Adam West was born William West Anderson on September 19, 1928 in Walla Walla, Washington, to parents Otto West Anderson, a farmer, and his wife Audrey V. (Speer), an opera singer. At age 10, Adam had a cache of comic books, and “Batman” made a big impression on him–the comic hero was part bat-man (a la Count Dracula) and part world’s greatest detective (a la Charlie Chan and Sherlock Holmes). When his mother remarried to a Dr. Paul Flothow, she took Adam and his younger brother, John, to Seattle. At age 14, Adam attended Lakeside School, then went to Whitman College, where he got a degree in literature and psychology. During his last year of college, he also married 17-year-old Billie Lou Yeager.
Adam got a job as a disc jockey at a local radio station, then enrolled at Stanford for post-grad courses. Drafted into the army, he spent the next two years starting military television stations, first at San Luis Obispo, California, then at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Afterwards, Adam and his wife toured Europe, visiting Germany, Switzerland and Italy’s Isle of Capri. When the money ran out, he joined a childhood and college buddy, Carl Hebenstreit, who was starring in the kiddie program “The Kini Popo Show” in Hawaii. Adam would eventually replace Carl but not the other star, Peaches the Chimp. In 1956, he got a divorce and married a beautiful girl, originally from Tahiti, named Ngatokoruaimatauaia Frisbie Dawson (he called her “Nga” for short). They had a daughter, Jonelle, (born 1957) and a son, Hunter, (born 1958). In 1959, Adam came to Hollywood. He adopted the stage name “Adam West”, which fit his roles, as he was in some westerns.
After seven years in Tinseltown, he achieved fame in his signature role as Bruce Wayne / Batman, on the wildly popular ABC-TV series Batman (1966) (though he has over 60 movie and over 80 television guest appearance credits, “Batman” is what the fans remember him for). The series, which lasted three seasons, made him not just nationally but internationally famous. The movie version, Batman (1966), earned Adam the “Most Promising New Star” award in 1967. The downside was that the “Batman” fame was partly responsible for ruining his marriage, and he was typecast and almost unemployable for a while after the series ended (he did nothing but personal appearances for two years).
In 1970, he met and then married Marcelle Tagand Lear, and picked up two stepchildren, Moya and Jill. In addition, they had two children of their own: Nina West in 1976 and Perrin in 1979. You can’t keep a good actor down — Adam’s career took off again, and he appeared in 50 projects after that: movies, television movies and sometimes doing voices on television series. Adam wrote his autobiography “Back to the Batcave” (1994). One of his most prized possessions was a drawing of Batman by Bob Kane with the inscription “To my buddy, Adam, who breathed life into my pen and ink creation”. Beginning in 2000, West made guest appearances on the animated series Family Guy (1999), on which he played Mayor Adam West, the lunatic mayor of Quahog, Rhode Island.
On June 9, 2017, Adam West died at age 88 after a brief battle with leukemia in Los Angeles, California. On June 15, 2017, Los Angeles shone the Bat-Signal on City Hall, and Walla Walla shone the bat-signal on the Whitman Tower, both as a tribute to West.
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