Robin into a live one as the diabolical Mr. Freeze outwitted the Dynamic Duo after all with some fancy ice work.
Male Speaker: And I would get so nervous at the end of the first step part of the episode, Batman and Robin were, Oh know somebody’s going to die, something is going to happen to them, I had to tune in the next Thursday night to see if they were going to be okay.
Clip: Hope for a miracle and stay frozen in your seat until tomorrow, same time, same channel.
Male Speaker: And that was neat to having that cliffhanger that okay, you don’t know if Batman and Robin will escape.
Clip: Batman was trapped and ready for the barbecue. It was getting very warm, but wait the worst is yet to come.
Male Speaker: But if you tune in tomorrow night, same Bat time, same Bat channel. You’ll find out if they get out and how they get out of their caper.
Clip: She flipped like I need his cigarette lighter like the most needs are half track. Fool, that’s kind of I use myself. It is filled with a lifetime supply a butane gas compressed inside, if he managed to toss that into the furnace.
Beth Accomando: In 1966, ABC launched the Batman TV show starring Adam West and Burt Ward as DC comics Batman and Robin aka the Caped Crusaders or the Dynamic Duo. And audiences went Bat crazy. Kids were dressing up like Batman. Teenagers were dancing the Batusi and you could hear people employing Robin’s holy whatever exclamations or signing off with same Bat time, same Bat channel. It was so popular that a Batman movie was conceived and released in between seasons 1 and 2.
Clip: Tell him Robin. Holy frozen Batman, it’s really exciting. Soon, very soon Batman and I will be Bat-polting right out of your TV sets and on your theater screens.
That’s right, Robin. Our first full-length motion picture feature in color opens a whole new world of thrills.
Beth Accomando: Also canceled after just three energetic tongue-in-cheek seasons the show has remained a fan favorite. Last month on the 52nd anniversary of the show’s premiere on ABC the Hollywood Museum opened its Batman ‘66 exhibit, an eye-popping explosion of pop culture goodness conceived by Roger Neal.
Clip: Holy Hollywood.
Beth Accomando: This podcast is dedicated to Batman ‘66, the exhibit and the show. And to help both elicit a sense of joy I’ll be talking to exhibit organizers including collectors who loaned objects to the museum, plus some fans who relive the show’s impact on them. And finally to the boy wonder himself, Burt Ward, who played Robin in the TV show and in two recent Warner Brothers animated features.
Clip: Holy Resurrection, The Evil Extractor, Robin, what are you doing? Get out of here before it’s too late. I don’t think so hot. Should have listened to her, now sleep tight or do you? [Laughs]
Beth Accomando: But to start, I’m going to let Roger Neal give you a quick tour of the exhibit, which you can see a video of at kpbs.org/junkiepodcast.
Roger Neal: Hey, I’m Roger Neal. I am the exhibit organizer for Batman ‘66 exhibit here at the Hollywood Museum in Hollywood, California. Let’s take a little tour and I’ll show you around our exhibit. First, this is – we wanted to recreate Wayne Manor. But we create the study because that’s one of the most famous parts of Wayne Manor is when you see Bruce and Dick go into the study, to the library. And then they get the call from the commissioner and then they open this famous Shakespeare bust and then the Bat polls open, and we wanted to show the Bat polls and I never realized actually until this exhibit that Bruce Wayne’s Bat poll was bigger than Dick Grayson’s. And why was that? Because Dick was a teenager and Bruce was an adult. So, let’s go over to the Batcave, shall we? I think the center piece is Adam West original costume, which is here and Burt Ward’s original costume, which is there. Burt, people may not know Burt was allergic to wool, so in his vest – in his vest, they had to put lining in the vest and that’s how we know that this is Burt’s original costume because the vest has a lining in it, and of course, his initials aren’t from wardrobe as are Adams.
The Batmobile. Ha, ha. Who doesn’t love the Batmobile? This is a screen accurate replica of the Batmobile that our collector graciously loaned out in it is street legal by the way. This was driven here down Hollywood Boulevard and it caused quite a stir. Back there, the original Batcomputer. That is the Batcomputer, the original one used in the show. On all these areas if you read what’s along when you come to read what’s along the walls you will get a lot of information about Batman that you may not have known. And if you think you know a lot about Batman, there’s always something new to learn. And as you come around the Batcave, we see the Batcycle. And then, of course, Batman ‘66 is not complete without those heinous villains. Those heinous villains that we – we just – we love to hate them didn’t we? Catwoman, Riddler, Joker, Penguin. It’s awesome. I love it. I love it. I just love it.
Come on over to see the collectibles from 1966, original collectibles that when I was a kid in 1966 and probably when you were a kid or your grandparents or your parents were kids, this is what you could buy at the store because Batman was just that huge. Then we come over to our smaller – our smaller collectible cases. There’s some great things in here like this is a – this is the actual script from 1966 from the Batman movie and then you could see it has Burgess Meredith’s autograph on it, Lee Meriwether, Frank Gorshin as the Riddler, Burt Ward and he signed it, as well Adam West signed it. So, that’s a really great item to have right there. And these production call sheets are from the state of magic lake Ann Harriet. These are her actual call sheets. This is a Neil Hamilton script and Neil Hamilton’ notes are inside the script. He played Commissioner Gordon, of course. We hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of the Batman ‘66 exhibit here at the Hollywood Museum and on behalf of Donelle Dadigan, the owner of the Hollywood Museum, so please come on out and see this incredible Batman ‘66. So all Bat fans, the Bat signal is out and it’s calling you, come on. Thanks for taking the tour.
Beth Accomando: The exhibit runs through March. So you have some time to see it in person. If you live near Hollywood or can make the trek out. Neal had to tap fans who were collectors to get some of the items in the exhibit, like it’s screen accurate and street legal Batmobile and some original costumes.
Roger Neal: Some of these collectors are very nervous about letting these items out of their possession, especially like the original Batman and Robin costume, a Mark Hardeman, who has those, that collector did not want to ship them, so he drove them in here.
Beth Accomando: Neal also went to Alex Zsolt for help. So let’s love for the show proves its longevity because Zsolt wasn’t even born when Batman debuted on ABC.
Alex Zsolt: It is actually my brother’s fault because we went to the 1989 Tim Burton movie and I was 9 years old at that time and the giant black bat scared me. So I went to home and on the family channel, they were showing the TV series. So as a 9-year-old, I didn’t realize that it was in rerun. I loved it. I loved the action adventure, yeah, it was so colorful. So many different props and that’s why I started collecting some of the props or even building some of them. Because it was so neat to see this giant Bat Shield like this one here that Batman will take out his utility belt and then he hold it like this, I would repel the bullets or anything coming at them. So that was someone it was just from the gadgets to the cars everything was labeled Bat ring, Batcomputer, that was just fun. And then like I said later hearing Adam deliver the lines something that is so funny, but he did it so incredibly straight and it was just a fun show on so many different levels.
Beth Accomando: But Zsolt since become a devout fan and collector, he contributed some items to the exhibit.
Alex Zsolt: And then let’s say Bat Shield right down there, which I love and I’m a pianist and so what was fun for me with the Bat Shield was that actually uses piano hinges and then I riveted together, so that’s what my props that I’d make knowing that I have some of my collection in here, it’s exciting, it’s honoring to be able to be a part of it, but at the same time, it’s a little weird because I’m able to at home, go up and enjoy my collection. If I want to hold something I can. But right now, everything is behind glass.
Beth Accomando: Usually, that stuff sitting in this office.
Alex Zsolt: So, your office should be a fun area and so mine is. So I have a Batman, a Robin, a Batroom replica. So when you walk into my office, I’ve never not had anybody not smile.
Beth Accomando: The exhibit was best curated by Wally Wingert who’s not just a fan, but also a voice actor who’s done work for the Batman video game. He recalls how he was introduced to the Batman ‘66 show.
Wally Wingert: Details are sketchy. But I do remember watching the show originally when it came on the air back in 1966. I was 5 years old. Everybody was watching it in the neighborhood, everybody in school was watching, it came on January 12, 1966. I have photos of me shortly after that time in my homemade Batman costume with a bath towels safety pin around my neck and gloves on – my dad’s work gloves and that was my homemade Batman costume. But by my fifth birthday in 1966 May I had been given by my parents an official Ben Cooper Batman cape and mask set. So I pretty much remember it almost to the day it – it began airing. Upon reviewing some of the episodes on Blu-ray recently there is certain imagery that’s pops up, where I can remember that as a kid things that were particularly disturbing like Bruce Wayne’s strapped to a gurney of barreling down a mountain road and by radio careening off of a cliff. I also remember Bruce Wayne being strapped to some sort of conveyor belt heading into the fire.
Clip: The Flaming end of the caped crusader. Can Bruce possibly escape? For Batman sake keep your Bat fingers crossed until tomorrow. Same time, same channel.
Wally Wingert: Now I remember that at the kid and I saw the stuff on the Blu-ray going, oh my gosh. I – I totally remember this. As a kid it frightened me. So, yes, I have a pretty good memory for that.
Beth Accomando: What you think it was about the show that captured your imagination and captured the imagination of kids and adults all over the place?
Wally Wingert: Since I wasn’t watching it initially in color, we had a black and white set, I can’t say the color. It was the action and it was the performances of the cast. They had a wonderful ensemble cast with great chemistry between, of course, Batman and Robin, but also between the villains and Batman and Robin. And it was – it was the performances that shot right through that black and white – fuzzy black and white image on my television and just grabbed my attention. Once, of course, I saw it in color, my life changed considerably. But it was – it wasn’t about the color, it wasn’t about the clarity because I was watching it under neither of those circumstances. It was simply the performance of the actors, the chemistry, the writing and the adventures that they went on.
Beth Accomando: So, what was it like to be approached to guess try a show on Batman 66?
Wally Wingert: Being asked by Roger Neal in the Hollywood Museum to do this was a bit of a dream come true. About 30 years ago, at 1987, ’88, I was a big fan of the Movieland Wax Museum down in Buena Park. And I said, Boy they really need a Batman and Robin Batcave display as part of their television tributes. So I sketched up a – a rough Batman and Robin Batcave of the Batcomputer, Batmobile, everything idea and send it to them as a pitch saying, I can help you with this, if you want. And I want to make the costumes and I know guys who oen Batmobiles and so forth, but of course they never responded and then the museum went out of business shortly thereafter. So as an idea that I had to do something like this for 30 years, so when the Hollywood Museum came up with the actual idea to do it, but needed the contact to the collectors to actually make it happen I said, Oh yeah, I’ve been – I’ve been trying to do something like this for 30 years. So, I’m with you.
Beth Accomando: Now you are not just a fan, you’ve also gotten to kind of partake in the Batman universe as well. Some people where they can hear you some of these characters.
Wally Wingert: As a voice over actor, I’ve gotten to do a lot of different things, including working with Adam West on the Family Guy TV show. I’ve known Adam since 1980, when he came to visit Sioux Falls, South Dakota and a show called World of Wheels. So I’ve been friends with Adam for about 37 years and he was very complimentary and very encouraging for a young guy and young radio DJ at the time in the Midwest. I was 19 at the time. So, following your dreams and coming out to Hollywood. So eventually get into a radio and then get into voiceover doing characters and I started doing a character called the Riddler for the Batman Arkham Video Games, which was quite a different Riddler from one on the TV show played by, so brilliantly by Frank Gorshin, but I would do occasional nods to him in my performance as this Arkham City Riddler. And then later when I found out that they were going to do animated films based on the old TV series or loosely based, inspired by the original TV series I said, Boy, I really want to be the Riddler, but I want to be that Riddler. I auditioned and got the role in the first film, I was the Riddler and then the second film Batman vs Two-Face, I’ve got to be the Riddler and King Tut. So, it was another – yet another dream come true to be in this with – with Adam West and Burt Ward, Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether and William Shatner, but now in retrospect to be involved in what would become Adam West’s final appearance as Batman was a mix of emotions. It was – it was a weird, weird mix of emotions. I was proud to be involved, but yet sad under the circumstances that it was going to be Adam’s last appearance.
Beth Accomando: What did you tap into for the Riddler? Can you give us a little sample of let people out there hear what your Riddler sounds like?
Wally Wingert: Frank Gorshin had such an amazing energy as that character. He was the first villain in the series and I believe that he very much set the tone for all subsequent villains that would happen throughout the course of the remaining 120 episodes.
Clip: Be still, by dropping heart, my fondest dreams come true. Batman and Robin, Dan, my cup runs over.
Wally Wingert: Frank was in a great impressionist and when I was trying to lock into his Riddler voice because I’ve been listening to it since I was a kid on, not only the episodes, but also from the record album that I had of the soundtrack from the series. So I always loved his – his Riddler voice, but as an impressionist I was always trying to figure out who he was impersonating as the Riddler. Because first I want to lock into that and then I could probably add his other little nuances on top of that. And I never really did figure out who he was impersonating in his Riddler characterization. But Frank had a very unique cadence and the way he would speak you called class. So he wouldn’t just say his lines. He would – there was, as Adam West had with his cadence when he would perform, he had a very specific way of talking. And it would – it gave that character life. And Frank pretty much the same way where he wouldn’t just blow through a line. He would add nuances and pauses and stretch certain words out and a very unique characterization that wasn’t – wasn’t easy to come by, but once I locked into it, I said, yeah, I think that’s – I think that’s pretty much it.
Beth Accomando: You’ve got the laugh down.
Wally Wingert: Thank you. Well, it was – it was really all about the laugh and it was – the last two, a lot of people just think it’s a laugh, but the way Frank would go into a would almost be like a slight cough. You hear that how that happens with this like [cough] going into it. And I said, I said oh that’s – that’s a neat little nuance of – of how he would do that and of course, he would – he would vary it. It would go really high pitch and then he’d go [laughter sounds], so he would go down low and then he go high depending on what was going on in the scene. But he was absolutely brilliant.
Beth Accomando: In putting together the exhibit, it’s really fun for somebody who loves the show because you’ve kind of divided it up into some sections in scene. So, explain kind of how you laid – how you wanted this laid out and how you want to like specific areas.
Wally Wingert: Well, we first, I assembled a really great group of people who not only know the show front words and backwards as well as I do, but also cause play these characters at conventions. And once I assembled the crew, I said, well let’s go up and see the space that we will be given to fill the areas. And I said well, all right, lets lock it would dictate that you have to have the Wayne Manor study. So, Pat Evans immediately said, well, I can make Bat polls, that’s easy. Get some PVC pipes. And I knew we had to have the famous Shakespeare bust with the red Bat phone and we’d have a mannequin there with the Bruce Wayne attire in a mannequin there with Dick Grayson attire. And then we moved on to the next area, which was slightly bigger. And I said, well to be a great Batcave for Batman and Robin both replica Batman and Robin mannequins but also original Batman and Robin mannequins wearing the original costumes that have a friend of mine has in San Francisco that he agreed to loan. So you can compare where you go, what the customs would have originally looked like back in 1965, when a costume designer named Jan Kemp, who is a friend of mine, very brilliant costume designer that just did not get enough credit for his creations on that show. How he would have constructed them back then versus how they look now 52 years later. So we also added a Batgirl. We had a Batcycle, Batmobile, we had an original Batcomputer that was actually on the set back in the day. And then on this much, much bigger area, this is where all the villains will be the Rogue’s gallery of villains the United Underworld, today Gotham City, Tomorrow the world, you know. Of course, also with the villain props that people had made, the dehydrator and we have an original Penguins nest sign from one of the episodes that are collector loaned us. So we – we filled the area pretty well and we have one of the original dresses worn by Ida Lupino as Dr. Cassandra in an episode called the Entrancing Dr. Cassandra. So it’s a pretty colorful set up. Then the museum came in with photos and signage and in monitors and video clips and kind of peppered that around those mannequins as well to really feel the area. We wanted to be really super busy just so overwhelmingly dazzling that you just couldn’t take your eyes off it. And they did a really, really great job. And then I said, well, that as a kid, the toys and collectibles that came out in relation to the show back in the 60s were such an integral part of the success of that show. There were two main companies doing Batman toys that were licensed to Batman toys. Strangely enough none of them were Mattel, which was the big toy company at that time. But there’s a toy company called Ideal that came out with a lot of Batman stuff, puppets, costumes, masks and there was another company called Marx, M A R X which came out with a Batphone and several other plastic-oriented collectibles. So, the other triangular area, we filled with large toys and collectibles, some of the – the larger ones like a ride on Batmobile, where it was – where a kid could actually drive it through the neighborhood. And some other costumes and different things. And then, of course, the small jewelry cabinet was for the smaller toys and collectibles where people would really want to get a close-up view of some of these like Flickr rings that you get out of the one cent gumball machines, some of the little buttons that you would wear this is a charter member of the Batman fan club, that kind of thing.
Beth Accomando: Walking through there, I was reminded I’d completely forgotten about the color forms, those vinyl stickers, I saw that like, Oh my God, I remember those.
Wally Wingert: The color forms is actually from my collection actually so, thank you for noticing that.
Beth Accomando: Oh, yeah, that brought back memories I have to say.
Wally Wingert: Yep.
Beth Accomando: And one of the things I appreciated is that either as a fan or even as somebody who may not know that much about the show, there’s some really fun information that you share through a lot of the signs and stuff that are in the exhibit.
Wally Wingert: Thank you. Yeah, the signage was an extra added feature that I got to do. They said, we needed not only toys collectibles and costumes and props, but we also needed some signage that explained what people were seeing. And I said, well, you’ve come to the right guy. It tickles me to see pictures on line that people have taken on the – at the exhibit. And you can see people in the background actually reading the signs and like yes, they are reading the history behind it or not just going with the eye candy. They are actually learning about how this was created and concocted and the ideas and concepts behind it.
Beth Accomando: Well, it’s fun to get all the fight words in one location to compare and…
Wally Wingert: My favorite is Whack It, when they had like the archer, which was a very medieval kind of a vibe. They put an S on the back of like Whack It, Slam it, Bang it, you know, that’s pretty funny.
Beth Accomando: And I had actually forgotten a couple of the villains when I looked through your lists. So it was fun going through that. I’ve completely forgotten about the Puzzler.
Wally Wingert: Yes, well the Puzzler was an actual Riddler episode that they had wanted to do, but Frank Gorshin was having contract problems with the show. So they changed it to the Puzzler, but if you really look at that episode you can see where it would have been a Riddler episode. I think the only Riddler episode they did in the second season was with John Astin in his one-time only appearance as the Riddler.
Clip: Well, he knows and we know that the caped crusaders are defunct, de-partnered, demise, dead. The ideas of line, what if Batman and Robin are? Alive.
Wally Wingert: Impossible [indiscernible] [00:24:00] and John Astin’s a terrific actor and I love everything he has done. But he just really was not the Riddler. Hard – hard to top that Frank Gorshin performance. So, but Frank actually settled everything and by third season, he had come back as the Riddler for a couple of episodes.
Beth Accomando: And you also have a nice list of the – I believe the Batmobile specifications too for anybody who wants to particularly nerd out about that.
Wally Wingert: Yes, we were lucky enough to get a lot of signage from the Barris family from the George Barris family, who brought in posters and – and specs on the original Batmobile that it was an original Ford Futura because George was on some board of Ford Motor Company and it allowed him access to some of these experimental prototype cars actually allowed him to buy the prototype car for a dollar. Best dollar ever spent. And he turned it into the Batmobile and became the most famous movie in TV car in history.
Beth Accomando: Putting this together, did you have a favorite item that you were able to track down, something outside of your own collection, but it was there something that you were just like, Ah yes, I’m so glad we got that.
Wally Wingert: Well, here’s how things work in the scheme of things. I have a friend name Rob Klein, who’s a collector like myself. He collects all sorts of different things. When they said, “Oh by the way Rob, let me show you what we’re doing”, and they broke out the water colored conceptual sketches for the museum. And I knew that he was a Batman fan as well. And I said, “Yeah, we have this and we’re going to have this area as Wayne Manor, we’re going to have this as the Batcave,” and he says, “Well, you know I have one of the original Batcomputers.” And I said, “What?” He said, “Yeah, I found it rotting in a field somewhere at electronic store.” And I said, “Is this for sale? And if it is how much?” And the guy told him the price and said get it – get a truck over and get it out of here. It sounds like I wanted to get rid of it. It was one of the original console units I think it wasn’t the Batcomputer with the Batscope, the Batscope where it was like the radar, the big circular radar panel that would go around like it was tracking the radar and that he has that. So it was, I said, “Oh my gosh, would you consider loaning it?” He’s like, “Yeah”. So this is terrific, so that was – that was the big surprise and it just made me go, yep, that’s how things work in this business. It was meant to be.
Beth Accomando: How is it curating something at a museum where I mean when you’re dealing with something that’s pop culture related, you have to go to the fans to get the items kind of – because the fans are the ones who sometimes recognize early on that something might be worth keeping. They are the ones who kind of hold on to things and allow you to have kind of this wealth of stuff to dig in to.
Wally Wingert: Well, thankfully, it was due to the insight of a couple of felonious individuals back in the – back in 1968, when the show was canceled. They were shredding a lot of the stuff and just throwing it away. And a few insightful people said, well, this is – this is going to be valuable. I’m going to take this Batman and Robin costume, I’m going to smuggle it out – out of the studio. Well, I’m going to take this piece of equipment and I’m going to smuggle it out of the studio. So it’s only because of those people that that stuff is even still around today. It was because they basically broke the law and stole stuff, but it was in the interest of history and in the long term it’s kind of forgivable. Because a lot of studios like that, we’ve got to get another show in here. This is canceled. Let’s get on stage, let’s carry it all down, through it all the way. Some of it of course was given to western costume for rentals, which really put the wear and tear on the – on the pieces, because you have different size people pulling it on and pulling it off for Halloween and renting it. Other movie companies renting different things. So, it’s – it’s amazing that the stuff that has survived is still around anyway. So we’re happy to have what we can find.
Beth Accomando: And of your own collection of Batman items, what was the thing that kind of you really wanted to make sure it got in the exhibit or a couple of things that you were really excited to show to other people?
Wally Wingert: Well, out of my own personal experience the two things that I really wanted to convey in this exhibit were first of all to recognize finally, after all these years, the incredible work of my friend, Jan Kemp, who we became friends in 1989. Jan was an unassuming British gentleman and I asked him, I said, “Did you keep anything from the show?” And he says, “Oh, no that wouldn’t have been proper.” He didn’t even keep his own drawings, his own conceptual sketches that he did for the costumes because it was the property of the studio. He wouldn’t even, he wouldn’t dream of taking that stuff with him. So unfortunately, he didn’t have anything, but I really wanted him to get the esteem and respect that he deserved. His name was never on the end credits as being the designer of the costumes. And a show so heavily costumed like Batman, it’s really strange that he wasn’t given a credit. But he is now and he’s the focal point of that exhibited at the museum because his name is all over the place there. And I’ve, through a couple of friends and contacts I was actually able to find a couple of photos of him on the set dressing Alan Napier, Alfred, the Butler as Batman when he would have to sub in his Batman when Bruce Wayne and Batman needed to be seen in the same place at the same time.
Clip: Well, Batman, Alfred and bravely too. You were great often you even sound like Batman. Small wonder Master Robin that was my own voice. Robin remember those lessons inventor [indiscernible] [00:29:34]. Gosh, yes, I should have thought of that. Now I don’t blame yourself Robin. And it’s sometimes difficult to think clearly when you’re strapped to a printing press.
Wally Wingert: And also him working on dressing Victor Buono is King Tut. So those like I said he was a very unassuming British gentleman. He didn’t want to have his face out there. He wanted the stars to be the stars. So finding photos of him on the set and at work was a pretty difficult task because they are – because of the scarcity of photos of him on the set. But we did find some through the – through the grace and friendship of some other collectors. I also wanted to exhibit a piece that had been given to me by a guy who worked at the Culver Studios back in the 60s and when Adam West’s bicycle, he had a – he had a roll fast Stingray bicycle. Well, when that bicycle when shows canceled that bicycle had to be reassigned to another actor. So he took off the little hand painted wood name plaque that went between the sissy bar and the, and the lower bar down by the gears. He kept that name plaque that was bolted on Adam West’s bicycle. So he said, “I’m going to give this to you. This is my gift to you.” So I have Adam West’s personal hand painted wood plaque that was on his bicycle that he would ride around the studio lab for three years. So it’s such a rare thing. It wasn’t ever screen used, but just the back story to it is so interesting. I said, yeah, I want to – I want to definitely get this into the – to the exhibit where that sign could talk.
Beth Accomando: What do you think it is about the Batman show and the Batman movie that has given it this longevity that people can come to it decades after it came out and still find it appealing and fall in love with it?
Wally Wingert: The overall thing that makes that show appealing is they didn’t just present to children and they didn’t just present to adults. They wrote it on two separate levels. So the adults would get a joke occasionally and the kids would get the action and the color and the crazy villains and – and all the excitement. But they put just enough in it for the adults to enjoy as well. And there’s very few shows that families can enjoy together.
Clip: Robin, you have a passenger safety back belt. We’re only going in a couple of blocks. It won’t be long until you’re old enough to get a driver’s license, Robin and you’ll be able to drive a Batmobile and other vehicles. Remember motorist safety. Gosh Batman when you put it that way.
Wally Wingert: There was enough in there for kids and there was enough in there for adults and they get all sit down and watch it together, the adults got their jokes, the kids got their action in color and the band piles and lambs and apps and it all worked and that’s why it’s still living to this day, because it’s pretty much the ultimate family friendly television series that everybody can enjoy together and get something out of it in their own unique way.
Beth Accomando: And do you have a favorite episode or villain?
Wally Wingert: I do. It’s probably a true or false face. Holy Rat Race.
Clip: Boys, we are about to double dizzy Batman and Robin until the dexterous dual is duped, declined and diabolically destroyed. I have planned the greatest creation of my cover criminal career. False Face stabbed his disguise damaged on all Gotham City.
Wally Wingert: It was the one time only villain played by Malachi Throne. But just everything in that episode works down to the creepy Halloween mask that the Malachi Throne War is this master of this guy is known as False Face to the way the costumes looked, in the way the acting was, in the way it was shot. And just kind of the darker – semi-darker tone that it took on as opposed to the second season and beyond episodes that got kind of silly. And I love – I love the False Face character, and I was disappointed it, it never came back because we had this great voice that was projecting behind this Halloween mask. And it was like we just never really saw his face because it was hidden behind a series of masks and there was so much mystery created by that character.
Clip: It’s our space in disguised person.
Wally Wingert: And I became friends with Malachi Throne, years later of course, and he’s like, oh, I hate that character and they made me wear that stupid Halloween mask and I wanted to do prosthetics and do all these characters. And I said Malachi that was one of my favorite characters. I love that Halloween mask and the fact that you can see your mouth moving behind the translucent Halloween mask it’s extra, extra creepy and of course, the amazing voice. So then once you realize that the fan following for False Face was – was actually pretty enormous, then he started to kind of embrace it more. And one time it was a proud moment of his life I think when he was at a convention and my friend, Adrian his – his False Face costume as the old lady is actually on display in the museum and Malachi saw the False Face old lady character at a convention. And he leaped up from his table and he ran out on the floor and he grabbed Adrian’s face and gave him a kiss right on the mask. He was so happy that somebody was cast playing him for one.
Beth Accomando: I want to thank you very much for taking some time to talk about the Batman ‘66 exhibit.
Wally Wingert: Thanks, my pleasure, go see it – it’s there through April I believe, and a lot of people complain Oh, it’s nowhere near me and it should come to me. No, no, no. That’s why they create airplanes, that’s why people fly. You fly here to Hollywood. This is where the show is filmed. While you are here, if you really want to you can go up to Bronson Cave and see the actual Batcave. You can drive around and see a lot of the other locations they used during filming Rancho Park, the golf course where they filmed a lot of the Archer Episode. 20th Century Fox, The Culver Studios. It’s all here, so if you want to do a huge Bat tour that you can even take a tour of the Warner Brothers lot and drive by the steps to Commissioner Gordon’s Office. So, it’s all here. Come – come to Hollywood, come to the Hollywood Museum, see the Batman ‘66 Holy Hollywood history, Batman ‘66 retrospective and you will be glad you did.
Beth Accomando: That was voice actor and Batman fan, Wally Wingert. He also guest curated the Batman ‘66 exhibit at the Hollywood Museum. David Glanzer, a spokesperson for Comic-Con International, a mecca for pop culture fans and a place where fans of Batman ‘66 have had opportunities to meet actors and creators from the show. Glanzer recalls how he came to the TV show.
David Glanzer: I don’t remember if I saw first run, I’m sure I didn’t. But I was a huge fan of George Reeves in Superman. I loved superheroes and I happened upon this TV show, which was, I mean, I don’t know. It was like a comic book come to life. Because it was so dynamic. I mean, the colors and the action and the dialogue and the, all of that was just like it was like going to the park, going to the zoo, going to the, to Disneyland or whatever, but on television.
Clip: Tonight, once more. We can all sleep peacefully in our beds, secure in the knowledge that as I assured my small son, Harrold, just 8 years old. Yes, Harold I said there is a Batman and Robin, the boy wonder.
David Glanzer: When I watched the show I can think it was campy. I mean, you look back on it now and there’s certainly camp element and I think that’s a – an element that people really enjoy, but I don’t think I recognized it as such. I recognized it as being a really over the top, fun, exciting, thrilling half hour of television. I mean, it was – it really well, I mean look at the costumes, look at the color. I look at Star Trek, Star Trek with their bright blue and red, there was a lot of color in the late 60s, I guess. And for a little kid that was certainly the attraction, but then to hold my attention from the stories they did good versus evil and even the evil had shades to it. I mean, Eartha Kitt, right, I mean, there’s just so much about it. That’s wonderful. I’m glad that there are young people today who really appreciate it.
Beth Accomando: Well, it seems to have struck the perfect tone in that, everybody in it appeared to be taking everything very seriously. And yet from above that, you could tell that the show wasn’t taking itself seriously. So, it had this perfect kind of you could take it as a kid and totally get sucked into the kind of the believability of what those superheroes were doing and then as an older person, you could look at it and go like oh, they’re kind of doing a little wink.
David Glanzer: It’s the real observation. When I was younger, I did some acting and I really enjoyed acting. And one of the things as an actor you really have to commit to the role you’re playing, whatever that character happens to be, good, bad, whatever. And you’re absolutely right. I think each of those people and they had some really stellar actors on that show, I mean, it’s – it’s amazing to think back on that that the caliber of talent that they had, and not only were those really great actors. They took these roles that would be really a challenge to, I think, anybody, and they committed to it 100% and so as a kid, I think you’re caught up into that. I believe them because they believed in themselves.
Clip: Excellent, I might even go so far I used to say, exclusive.
David Glanzer: I don’t think anybody really realizes when they are working on something whether it’s the Rocky Horror Picture Show, whether it’s Star Wars, whether it’s a Batman, what the longevity of that will be. Is it something that will be successful and the people forget? Is it something that won’t be successful and people will forget? But I think you have to commit to it, and hope that what you are doing resonates at least during the first run. And so I think that the cast, Adam West and the rest, I think they really committed to it, and it shows…
Clip: Chief, how are you up something for all of us? Our only hope is that tower in power for right injustice that Cape Crusader.
David Glanzer: And you know what? To look back on it today, yeah, there is probably a camp element. But there’s – you can still see their commitment to it and I think it worked really well together. It was like magic.
Beth Accomando: I mean, they really turn to like these Hollywood legends like Vincent Price and Ida Lupino and George Sanders, like these amazing people and these are people had like real acting jobs playing these kind of ridiculous characters.
David Glanzer: Well, I wonder about that. If the directors or the creators had like an inside not joke, but an inside feeling that you know what? There are these great talents that are out there that may not be working as much as they used to. We’ve got this show, let’s – let’s see if they’ll come on, and if they do, I mean, it’s a win for everybody. But how amazing that you had like you said Ida Lupino and all these other people who were really incredible talent who – who the television audience may not have remembered and yet here they were on this hit show and, of course, that would be spectacular and they all really were spectacular.
Clip: This is the trickiest weapon you ever got, Batman. My own unpatented Alvino Raygun and it’s the last thing you are about to see.
Beth Accomando: And it also seemed like they cashed in on the fact that they were kind of allowing these people to play against type or play the types of characters that they may not have ever tackled before.
David Glanzer: I’m sure that’s the case and how great is it for his Cesar Romero or for Eartha Kitt or for whoever to be able to really be as big as they could be. It used to, in acting class, the instructors would always say it’s easy to bring somebody down than build them up. And here was these incredibly talented people who were just so over the top and it worked. It really did, and I have to tell you to this day Eartha Kitt, every time I would hear her, I mean when she spoke, she purred right? And even then later on throughout her career and my life watching her I couldn’t help but the background might think of Catwoman. She was – she was just perfect.
Clip: I mean, I thought of pulling a capable job masked meddling would be most perturbing to me.
David Glanzer: Perfect, exactly, exactly.
Beth Accomando: Did you have a favorite villain?
David Glanzer: You know what, I think the – you know what, that’s – that’s a great question, I was going to say the Joker, but the Riddler I think Gorshin was – was incredible. And of all the characters I think – I thought they were all going to say fun in a villainous way. But Gorshin was the only one that was a little scary to me because he just seemed so not right. And a testament to his talent that as a little kid watching those as enthralled and amused and entertained I was by it there was still an edge to it, too, that made me feel a little uncomfortable.
Clip: At last, at last Boy Wonder, Robin, you are a cape crusader both [indiscernible] [00:43:03]
Beth Accomando: And as a kid, were you also attracted to the gadgets and the Batmobile and those kind of elements?
David Glanzer: You just brought in memory that I totally forgot about. I think everybody wanted to have some of these gadgets and it reminds me now that a girl who lived up the street from me had a little Batmobile like a pedal Batmobile and I forgot about this memory. She let me drive it once and I was like it was the best thing in the world. It was fantastic.
Clip: Now you can be Batman. In your very old Batmobile by Marx. Comes completely packaged, no battery needed ever. Just back up to wind the powerful spring motor, that’s the break, early time, Holy [indiscernible] [00:43:48] away you go in your very own Batmobile by Marx.
Beth Accomando: And did you have any favorite episodes from Batman?
David Glanzer: I think you remember a scene with Batman and I want to say it was Julie Newmar, Catwoman, where there was a scene where they almost, I think were going to kiss and I think when I saw it was like what?
Clip: If I would have kissed you, would you think I was a bad girl. But no, no of course, not, Catwoman. Kissing is one of the most natural things in the world. Some people kiss almost every day, I’m told. Well. Come on Batman, the police are here. Boy Blunder, Catwoman. May I take a rain check on that kiss? Certainly Bat any time.
David Glanzer: Even today, I’m transfixed by that, it makes me not want to go watch that episode to see if my memory serves accurately. But that was something that really just stuck out in my mind that you have the epitome of all that’s good and the epitome all that’s bad. And yet there’s this connection and you know what? I think for a kid that was a very adult thing, and it was a fun thing and today I’m smiling thinking about it. I want to watch that episode.
Beth Accomando: That was David Glanzer, spokesperson for Comic-Con International. One artist you can find at Comic-Con every year is Dan Boyce and his work has clearly been influenced by Batman ‘66. He too came to Batman through his love for the George Reeves, Superman TV show.
Dan Boyce: I love that show. I love it so much that off the kitchen, we had – in the house, we had an Ocean Beach was a little doorway, a little room off the driveway that we had our Sparkletts water. So I would put my Superman costume on underneath my clothes and I put my clothes on. And then I’d go out and two men would come on, and it had a little teaser about, and then after the commercial I’d run into that little room and take my clothes off and go watch the episode in Superman. So, I was just really tuned into Superman. And I thought Superman was real because he was on I love Lucy Show and I thought I Love Lucy I just thought TV was real people doing their life. I didn’t know it was a script. So I thought man – Superman must be real because he’s talking to Lucy and Lucy and Ricky, they are real people. So but then they start haven’t Clips for Batman. And like oh I can’t wait you know that it’s going to be so exciting.
Clip: Week after week that Cape Crusader copes with a tricky props of vicious villains. Will the time arrives when the Caped crime fighters come too close to the jaws of death? Fully metronome are wonderful they punched in the player piano rolls. Watch Batman in color on ABC.
Dan Boyce: So Batman ‘66 came on January 12, 1966 and we saw it of course in black-and-white, but oh man that really got me. But the thing that got me the most was the Batmobile. I love the Batmobile and I love the Batcave.
Clip: Kind of Bat [indiscernible] [00:47:17].
Dan Boyce: All the gadgets, I’ve always been a gadget guy, like robots and gadgets, but the Batmobile was great. And then Batman was cool, just his costume and the music and it’s great. But then the cliffhanger, man, it’s going to happen. So then the next night, you watch it and it’s kind of like this Flash Gordon serials where they leave something out, but then the next episode, they show the little Oh, this is how he saved himself, like behind that rock was a trapdoor, that Flash and Dale dived. So, I’m – my most emotional episode was the Mr. Freeze one and I love the George Sanders, Mr. Freeze and I liked how we had a little freeze sections in his layer that he could make the air warm for his thugs and Batman, when he captured him, but he could keep it cold for him.
Clip: Maybe I cold about that, what do you really waiting for Christmas. You forgot to turn on my hot passer. I forgot that you have not the same reverse metabolism as I. There nice warm, 7 to 6 degree temperature from kitchen to table.
Dan Boyce: But I found out later that was too much, special effects cost too much so that’s why later on, they just put the guy in the helmet and he stayed there. So at the end of the first episode, they froze – he froze Batman and Robin. I cried. I cried. I could barely get through school the next day. I thought Batman and Robin were dead. I couldn’t believe it.
Clip: Can no one save our noble pair of human popsicles? Answers tomorrow night same time, same channel.
Dan Boyce: And then so Thursday night comes and they had their Bat garments on, were saved, you know. So that was – that was the most dramatic one. Yeah, it was Bat mania. It was real, it was crazy, and then I sent away for the Berry, no two berry pies the Aurora Batmobile and I got that and I built it and I played without till – I played with that till its destruction. So I always had a strong connection. I just love that show. And then later on, though it got the third season just got kind of silly, but then Yvonne Craig came along and oh, yeah.
Clip: As long as you’re holding classes Penguin perhaps should include Batgirl too. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Batgirl. Bats, I’m surrounded by bats.
Dan Boyce: When I started going with Comic-Con and started doing art and so on my art and I just had a – I love the Batmobile so I had picked up a fan-made book a guy had done about the Batman ‘66 show, it had good drawings of the, all of this equipment, the costumes and the Batmobile. So I use that as a reference and I watch some episodes and get some colors and I made that Batman print, the Batmobile print and then I think – the thing sold like hot cakes. I couldn’t print enough of them. Then I met Scott Sebring and Wally Wingert and Adam Zsolt and they were, Wally Wingert had helped produce the costumes for the return of the Batcave movie and he was really – he worked with Adam West on Family Guy and Scott was Batman cosplayers, ‘66 Batman cosplayer and he had it down perfectly, he had the, Adam West. I would say do the voice and you do Adam West voice and the same stutter or mannerisms, so and Adam I mean, Alex Zsolt, he is a pianist, like a classical pianist, but he wears the Robin costume. He’s – he’s an excellent Robin, so when him and Scott are together they are like the Dynamic Duo. And then I got to have Yvonne Craig who played Batgirl at my table in 2006 too, and knowing what Wally and Scott and I got in contact with her and she was just wonderful.
Beth Accomando: What do you think has given the show its longevity? Because there are fans now who are in their 20s, who obviously weren’t around when the show first came out. But what do you think it is that has made the show last so long as a favorite?
Dan Boyce: I think just the color in the production and they shot everything on a Dutch angle because they were crooked. The Bat guy, is like ah, that’s just diamond that’s just magic and the Batmobile and the dialogue and just the tongue in cheek and the goofiness of it. I mean, I always say it was on two level as the kids we just ate it up because there’s a Batman and as the adults, it’s funny. I mean, it’s funny, the stuff he says, and later, I want to meet Catwoman and just all the, Vincent Price’s Egghead. Everything’s exactly as you expect and it’s just funny. It’s just funny. I think it just has legs because it was done so well. In the first – the first season is the best because it’s based on actual comic scripts. And now and plus now you can watch it anywhere, anytime, MeTV, online. If you buy the Blu-Ray set, you can digitally download it. It’s just, I don’t know it’s just – it get some, it’s just something that’s – that it’s enjoyable, no matter what – how old you are or what you like.
Beth Accomando: And for people who want to check out your art, can they find you online?
Dan Boyce: Yeah, I’m on Instagram. I’m @danielboyce and my Etsy store is www.danboycegraphics.etsy.com. And I’ll be at Comic-Con this year at table G5 at the end of row 900 and Hall B
Beth Accomando: That was artist Dan Boyce, another artist you’ll find a Comic-Con is Batton Lash. He recalls the impact the Batman TV show had on his young life.
Batton Lash: For one day and one day only, in St. Thomas Aquinas, a Catholic School, I was the big man on campus. Of course I was the only one that read comics in those days, so everyone rushed up to me and said, “Did you see Batman last night?” To their credit, they all knew it came from the comics. They were all my age and they were all enjoying it whether they thought it was camp or ridiculous or took it seriously. But then the following day, it was business as usual, and I was at the class shrub.
Beth Accomando: Now part of what the exhibit has is a lot of collectibles, things that people bought his kids or as collectors, Batman skates, Batman puppets. Do you remember it being this kind of phenomena where there was all this kind of merchandise around?
Batton Lash: Yeah, there was a toy store called Christie’s on Avenue N in Brooklyn. And we would go, me and my best friend would go and just ogle all the Batman stuff wishing we could afford Batman helmets, Batman utility belt. The most we could afford is Batman trading cards. So and I think I have a couple here. So and they were only a nickel, so I think the Batman utility belt was something like a whopping 9.99. So, yeah, that was out of our price range. By March, the show premiered in January. By March, everyone suffered from Batmania, especially when Adam West was on the cover of Life magazine. I mean that was maybe the – the high point of Batmania.
Beth Accomando: One of the things that’s fun about going through the exhibit is that it does have a lot of props. And one of the things about Batman was not only did they have props, but they were all exceptionally well labeled in the show as to what they were.
Clip: We use our anti-crime computer in the Batcave, right Robin.
Batton Lash: When you see Batcomputer, you’ll sit back and go, okay, yeah, yeah, yeah because the comics did the same thing, at least in the 50s, but when you had that shark repellent come out of the utility belt, it got a little really ridiculous.
Beth Accomando: Did you enjoy those gadgets as a kid?
Batton Lash: I loved the Battering and I wish I had one and that’s from the comics too. The battering, the smoke bombs, I mean stuff from the, I mean, I’m a comics person first and foremost. So anything from the comics, I have a saying, all roads lead to comics.
Beth Accomando: And tell people about your comic supernatural law?
Batton Lash: Oh, it is beware the creatures of the night. They have lawyers, Wolff & Byrd: Counselors of the Macabre deal in a specialized field of law, the supernatural and the supernaturally afflicted. So who is scarier than Frankenstein? His attorneys.
Beth Accomando: That was Batton Lash, creator of Supernatural Law comics. Adam West passed away last year, but Burt Ward, the actor who created Robin on the TV show is still alive and well, and acting as an ambassador for the show. He recently completed voice work for the Warner Brothers animated film, Batman vs Two-Face featuring the last performance by Adam West as Batman. And with Wally Wingert voicing the Riddler and King Tut. I began my interview with Burt Ward by asking what opening night at the exhibit was like.
Burt Ward: It was fantastic. First of all, the – all of the exhibits from the little things like the actual scripts and all of the details and to the Batmobile into the Batcopter to the, I mean, it is everything, it’s – it’s a recreation of 1966. I mean, it’s there. For example, one of things that’s is fantastic is they had all of the villain’s costumes. Now, as you know over time things age, all right? So but they had – and they were pristine, but still late age. Next to those were new recreation. So that you can see not just the real one that was used but what it look like back in 1966, ’67, ‘68. I mean, it really makes you feel like you are there. And it’s a beautiful exhibit. I mean, thousands of Bat things and just so great with so many villains and villainesses until you really see them in totality, can’t really grasp how spectacular it was. I mean, and would have gigantic thing I mean, 120 episodes. That’s a – that’s a big deal.
Beth Accomando: Were you surprised by anything that some of the fan collectors who contributed stuff, were you surprised by any of the things that they brought to the exhibit?
Burt Ward: Well, I am amazed that anybody would have it. I mean, you just don’t think that so much could be, it’s still maintained. And the collectors, I mean, they – they provide an incredible, I mean, some of them have special rooms, where the filtered air and all of this kind of stuff to maintain this is just fabulous. And there’s so much to see. I mean, it’s one of those things you could be there for three days and still not see everything.
Beth Accomando: Now, a couple of the collectors that I met who were there are young, so they weren’t around when the show first started back in 66.
Burt Ward: Right.
Beth Accomando: What do you think has contributed to the longevity of the show and to its ability to win over new fans decades after it was done?
Burt Ward: Because there was no other show on television like it. You see especially at that time, in 1966, when we came out, if you were watching television and say you were watching a police show or something, they were trying to apprehend some real life villain type things, which we created to look like it’s real life. If you’re watching a medical show, they’re trying to save somebody’s life and everything is so serious and all of this. But here, it comes Batman where you have such color, such unbelievable color that I’ve never seen any television show or movie have the brightness of the colors and the momentum from the – the Batmobile rushing down with the sound effects in the turbine engine and the fire coming out of the back and the Batman theme music and the thousands bats hitting the villains. I mean, this was just like – like total sensory overload. And for kids because it was, we played it very straight, the kids loved the hero worship. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be riding in the Batmobile, climbing walls fighting heinous villains, saving damsels in distress? I mean, it was every kid’s dream. Now for the adult it was the nostalgia of comic books. They grew up reading a two-dimensional comic book on paper and all of a sudden now it’s brought to life. And then there was that third audience, which at the time it was almost impossible for any of the networks to get teenagers and college kids to watch television. Television at that time was just not something that people wanted to watch. These people want to go out and go skiing or boating or jogging or whatever they do. But – but Batman drew them in because we took the stuff that was written and we found ways to give it double meanings and insinuations and all kinds of stuff that these kids, who were so rebellious, in 1966 everybody was rebellious. Even if you’re good kid, you were rebellious. And just this irreverent fun, although we did get a lot of trouble with the censors at the time, but nevertheless it was something for everybody. And that’s what made it so big. So why is it continuing? Well, the people that were children that watched it then are now grown up, they have their own children and they introduce it to their kids. And you know our action was wholesome. There was no blood from the fight scenes. There was nothing that really made you feel somebody was really hurt, even though tables and chairs were broken over people’s heads, people popped up again. I mean, it was just a hoot, so much fun for the whole family.
Beth Accomando: Well it seemed like it nailed the perfect tone because it, while all everybody in it is taking it seriously, the show itself never takes itself too seriously. And that helps it to, I think not feel dated because it feels kind of like it’s clever.
Burt Ward: Yeah, yes, but I will tell you this. My dear friend, Adam West was a master at comedy. You can have comedians who tell jokes, okay, to make people laugh. But that’s not in my mind real comedy. Real comedy is things that are physical and mental that are just amazing ways to look at life and find humor in it. You know what I mean? I mean, Adam, I mean, Adam was just a most wonderful man. We were dear friends for 52 years and you put the two of us together and we wouldn’t even have to say word, and people start laughing. There’s just something about the extreme nature of my character as Robin, full of energy, boyish, wild and crazy, but – but it in an all-American apple pie way. And then you have Batman the stoic. I mean, and Adam was really like that, you see. I mean, for example, he thought of himself like Winston Churchill. I mean, he once said to me that he fully understood what it was like to play Batman. Okay, when he watch Charlton Heston played Moses in the Ten Commandments and part the Red Sea. I mean, oh my gosh, and people say to me well, then wait a minute, that’s very stilted kind of strange way that he – he was Batman. Was he really like that off camera? And the answer is, Yes. He was exactly off camera when he was on camera, which made him hilarious. And yet, he knew everything that was going on. He just had a way of, amazing way of chemically creating this illusion that made every people, everybody was saying if you’re putting me on, I can’t tell if he’s serious or not. And they loved it. People loved it.
Clip: She wears at Harriet, what’s so important about Chopin, all music is important Dick. It’s the universal language. One of our best hopes for the eventual realization of the brotherhood of man. Gosh, Bruce. Yes, you’re right, I’ll practice harder from now on.
Beth Accomando: On the other element that show had to is for the villains, a lot of times you guys turned to actors who are kind of old school Hollywood and had genuine acting chops like Ida Lupino and George Sanders and Vincent Price and that really kind of elevated...
Burt Ward: Absolutely. Every one of these Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, Julie Newmar and then we had some of the very classic, I mean Tallulah Bankhead, George Raft, I mean, these were stars. When I was a kid growing up watching him on television and or in movies and it was just an absolutely, at every one of these actors, I mean, Cesar Romero. Oh my gosh. And these people, these great actors, love doing Batman because it wasn’t the typical acting gig. They could be bigger and badder and grander and everybody loved that about the show. It was just so much bigger than life.
Clip: Hey, you monster, you wouldn’t dare hurt my father. Oh, yes, I would and I will, tell you like about mine, either become my bride or you become an orphan, which is it?
Beth Accomando: And it got to such a point where you had people clamoring to do those cameos when you did the walk up the walls and people….
Burt Ward: They created that because of the demand. Every celebrity actor who had a child was being pounded by their children to get on that show. Oh my gosh, pounded. So what the producers did because there’s only so many villains, 120 episodes, you can’t have more than 120 villains and you’ve got thousands of superstar actors and actresses that wanted to be on our show, so they created this scene where in every show, we’d be walking up the side of the building and the window would open up only about 80 stories tall, so wasn’t too high. Now I’m being facetious, but seriously in the Sammy Davis Jr. would open up, I mean, the great Sammy Davis Jr.
Clip: Hey Batman and Robin, what you guys doing? Just routine crime fighting. Would you like to come inside? I’m rehearsing. Thank you citizen, but our pursuit of justice allows us no diversions. We see. Hey, you guys come and catch my act sometime, I dig yours.
Burt Ward: Or Colonel Klink or Lurch or Don Ho or Betty Weider, all these people that everybody knew and now you know what I mean, they have their moment on Batman, their kids loved it. Everybody – everybody loved it. I mean, Batman, it is so funny because when I meet people – a lot of people are like celebrities. But when you say Batman, there’s a twinkle that gets in people’s eyes, there’s that special smirk that comes across their face because they know we were different than every other television show.
Beth Accomando: And do you remember getting called in to do the show? How did you get cast as Robin?
Burt Ward: Yes, I remember very, exactly, there was a – I would say pretty good amount of competition. There was 1100 young actors interviewed for this role. I remember when the Executive Producer, William Dozier came to me and said, “We decided Burt to pick you and would you like to know why?” I said, “Yes, I would sir.” And he said, “Because in our mind forgetting television, if there really was around it, I mean, real for the real thing, we think you Burt Ward would be it. So, we don’t want you to ‘act’. We really just want you to be yourself and be enthusiastic.”
Beth Accomando: And how was it to play a character that was so iconic and became so popular so fast at that young in age?
Burt Ward: Well, for me, I guess maybe because I had been turned down a thousand times and didn’t have a, I mean, a grudge or a chip on my shoulder. For me, I just, I don’t think I changed at all. I was the same person before and after. And I saw everything in a very sincere kind of healthy life. I’ve never been involved with any kind of drugs or alcohol or smoking. I mean, I’ve always wanted to be aware of my senses. And my wife Tracy, we are married 28 years, incredibly happy. She’s very health oriented and we just – just go out and try to do, a make a good life. And in fact, I like to say, I was the Caped Crusader and now I am the Canine Crusader because as part of what my wife and I do is that we rescue dogs. And anything that I do, I guess I do to the extreme because my wife and I now operate the world’s largest giant breed dog rescue called Gentle Giant. I mean, it’s just something we love to do. And in fact, I would like to add one thing. I have a brand new movie out from Warner Brothers called Batman vs Two-Face and now this is a full length animated feature fabulously done. It does have the voice of Adam West playing Batman, my voice as Robin and portraying Two-Face is none other than William Shatner, who is fabulous in this.
Beth Accomando: And looking at the exhibit when you were there did anything spark any particular memories about an episode or about one of the actors that you worked with?
Burt Ward: Well, one thing that sparked something is when I saw those tights of mine and I started to break out in a rash. No, I mean, I must tell you, man was not built for tights and I used to call them my python pants because they nearly strangled me to death. So, I’ll never forget. For my screen test, I actually screen tested with Adam West, which is really kind of unusual that they told me all you have to go back here and they’ve got these two wards, wardroom men, they’ll help you get dressed. I thought I could get dressed by myself. Oh you don’t understand Burt. You go back there. You’re going to put this thing on you. Will they put this most incredibly horribly uncomfortable costume on me and I remember distinctly I could barely walk. Everything hurts – everything hurts. And I turned to these men and I was stepping out of the dressing room and said it’s a good thing that I’m doing this screen test. It’ll be done in 15 minutes and I’ll never have to wear this costume again. But yet at the same time, I love the show. I loved it. It was so much fun to do. And the people everybody, the crew, everybody had as much fun as Adam and I did. And I loved working with Adam. Oh my gosh, he could make you laugh. He – even in what I look at him in his cape and cowl, I don’t know if you ever noticed. But his eyes were crossed when he had that cowl on and I could hardly keep from laughing every time I looked at him. And the directors would say, “Wait a minute, Adam, Burt stop laughing. You’re going to laugh me out of the business. I got to get this show shot.” But we just laughed and had such a good time and you know something people knew that what we were doing was in a relaxed wonderful fun-loving way as opposed to something that you don’t want to do, you just want to go in and do it, get it done. Oh, no, we love Batman, loved him.
Beth Accomando: What proved to be the greatest challenge in shooting the show?
Burt Ward: The greatest challenge in shooting this show was in a one-word answer, survival. Let me explain. It was incredibly dangerous. Incredibly dangerous. The first four of the six days that I worked in the show, I went to the emergency hospital with either second degree burns, a broken nose, in gas inhalation. Oh, I had never even been in an emergency hospital. For example, day one, the very first shot. They see, Burt, got to get in the Batmobile it is in this Bronson cave now and you’re going to come out, at 55 miles an hour and then you are going to be a fast turn and we are going to see you, up close, so you just go ahead and get in the Batmobile. And so I went and got into the Batmobile, I’m wondering, Jeez what this is going to be. And I looked over and I thought I saw Adam, but it was an act with somebody else dressed in a Batman costume. I said, “Who are you?” He says, “My name is Hugh Be.” I said, “Why are you here?” He says, “Because this is a very dangerous stunt. They don’t want to take a chance of Adam West getting hurt.” I said, “Oh really dangerous?” “Oh, yes. We have to come out at 55 miles an hour. We have to make a sharp turn. I’ve got to make sure the car doesn’t roll over” and he’s telling me this stuff. I said, “Wait a minute. Do I have a stuntman?” He said, “Oh, yeah, you do.” “So what where is he?” He say, “Oh, the last time I saw him he was having coffee with Adam West”. And now I can hear him say, “Okay, roll up the thing. Let’s go.” I say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute.” And the system director came over. He said, “Burt, what’s the problem?” I said, “Man he is telling me that this is a very dangerous shot.” “He said it is.” I said, “Yeah, but he’s telling me I have a stuntman, and he’s over drinking coffee with Adam West.” He says “That’s true.” I said, “Well why isn’t he here sitting in this seat, risking his life instead of me?” He says, “We can’t use him. I said, “What? Why can’t you use him?” “But he doesn’t look like you.” I thought we actually look like, “Why would you hire a stuntman to be my stuntman if he doesn’t look like me?” And I honestly people, a wonderful stuntman, but he looked like [indiscernible] [01:14:38], I mean, not like me. He said, “No, you have a very small mass. We can see your face clearly.” Anyway long story short, I had to do it, came out at 55 miles an hour. They made that sharp turn, but unfortunately unexpectedly my door flew open. And when it flew open, I nearly fell out of the Batmobile. I managed to catch my little finger on the gear shift knob, which pulled my finger out of joint. The door flew and knocked the cameraman off his camera truck, knocked the big arc lamp over, somebody could have been killed by those dead giant arc lamps. Anyway, they rushed over and they picked me up because I was like hanging out of the car and they said, “Oh my gosh, Burt, is something wrong with your hand?” I said, “Yeah.” I looked down, and my little finger was twice the size of what it normally should be. They said, “We got to get you to an emergency hospital.” I said, “Great. Show me where do I go?” And they said, “Oh, we can’t do that now.” I said, “What do you mean? He said, “We got to get to shot.” I said, “Maybe I’m not going to hospital.” “No. We got 80 guys on the crew that costs too much money. That was at 7:30 in the morning. At noon, I left for the hospital. I’ll tell you after the third day at that same hospital with the same doctor, he kept saying to me, “If you think you might be accident prone.” I don’t think I’m accident prone. I think I’m doing a very dangerous show. I didn’t know any better. But I’ll tell you this studio was very smart. You know what they did? After the first week they took out a gigantic life insurance policy on me. And I’ll tell you by the end of the third season, I could swear they were trying to collect on that policy. And so it from cars that were out had to be in a burning car and I was supposed to jump out and just when I started to jump out the car exploded. And all I remember is coming, my face thrown at the ground like incredible speed. Wow. I mean, these are things that I mean, I was tied down on the table. Okay, in the first show that Robert Butler directed and my arms are tied down at my side, the Batman supposed to breakthrough this subway wall with a small charge to rescue me. And they were supposed to build what they call a breakaway set where it’s looks just like the real building. But it’s made with balsa wood so that you know it comes apart easy. But guess what? Whoever built it forgot to build the breakaway set, they built it with two by fours like building a house. And it was no, two weeks or three weeks to rebuild it. They had to have it done right, then. So what does the special effects guys do? They use two half sticks of dynamite and nearly blew the entire sound stage down. And my arms were tied at my side and a two by four came down, hit me on the nose and broke my nose. Back to the emergency hospital. But I’ll tell you one thing I should have been suspect that something could happen because let me tell you, it was 8 o’clock in the morning. I’m tied down on the table and as these special effects guys were walking past me, I could smell liquor on their breath. That’s the bad side.
Beth Accomando: So aside from the accidents that happened, do you have a favorite show that you remember shooting or one of the episodes that you enjoyed working on when you maybe didn’t get injured?
Burt Ward: They are very few. But, no but seriously, I actually, I guess I’m one of these people that are so happy go lucky that even with the injuries I still managed to have fun. You don’t know what I mean? And I love working with all these great stars. Oh my gosh, like Vincent Price. He came on the set and I remember as a child watching him in a movie that just scared me to death. I think it was The Raven or something. And then when I first saw him I had that tingle. You know what I mean? Like fear, and then I realized that he was a really nice man and it was – it was fun to work with him. But it’s amazing how as a child if you watch television or movies, you can be so affected by what you see and it gives you a preconceived idea of what that actor is like in because he wasn’t even with the actor was like, it was like the role that the actor would look.
Beth Accomando: And do you have memories of any of the other guest villains that you worked with?
Burt Ward: Every one of them. I mean, it is like Joan Collins as the Siren and Zsa Zsa Gabor and Cliff Robertson as Shame. And I mean, just so many great actors and actresses. Barbara Rush was Nora Clavicle and she was there at the museum. I mean, this lady is in her 90s and amazingly beautiful and just very sharp mentally. So oh, it was fabulous. This museum of it, I mean, it was like it was so crowded, you could barely move an inch in any direction. There’s so many people there to see the exhibit and to enjoy the memory of recreating the whole – it was creating the Batcave and the Wayne Manor and the villain’s hideout and then they had a whole collectors section. There are always various things collected.
Beth Accomando: And was there much of a difference shooting the TV show versus the movie or did it feel kind of like one continuation?
Burt Ward: Well, the Batman movie we shot in 1966 was, it was – it was a bigger budget. It was more time. It’s much more involved, more special effects. It was, but our characters were our characters. And me and for Adam, it was very easy for us to do those characters. So easy. I think part of the fact that we were so comfortable in doing it that it resonated with the audience.
Beth Accomando: Well, I want to thank you very much for taking some time to speak with me. And I got to go to the exhibit and it was so much fun. I have to say.
Burt Ward: Yeah, and like outside with the Bat signal projected on the – two of them on the, on the building and the way they had lit it up and it was just a fabulous exhibit. And Hollywood Museum is a very special place with so many memories and so many authentic articles from the past. It is like a – like a whole history lesson in motion picture and television make it.
Beth Accomando: I was fortunate enough also too after going to the exhibit my friend knew where the Bronson Caves were, and so we made a little side trip out there and got to see those.
Burt Ward: Oh, that’s great. Yeah, that was – that was really something. It is funny at the time. I felt that I didn’t think too much of it. And yet it’s practically in the opening of just about every show whenever we leave, the Batcave, they use that in, oh my gosh, so famous and here they had speaking a bad at the museum, they had that famous sign that was the original sign. Gotham City, 14 miles. I mean, it was just for me, so wonderful. And I was very touched. People that came there, the celebrities, the press, everybody was so kind. And it was like very touchy-feely, I mean kind of like, we lost Adam, but we still have you. And we want you to know how much all of us grew up loving Batman and how much it means to us. I was very touched. I was very, very touched by that.
Beth Accomando: Well, I was 6 years old when the show came on and I immediately fell in love with it. And I remember seeing that Batman theme all the time.
Burt Ward: Yeah, well, it just shows you have excellent taste.
Beth Accomando: Well, thank you.
Burt Ward: Yes, I mean, the music. Everything. It all worked together in a way that it just became magical. And children, I mean from all over the world. I don’t know if you know this that we got a 55 share on opening night. That meant in North America, which includes not just the United States, but Canada and Mexico that 55% of all the televisions that were turned on at that time were watching Batman. And all the other local syndicated stations, national stations, all the others were sharing 45%. And how this translates is – is this was bigger than Super Bowl on opening night. 400 million people worldwide watch Batman. I was there too. I was home watching on the TV. I had not seen it put together. Remember as an actor, you just do little tiny pieces, 30 seconds at a time. And I didn’t know about the music. I didn’t know about the colors and – and the thousands of gaps and the sound effects and the, I mean, everybody that was involved whether you were the person doing the sound effects, or you were the person doing the optical gaps and powers or you were the person writing the music performed. Everybody got into it. And everybody did their best and it just like just took off like a rocket.
Beth Accomando: After seeing the first finished episode where you got to see all those elements combined, did it change the way you were playing the character? Did you feel like more a sense of how your performance was going to play in kind of the bigger picture of the series?
Burt Ward: Well, it didn’t change how I portrayed Robin. But it did give me a complete enlightenment of how it fit into my performance and Adam’s performance in the totality of the show. And it just, if anything, made Adam and I love the show more and realize how – what we did and the nature of the double meaning and the campy style, it was very true that just by the actors, but by the directors, by the wardrobe people, I mean, everybody got it. You know what I mean? Everybody did their best. And it just was fantastic. I don’t know if – if ever, there will be another show like it. Really. Although I will tell you our new Batman movie that animated is not only got the very feel of what we did back in 1966. But it’s updated to include references to the movies, which are a little darker and it combines it in a way that is very up-to-date. I was very, very impressed in people, the reviews have been just spectacular. And this is now out on DVD and Blu-Ray and it’s a Batman vs Two-Face. So your viewers really see what a great entertainment that’s very current and go and pick up a copy and have a lot of fun.
Beth Accomando: All right, well, thank you very much.
Burt Ward: Thank you, citizen to the Batmobile.
Beth Accomando: Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed to Batman ‘66 before it leaves. And if you want to extend the tour, check out Bronson Caves, just a few miles away. It’s the location for the Batcave and you can get your geek on walking through.
Clip: Hold on. I’m going into Batcave.
Beth Accomando: Check out the podcast page at kpbs.org/junkiepodcast for video of the exhibit and Bronson Caves.
Coming up on Cinema Junkie will be a podcast featuring two of this year’s Oscar nominated film editors from I, Tonya and Baby Driver.
Male Speaker: When it added that does the work nobody noticed and nobody should notice because like I said via the editing is that element which, which can’t even visibly string for those altogether.
Beth Accomando: Plus the editor of Get Out. If you want to learn about the craft of editing or how to watch a film to appreciate good editing then these editors will enlighten you with amazing insights.
So till our next film fix, I’m Beth Accomando, your resident Cinema Junkie.
Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place