WALLA WALLA - Walla Walla native and Whitman College graduate Adam West, first made famous for his role as Batman in the seminal TV series of the same name, is receiving a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Thursday.
West was nominated for the honor in 2011 after a fan group, Starring Adam West, raised the requisite $30,000 for the fee.
For West, now 82, it was a validation. Not of his stardom, but of the love his fan base has for him.
"I think you've got to let your fan base know you appreciate them," West said when contacted at home in Palm Springs, Calif. "When the fans get together and there's that kind of grassroots movement, it's an endorsement of my work over the years that they would actually pay for my star."
Although West will always be known as Batman after the original show went into international syndication following its end in 1968, he is slowly but surely becoming known for a new role - himself.
Or rather, an exaggerated version of himself: Mayor Adam West of the television series "Family Guy." It's a role West enjoys.
"I think the absurdity and the social commentary that comes out of it no one is safe," West said when asked what he enjoyed about ‘Family Guy.' "When people get too self-important or righteous, the show has a way of skewering them. Its fun for me because I like playing the theater of the absurd, it's harder than straight drama."
Born in Seattle in 1928 as William West Anderson, West moved with his family shortly thereafter to Walla Walla, where he lived until he was 14. It was here, he said, he first became interested in Hollywood and show business.
"... They used to put us in the Roxy Theatre to watch the cowboy movies and the serials on Saturday morning, and I said, ‘Maybe I should check that out.' Sometimes I think, ‘Now why the hell didn't I just stay home?' There's so much value to be mined in whatever you do if you keep the right attitude."
After his mother, Audrey Speer, divorced his father, Otto Anderson, when he was 14, he moved to Seattle where he attended Lakeside Academy.
"It was a boys' school at that time," West said. "They didn't know what to do with me at the time. "They said, ‘This will straighten him up, no more drinking beer in the back of a pickup.'"
West returned to Walla Walla, where he attended Whitman College and majored in English literature, with designs on theatrical drama. He attended Stanford for graduate school, but lasted only six weeks before dropping out to work at a radio station in Sacramento.
West was fired from the radio station and drafted into the Army the same day, he said. After his discharge, West ended up back in Walla Walla working on his father's ranch and for canneries in Dayton and Waitsburg.
From there he moved to Hawaii, then Hollywood, and ended up as Batman in 1966. It is a role he enjoyed, but one he has spent a career in the shadow of.
"Batman has been around for re-runs for 40 years," West said. "People still think I do it, that I'm still out there fighting crime 24-7."
After leaving "Batman", West spent years doing low-budget movies and public appearances, sometimes even as Batman, as well as acting in the theater. Sometimes, he said, even being launched out of cannons at carnivals.
Since then, West has been credited in more than 180 different works, from "Chicken Little," a children's movie, to "Sexina: Popstar P.I."
He found joy and success in voice acting, even voicing several cartoon versions of Batman, and is now almost as well known as Mayor Adam West.
"Its amost 50-50," West said of his notoriety. "Fortunately, I have every age now. In airports they come up and say, ‘Hey it's Mayor West.'"
West now splits his time between his home in Palm Springs and one in Ketchum, Idaho, but said Walla Walla played a large part in who he is.
"I grew up in Walla Walla on a ranch - and that was before it became a vineyard and so on," West deadpanned. "We had wheat and peas and convicts. It was a great place to grow up.
"My dad, the farm life and all that; it gave me a sense of grounding," West continued. "Once you start believing your own clippings, forget it. This is one of the reasons I go out and do my signings and things. There are a lot of younger people in this business that don't realize, if they don't do that (speaking with fans, etc.), their career lasts 10 minutes.
"Mine has gone for 50 years."
Ben Wentz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8315.