From the start of 1966 to the late spring of 1967 (if not longer), a period coinciding with the run of the groovy Batman TV show we all know and love, one of the hottest nightclubs in the Bay Area was a Batman-themed joint called Wayne Manor in Sunnyvale. According to the Chicken on a Unicycle website (love the name), “The club was decorated like the Bat Cave, and dancers were dressed like Bat Girl or Catwoman.” LIFE Magazine mentioned Wayne Manor in its March 11, 1966 cover story on the Batman-mania sweeping the nation.
The owner of the club was named Joe Lewis, and after attempting to run the nightclub as a South Bay branch of LA’s Whiskey à Go Go, took the advice of his 11-year-old son Garth—an addict of the DC comic books—and went with the Batman theme for the venue. Some have presented the two events as a mere lucky coincidence for Lewis, but I’m skeptical—the Batman series debuted on January 11, 1966, and the music listings on the Chicken on a Unicycle website go back only as far as February 1966—smells like good old-fashioned opportunism to me.
The (Fremont) Argus, Feb. 16, 1966
Musical acts would usually book for an entire week at a time. The roster of performers included such notable musical acts as The Music Machine (who played there in Oct. 1966), Dobie Gray (Dec. 1966), and—this will blow your mind—Sly and the Family Stone (a week covering the end of March and the start of April 1967 and virtually every day in May 1967).
Chicken on a Unicycle has an exhaustive collection of ephemera about the club, although most of the images are frustratingly small. However, it’s still very valuable in persuading people (me, for instance) that this actually happened.
There isn’t any video of Wayne Manor on YouTube (why would there be?), so instead we offer you all 14 window cameos from the original TV series:
Firefighters were surprised to find they were beaten to the scene of a fire in Milton, West Virginia, on Saturday, by Batman and Captain America.
Dressed in their iconic costumes, the two superheroes were making quick work of rescuing a cat trapped in the house by the fire.
Batman and Captain America gave their secret identities as John Buckland and Troy Marcum, two local men who had been dressed in costume for an event at the nearby American Legion Post, where they had been teaching children “positive lessons.”
When Captain America and Batman saw the smoke billowing from the house, they quit the class, and ran straight towards the burning house, in a bid to rescue anyone inside.
Buckland had been a firefighter, before starting his Hero 4 Higher business, had also worked as a firefighter when stationed in Iraq.
The dynamic duo burst open the front door (KA-POW!!). Entered the building (RRRIIFF!!). Smashed open a window (CRASSSH!!!). Realized no-one was home (“What the…!?!”). Then Batman “grabbed something furry” (THHHWWWPPPTT!!). Before the two heroes made their speedy exit (WHOOOOSSSHHH!!).
The bundle of fur turned out to be the household’s cat, which Batman resuscitated on the grass outside. Having been saved from a near cat-astrophe, the fiery feline could only hiss at the superhero saviors.
This song, believe it or not, is actually a collaboration between Burt Ward, better known as “Robin” on the 60s Batman TV series, and Frank Zappa. Long circulated on variously titled bootlegs, “The Boy Wonder Sessions” were recorded in 1966 with Mothers of Invention (and Velvet Underground) producer Tom Wilson at the mixing desk. Mothers Jimmy Carl Black, Elliot Ingber and Roy Estrada are present, however Zappa doesn’t actually play on these sessions, although he arranged and wrote most of the material recorded. Note the bit that sounds like Zappa’s later “Duke of Prunes” composition near the end.
From Burt Ward’s autobiography, Boy Wonder, My Life In Tights:
I should have had the wisdom I now have when I signed a recording contract with MGM Records- I wouldn’t have signed it. MGM staffer Tom Scott [I think he means WIlson] was assigned as my producer. He brought in one of the visually wildest groups imaginable as my backup band, the Mothers of Invention. What a sight! Neanderthal. They had incredibly long, scraggly hair, and clothes that appeared not to have been washed in this century if ever. These were musicians who became famous for tearing up furniture, their speakers, their microphones and even their expensive guitars onstage. They were maniacs!
Of all the people in the world to team with this wild and crazy bunch, I can’t believe I was the one. The image of the Boy Wonder is all American and apple pie, while the image of the Mothers of Invention was so revolutionary that they made the Hell’s Angels look like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Even I had to laugh seeing a photo of myself with those animals.
Their fearless leader and king of grubbiness was the late Frank Zappa. (The full name of the band was Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.) After recording with me, Frank became an internationally recognized cult superstar, which was understandable; after working with me, the only place Frank could go was up.
Although he looked like the others, Frank had an intelligence and education that elevated him beyond brilliance to sheer genius. I spent a considerable amount of time talking with him, and his rough, abrupt exterior concealed an intellectual, creative and sensitive interior.
For my records, the plan was to record four sides and then release two singles prior to producing an album. After listening to me sing, Frank got a wild idea to make use of my hideous voice to do a hilarious recording with a song that had some of the Batman feel to it. He picked “Orange Colored Sky.”
I can’t bear to think of this song. The memories are too embarrassing. Though the intent was to create comedy by putting my lousy singing to good use, the actual result was so disastrous that the studio thought the tape had been left out in the sun and warped. They insisted on re-recording.
But first, MGM took a radical step as an insurance policy that my next session would sound better. They sent me to an expensive vocal coach—and no doubt hoped for divine intervention. Back in 1966 they were shelling out about $1,000 a week for those lessons. That was a lot of money, more than three times what I was bringing home after working twelve hours per day in my monkey suit for an entire week. With the coach raking in that much, even I am surprised that after two weeks of training, the lady politely asked me not to come back. I’m not sure if she felt that having me as a student was damaging to her career or if listening to me sing was destroying her eardrums, or both.
In an attempt at self-preservation, the record company had me just talk on the second two sides I recorded. That I could do very well! The material for the song was a group of fan letters that had been sent to me. Frank and I edited them together to make one letter, which became the lyrics for the recording. Frank wrote a melody and an arrangement, and we titled the song, “Boy Wonder, I Love You!”
Among the lyrics was an invitation for me to come and visit an adoring pubescent fan and stay with her for the entire summer. She wrote, “I will even fix you breakfast in bed. I love you so much that I want you to stay the whole summer with me!” The lyrics ended with “I hope you know that this is a girl writing.”
Mr Morrison said that Batman was “very plutonian in the sense that he’s wealthy and also in the sense that he’s sexually deviant.
“Gayness is built into Batman,” he said, adding, “I’m not using gay in the pejorative sense, but Batman is very, very gay. There’s just no denying it. Obviously as a fictional character he’s intended to be heterosexual, but the basis of the whole concept is utterly gay.”
The writer also said that this very “gayness” was responsible for the near-universal appeal of the character. “I think that’s why people like it,” he said. “All these women fancy him and they all wear fetish clothes and jump around rooftops to get to him. He doesn’t care — he’s more interested in hanging out with the old guy and the kid.”
On Batman’s nemesis, the Joker, he said: “He’s Batman’s perfect opposite, and because of that he’s as sexy as Batman, if not more so… I quite like him, because he’s a pop star—he’s like Bowie.”
Holy vocal chords! Batman sings! Adam West gets all matey on the poop deck while charming (shurely hams? - ed.) his way through “This Is The LIfe”, from The Milton Berle Show. But first pop fiends Mr. West gives his rendition (shurely torture? - ed.) of a darling little heartfelt ditty “You Only See Her” found on the wonderful site Lord of the Boot Sale.
Legends Of The Super Heroes was the name given to two Hanna-Barbera-produced live action TV specials from the late 1970s. Batman’s Adam West and Burt Ward once again donned their capes and cowls (which fit a bit tighter by that time) for these atrocities which were about on the same level as Donny & Marie and featured a laugh track.
In the second special, “The Roast,” Ed McMahon served as the master of ceremonies while various lame insults are leveled at the chuckling, good-natured Super Friends.
In this clip, uh… “Ghetto Man,” an inner-city super hero tries to bring the funny and fails miserably.