Saturday, June 10, 2017

Every signature tells a story: Adam West and patient second-grade teachers

When I heard about the passing of Adam West today, my thoughts raced back to second grade and poor Mrs. Kellogg.

West, of course, was the Batman by which all other Batmans -- Batmen? -- are measured. 

You have to understand that at age 8, I was all about "Batman," Reruns ran everyday after school and, remember, this was before VCRs and DVRs. 

I had the toys and the Halloween costumes. My Cub Scout Pinewood Derby car was carved into the shape of the Batmobile. And every day at 5 p.m. I was glued to Channel 11 to watch the Dymanic Duo battle the Riddler, Catwoman and, on a good day, the Joker.
One day, Mrs. Kellogg announced she had an assignment for us. There was a new show called "The Electric Company" that was like "Sesame Street," but for bigger kids, like us. It was on early in the afternoon while we were still in school, but again at 5 p.m. And our assignment was to watch it every day.
I remember calmly raising my hand and stating that I would only be able to watch this show when I am home sick because 5 o'clock is the same time "Batman" is on.
It's not like I was the only one thinking it. I fully expected Mrs. Kellogg to apologize for this obvious oversight. And I would have forgiven her, too.
Instead, I clearly remember moments of stunned silence, followed by, "This show will help with reading and all kinds of things. What will 'Batman' teach you?"
"Crime fighting," I replied.

It was now painfully obvious that if some colorful arch-criminal would suddenly appear in the door of Room 12, only one of us was going to have a clue what to do, and it wasn't my teacher. She was lucky to have me there.
This was followed by a look that could only have said, "I don't get paid enough to deal with this nonsense." Truthfully, it was a look I would come to know well over the years.
I learned several things that day. Among them, that sometimes it best to remain silent and keep the truth to ourselves.

Naturally, Bat-fandom has carried on through the years, even as the parade of lesser, darker, growling actors wore the Bat-suit and drove greatly inferior Batmobiles.

I had a chance to meet Mr. West once. He was appearing at a video store around the time of the first Michael Keaton movie. 

He was very gracious and friendly with star-struck fans, and signed a copy of my Bat book. I did ask one important question:

Why was your favorite villain

"Catwoman!" he replied, quickly and with a smile.

Of course!