If nothing else, the daffy goings-on the show presented are probably the truest filmic approximation of what a superhero comic book would actually be like if we lived in that world for real. And Adam West’s mock-earnest portrayal of Bruce Wayne and his caped alter ego is up there in classic Shatner territory, for sure, for its understated in-costume masculinity.
This week the show celebrated its 50th anniversary, to surprisingly little fanfare (the first show aired on January 12, 1966).
One cute gag the show never stopped doing, similar to the endless “POWWWW!” cutaway graphics during the show’s many groovy brawls and punch-ups, was to affix a standard ALLCAPS label to all sorts of items that would never bear one in the actual world, prompting the inevitable thought, “Who on earth would put those there? And why??” Most of the names strike the same sort of tone as Adam West’s line readings, so you get an “ANTI-CRIME VOICE ANALYZER,” a “BAT SUPER ROCKET,” a “TRANSISTORIZED SHORT WAVE RADIO BAT RECEIVER,” and so on, with a perfectly straight face.
An intrepid Tumblr known as A COLLECTION OF BAT LABELS has dedicated itself to the task of “collecting the explanatory labels on everything in the 1966-1968 Batman TV series,” and a wonderful Tumblr it is indeed. As the website demonstrates, the show had a refreshing lack of rigor about what got a label and what the precise phrasing would be, they just slapped them anywhere they felt like.
Legends Of The SuperHeroes 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 lowbrow atrocities which were about on the same level as Donny & Marie and featured an obvious laugh track.
In the second special, “The Roast,” Ed McMahon himself served as the master of ceremonies while various lame insults were leveled at the chuckling, good-natured costumed do-gooders.
In this clip, uh… “Ghetto Man,” an, er… “inner-city,” “urban” superhero (who has the most shit super hero costume ever) tries to bring the funny and (for the most part) fails miserably. I did like the joke about how all superheroes look the same to him, though.
Not much on the Internet makes me say the words “holy shit” anymore. But no other words really came to mind after I saw this big-ten-inch (10.2 inches to be exact) ceramic dildo, with the face of comic book, television, and film hero Batman, on the grip.
“Batman” ceramic dildo
An Etser located in Poland that operates under the moniker Small Town Planet, has been making these strange “toys” since 2014, and there are several versions of this caped crusader sex toy for sale in Small Town’s store. In addition to “Batman”, there are also a few other bizarre dildos including one of an entirely too content-looking Satan sticking his tongue out (his ears have been replaced with two penises for reasons I can’t explain) and several that have been molded onto a ceramic revolvers (the revolver part being the grip) because, well, I don’t know why.
White ceramic “Batman” dildo is having none of this
In 1966, an unremarkable-seeming children’s album called Batman and Robin was released, by an insignificant label called Tifton Records, to cash in on the very popular Adam West Batman TV series. Apart from the remake of the TV show’s theme, the album was mostly instrumental, and had nothing in particular to do with Batman, but it remains an item of interest because of who played on it. While it was credited to “The Sensational Guitars of DAN & DALE,” the actual studio band was made up of members of Al Kooper’s Blues Project and Sun Ra’s Arkestra! Organs on the Batman and Robin album are played by Ra, saxes are performed by Arkestra stalwarts Marshall Allen and John Gilmore, and guitars are played by the Blues Project’s legendary Steve Katz and Danny Kalb. (Kalb is the only “Dan” present; there is no one named Dale in the credits as far as I can find. It should be mentioned that there are a tonofcrappyalbums credited to Dan & Dale on the Diplomat label, and I can’t imagine there’s any way that the Arkestra and Blues Project played on them. That’s a junkyard rabbit-hole for another day, though.) The album—and again, this was marketed to children to cash in on a goofy TV show—is accordingly badass, full of satisfying soul riffs and fiery surf-guitar leads. It also nods to classical music and the Beatles. Per Bruce Eder’s deeply-researched Allmusic overview:
No, Batman and Robin doesn’t match the importance of the Blues Project’s own official recordings, or anything that Sun Ra was doing officially, but what a chance to hear these guys kicking back for a half-hour’s anonymous blues jamming. Everything here, apart from the Neal Hefti “Batman Theme” is public domain blues built on some familiar material (including Chopin, Tchaikovsky, and Bach), one cut, appropriately entitled “The Riddler’s Retreat,” quotes riffs and phrases from a half-dozen Beatles songs, and another, “The Bat Cave,” that’s this group’s answer to “Green Onions” (and a good answer, too). Along with Sun Ra, who dominates every passage he plays on, Steve Katz and Danny Kalb are the stars here, romping and stomping over everything as they weave around each other, while Gilmore, Allen, and Owens occasionally stepping to the fore, Blumenfeld makes his percussion sound downright tuneful in a few spots, and some anonymous female singers throw out a lyric or two on a pair of cuts, just as a distraction.
As Eder pointed out, the female singer on the following two tracks is uncredited. Whoever she is, good GOD, she deserves her accolades, especially for the blowout performance on “Robin’s Theme!”
In a two episode story arc from the classic 1960s Batman TV series, Catwoman and her protégé Pussycat drugged Batman and Robin in order to compel them to become criminals. Robin got a little fresh, too, incidentally. But in the end SPOILER FROM ALMOST 50 YEARS AGO it turns out that all along, Batman was faking being drugged so that he could infiltrate Catwoman’s crime organization and rescue Robin. Cheeky devil! You can clearly see why that needed to be two episodes.
Of course it’s pretty stupid, but nobody watches that show for award-winning teleplays, we watch it because nobody sane hates huge, goofy, colorful fun. POW! And we watch these two episodes in particular because Pussycat was played by pop icon Lesley Gore, who gets to perform a song in each episode, and nobody sane hates awesome, sugary, ‘60s female vocal pop. You don’t hate that, right? If you do, Jeeeeesus, how many puppies have you kicked today, fascist?
When these episodes aired, Gore was still only 20 years old, but was already a veteran pop star, famous for still-familiar hits like “It’s My Party,” “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” and the awesome “You Don’t Own Me.” Gore never left the music business, though she stopped regularly producing LPs in the mid ‘70s. She earned an Oscar nomination in 1980 for co-writing (but not singing) a song from the Fame soundtrack, and she made headlines in 2005, when her coming out as a lesbian more or less coincided with her song “Words We Don’t Say” being featured in an episode of The L Word. Amusingly, her super-chipper 1965 top-20 hit “Sunshine, Lollipops And Rainbows” has lately found a 21st Century afterlife, being featured in multiple commercials, and in the kiddie flick Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. On Batman, she’s seen performing music from her then-forthcoming LP California Nights, “Maybe Now,” and the title song, which would enter the top 20 within a couple months of the episode’s broadcast.
Everyone has seen the famous photos of Nico and Andy Warhol dressed as Batman and Robin, and Warhol’s silkscreen of the Batman logo, but evidently the writers for (arguably) the most “pop art” TV show in history were also very well aware of the Pope of Pop’s movements.
In an episode called “Pop Goes the Joker,” a rich society girl by the name of “Baby Jane Towser” is preyed upon by The Joker who has inadvertently become an acclaimed Warhol-esque pop artist after defacing some art ala Marcel Duchamp. “Baby Jane Towser” is duped to lure in millionaire patrons to buy the Jokers art.
Obvious to anyone at the time, the rich girl character was based on one-time fashion model, “It Girl,” Warhol superstar and wealthy young Park Avenue housewife, “Baby” Jane Holzer. Holzer was famously photographed by David Bailey, she made the cover of Vogue and appeared in a handful of Warhol’s early films, such as Couch, Soap Opera and a silent “screen test” where she coyly brushed her teeth for his camera.
“The show hasn’t even started yet, the Rolling Stones aren’t even on stage… Girls are reeling this way and that way in the aisle and through their huge black decal eyes… they keep staring at - her - Baby Jane - on the aisle… Baby Jane, is a fabulous girl. She comprehends what the Rolling Stones mean. Any columnist in New York could tell them who she is… a celebrity of New York’s new era of Wog Hip… Baby Jane Holzer, Jane Holzer in Vogue, Jane Holzer in Life, Jane Holzer in Andy Warhol’s underground movies, Jane Holzer at the rock and roll, Jane Holzer is - well, how can you put it into words? Jane Holzer is This Years Girl, at least, the New Celebrity, none of your old idea of sexpots, prima donnas, romantic tragediennes, she is the girl who knows… the Stones, East End vitality… ‘Andy calls everything super,’ says Jane. ‘I’m a super star, he’s a super-director, we make super epics - and I mean, it’s a completely new and natural way of acting.You can’t image what really beautiful things can happen!’”
Roxy Music later referenced Holzer in the the lyrics to “Virginia Plain” (“Baby Jane’s in Acapulco / We are flying down to Rio” and “Can’t you see that Holzer mane?”). She is today a real-estate developer in Manhattan and an avid and celebrated art collector.
Below, “Baby” Jane Holzer singing Frankie Valli’s “(You’re Gonna) Hurt Yourself,” March 28, 1966, on the Hullabaloo TV show. Apparently this record was never properly released. I suppose you could look at this the same way as Paris Hilton’s short-lived pop music career.
Part one of “Pop Goes the Joker” is below. The second half of this typical Batman cliff-hanger was “Flop Goes the Joker.”
One more Batman/Warhol/Holzer tie-in: In this excerpt from Batman/Dracula a long-thought lost collaboration between Andy Warhol and that icon of the perverse, Jack Smith, “Baby” Jane plays, one can assume, “Catwoman,” with Smith in the title role. This pre-dates the 1966 Batman TV series by two years.
Cool as fuck—but bloody expensive at a whopping $1500—replica Batman mask modeled after the one Adam West wore on the 1966 TV show.
It is the only available cowl still being made from the original fabric which has been custom dyed to match a color sample from the dye house used on the show. The pattern was created by a professional pattern maker using a original cowl (from the Hardeman collection) The lightweight fiberglass shell was created using a plaster cast taken from an original as a base. Even the eyebrow paint color has been Pantone matched to the original.
Adam West refers to our Cowl as a “work of art” and is a proud owner of one of our replicas.
It’s available to purchase on Etsy by WilliamsStudio2. According to the write-up, you need to “act now as fabric is in limited supply.”
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.”