San Diego Comic-Con Batman ’66 Press Conference
A lively round of questioning came out of the ‘Batman ’66’ press conference with stars Adam West, Burt Ward and Julie Newmar. We even got to witness some unexpected fireworks from the show’s titular actor.
Heading into the Batman ’66 press conference during the first full day of Comic-Con was a bit eerie.
An elevated stage hosted four bodies — left to right were Burt Ward, Adam West, Julie Newmar all sitting at a table and the conference moderator standing behind a podium. The four of them watched as the media filed in and found seats; it was as if we were on display. The room was uncharacteristically quiet. You couldn’t help but have the feeling of being marched into a room with adults staring you down with laser eyes, sizing you up to consider what sort of punishment to dole out.
The moderator — who never introduced himself, something I absolutely despise — informed everyone why we were there (the Blu-ray release of Batman: The Complete Television Series) and began fumbling with questions for the three personalities but quickly decided it was better to simply let the audience get things underway.
Ward, West and Newmar took on characteristics they wore consistently throughout the hour. Burt Ward was the most serious and articulate of the trio, when he wasn’t crochety Adam West worked the crowd for laughs — continually pumping the coming release of the new Blu-ray set in November — and an air of uncertainty hung in the room whenever Julie Newmar commented in a semi-seductive whisper each time her turn came up.
Far and away, Burt Ward was the most informative of the group in between gushing appreciation for his fellow actors and speaking of his genuine friendship for West.
Ward regaled the crowd with several tales of daring-do while on the Batman set. Most interestingly was his story of being suspended upside down while live tigers paced and growled beneath him in one episode. He’d talked to the animals’ trainers, getting a feel for the cats and discovering (much to his dismay) they were quite capable of leaping at the level he was suspended to take a swipe at him. Since the massive cats were rather lethargic that particular day and to get them to pace and appear more active, hunks of meat were hung above Ward’s head. Ironically, the crew filmed from above him in protective cages.
Ward also told of his time on the set without any insurance to his name. Once the bumps and bruises began making their appearances and performance dangers reared their heads, it was the order of the day to get covered, he remarked.
This particular press room was set up conference style with the participants behind their table fielding questions flung out from the media below them. You can well imagine there are some interesting things that get asked. As well, there are also some pretty stupid ones tossed into the mix, some of which can raise the ire of the person being questioned.
One such instance came when Adam West was asked what he thought was so special about the Batman he played, not to mention the show itself, especially in light of all other Batman films which came after it.
Now, it wasn’t so much the question was dumb in and of itself. Far from it. But West took exception to the mention of the other films. His demeanor immediately became cranky — he not only bristled but practically bared his teeth at the question. Not pleased with it, you could see him conjure up vitriol with which to pepper his response:
“Look: You guys are going to write whatever the hell you’re going to write about the show. I don’t give a crap about the other Batmans. We did what we wanted to do … the Batman we wanted to do. We are the luckiest actors in the world with the legacy we’ve left. And you wouldn’t be here right now if what we did wasn’t special. You figure it out.”
I swear I heard a *hrmph* as he sat back in his chair. Mind your Ps and Qs when you’re asking something of West. That hush that hung in the air when we first came into the room, just prior to the conference beginning? Same quietude here but on an entirely different, very uncomfortable level. You could taste the tang of it in the room.
To be fair, the man has heard every question in the book hundreds of times over in interview after interview, at convention after convention. And, at 85 years of age, you can’t really fault him for the occasional bout of grouchiness. He’s earned it.
Removing the tension from the air suddenly became Burt Ward’s job. He smoothed things over by offering his take on why Batman is still revered today: “It was the happiness the show brought to the kids. The positive outlook and situations. And the innuendo thrown in for adults. The show appealed to every aspect across the board. That’s why it was so popular … and why it continues to be popular.”
Huh. It’s not Batman but Robin, this time, who saves the day.
Julie Newmar? Let’s just say she was the sometimes head-scratching wild card thrown in to keep everyone on their toes. Ms. Newmar is flaunting her 80th year in grand fashion. She looks great, she’s engaging and damned if she still doesn’t have curves going on. But you never know what’s going to come gushing out that snow-maned head of hers. It could be something seductive, perhaps an unexpected revelation or something completely frivolous and meaningless. No matter — she was entertaining to the last.
Asked about her Catwoman outfit, she purred: “It was licorice melted over me,” something she seemed quite proud of. She told the room she loved the sauciness and sexiness of the character and didn’t hold back mention of her conscious effort to make chemistry work between she and West, believing it came through wonderfully and to the delight of the audience. Of the celebrities on the show she worked with, special mention was called out to Burgess Meredith (“The Penguin was the role of his life, he told me”), Tallulah Bankhead’s final role (as Black Widow: “She didn’t get why the producers did what the did on they show”) and how Frank Sinatra was interested in taking on the role of The Joker at one point. At times some of Ms. Newmar’s answers came back just as campily as the television show — I don’t know if she intended them to come across that way but they did. It gave her an air of loopiness. For good or bad? I just don’t know.
One of the most comical moments of the conference came with a question to Burt Ward: “What was your favorite or most memorable ‘Holy (whatever), Batman!’ moment in the show?”
Ward struggled with the question a bit: “I never really had one. There were so many …”
But West and Newmar weren’t going to let him off so easily. With the smoothness of a comedy duo who’s been working for years, the responses came rapid fire:
- “Holy Underwear!” Newmar quipped.
- “Holy Guacamole!” West countered.
- “Holy Bill Of Rights!” Newmar came right back.
- “Holy Infatuation!” West gushed. “See? We’re your biggest admirers, Burt …”
The room loved it. If ever there was a question of the Batman legacy being remembered (and, for the record, there’s never been a question in my mind), it was quashed with that exchange.
Batman: The Complete Television Series will be released on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD November 11th and is currently available for pre-order.