Sunday, April 10, 2016

Starring Adam West

Year 8, Day 101 - 4/10/16 - Movie #2,301

BEFORE:  Time for a documentary break, now that I hit the latest 100-film milestone.  A few more documentaries have come into my possession, but for now I'm only going to focus on two, one about Batman and one about Superman.  You know, to tie in with this week's theme.  

Many linkings are possible tonight, thanks to the appearance of voice-actor Tom Kenny, I can easily link from Maurice LaMarche to Kenny via "The Boxtrolls", a movie that I'm waiting for some channel to run.  I could also have gone from Carlos Alazraqui to Kenny via "The SpongeBob Movie".  

THE PLOT:  A fan-funded documentary about the creative and turbulent life of Adam West and the fan-supported quest to recognize the beloved actor with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

AFTER: It's a wonder to me that anyone goes to work in the movies (either in front of the camera or behind it) and comes out with their head screwed on straight.  Because you'll either spend your time struggling to get work, which could create self-doubt and depression, or you'll be successful, which leads to a whole other set of problems like self-entitlement and ego.  Adam West struggled for a while in Hollywood, then hit big with "Batman" on TV, which was ABC's most popular show for a time, but then was hopelessly typecast and spent a few years struggling to "escape the cape" and left the business for a while. 

Years later, he did a comeback publicity tour of sorts, appearing on Howard Stern's radio show, Bill Maher's "Politically Incorrect" and Craig Kilborn's "Late Late Show", all sort of poking fun at his own image, eventually landing the role of the fictional Mayor Adam West on "Family Guy".  And all the time, there was something compelling about that deadpan-yet-dulcet voice that never lets on if he's completely serious, or in on the joke.  

It seems like he started out naive, one of many hopeful people who came to Hollywood with (less than) a dollar and a dream, arriving when it was a boom-town for TV westerns, and anyone who could ride a horse (Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen) could find work.  But when the next financial crisis came, or Westerns fell out of favor, the work dried up and the only Westerns being made were the "spaghetti" kind (made in Western Italy, that is).  

But the man born as William West Anderson also had experience running a TV station for the military, as well as a background in theater, announcer work and children's TV, so he knew that there would always be work somewhere in the industry, even if it wasn't on camera.  He even worked as a milkman in New Jersey for a while, before moving the family to Hawaii in search of TV gigs.  

There's someone I know of in the animation industry, not personally but through my boss's Facebook (and I'll withhold the name here) who's always going on about how hard it is to find work in the industry, while also complaining about roommate problems and a general lack of funds.  His posts bother me greatly, because he doesn't seem to understand that while you're looking for the job you want, you sometimes need to take another job, just to get by.  I worked as a theater usher while looking for film production work, and if you've ever swept up popcorn from a cinema floor, you know that's not a great gig.  But it paid the rent for a while, so you do what you have to do.  (Also, for the record, spending 8 hours a day on Facebook is probably not a way to solve those problems...)

Getting the call to play "Batman" turned out to be a blessing and a curse, because it brought West fame and the love of the fans, but then also made him something of a pariah to casting agents.  Being typecast not only as Batman but as the star of a very silly superhero show hurt his career for a long time, and it was only years later, when all those kids grew up, that he started to feel the love from the fans.  People still watch that show, and to many people of that generation, he's the one and only Bat-actor.  

The documentary shows his family members and a few prominent fans rallying to get West his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame - turns out there's a lengthy series of forms to fill out, plus someone needs to cover the cost of maintaining the physical star on Hollywood Blvd.  But considering that the street is filled with people dressed like Marilyn Monroe, Chaplin, Superman and Batman, it seems like West's star should fit right in.  

There's also a look at Adam's artwork being shown in a gallery (hey, you have to develop some skills to fill all the down time) and making autographing appearances at San Diego Comic-Con and Wizard World in Anaheim.  Interactions with the fans are always potentially dicey, but I'm guessing that 99% of them are usually positive, from genuine thanks to fawning praise, maybe once in a while someone's just there to get a signature they can re-sell, but most genuinely care about the actor or their connection to the show.  (From my experiences behind a booth, I've realized there are three categories of convention people - industry insiders, genuine fans, and true weirdos.  The last category is the smallest, but they waste the most of my boss's time, so once identified, I've learned to just smile and nod.) 

The message is clear, and also inspiring - there will probably be good times and bad times in one's life, the best you can do is to realize that things will probably equalize out over time, and if you're lucky, you can be successful and still stay sane, even if you have to move to Idaho for a while to remain so.

Also starring Adam West (last heard in "Chicken Little"), Burt Ward, Ralph Garman (last seen in "Two for the Money"), Seth MacFarlane (last seen in "A Million Ways to Die in the West"), Lee Meriwether, Wally Wingert, Nina West.  

RATING: 5 out of 10 sit-com guest appearances

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