An Interview with a Batfan
Scott: What for you came first? The comic book or the TV show?
Wally: The TV show. Definitely. I actually got into the comic because of the TV show. And when the comic got away from the TV show I lost interest and quit buying them.
Scott: So what drew you to the TV show?
Wally: Probably the color and the action. (reflects) Did we have a color TV back then? Just the action, I don't even think I had a color TV back then. So probably just the action and the daring do and the heroism and all the cool villains. I was five. Because I, unlike most people who are into the show, actually remember it during its first run. You'll see in the book (Wally’s Mag-Book “Fifteen Years of Batfun”) that I actually had the little… I mean they had all kinds of T-shirts
|with the TV logo on it and little masks you could buy. Yeah, I had all that original stuff so I didn't have to catch it in repeats. Now that I think about it, the first time I ever saw Batman in color was the TV Guide cover and that's why I was so mesmerized by it and I just couldn't take my eyes off of it. It was so cool looking. I just locked in on the cowl and said, “ how did they do that?”|
Scott: What was the fascination with the cowl?
Wally: Just to look at it. It was like a three-dimensional cartoon. The way it looked kinda cartoony but still 3-D with the black ears and the black face thing and the eyebrows were so cartoony looking. I don't know, just the sheen of it, and just how Adam looked in it. I think the angularity of it. Just how his jaw looked with how the thing curved and with the angularity of that with the ears. I'd never seen anything like it before.
I was thinking about this a lot what I was talking to Jan Kemp (the original costume designer for the series). I think the fact that he went with a light reflecting material like the satin as opposed to like a matte finish material just made that thing sing. The sheen of it was so attractive to the eye and the color worked really well with the TV lights. But yet he chose points to matte, so it wouldn’t have worked if it was dull and it wouldn't have worked if it was all shiny. But the fact that he chose his places to go matte, that just gave a thing that was two-dimensional in the comic books a third or fourth
where it looked just so cool looking. It’s like (as if he
were staring at it), “well it’s shiny in some parts and dull and
some parts….” If I had one word to some up the entire show or
my love for the show it would be the “COWL.” (laughs)
Scott: You see, that's why I asked you that question Wally.
Wally: Yeah, it's all about the cowl, baby.
Scott: So… how long have you been dressing as Batman?
Wally: I met Adam in 1980 and realized I had to make a suit and the only pictures that I had was to go off of was the Viewmaster. So I’m trying to hold this thing to the light looking at these little half inch by half inch pictures trying to figure out how I’m going to make a suit. But then I met Adam, and saw his suit, but it was not really good reference material. The boots were original, the buckle was original and the cowl’s shell was original. The cowl had been recovered and not very well.
Scott: Was this the “Legends of the Superheroes” One? (referring to the cowl) Kinda puffy around the neck?
Wally: It was.
Puffy around the neck. The skirt wasn’t long enough. I
have one picture of him were it was tucked in and it looked great,
but as soon as he would go [turning his head and making a hand shake
gesture], “Oh, hello little boy…” [he then spreads his fingers
around his neck like gills] It’d puff out like a Gila monster. [laughs] I thought, “I’m not quite sure
what’s wrong with that, but it doesn’t quite look like what it did
on the TV show. The cowl still looks pretty cool but…” He had the
arched type of eyebrows. They weren’t like cool looking, they were
these pumpkin jack o lantern looking eyebrows.
right, because she didn’t think to Polaroid it
before she ripped off the material.
Scott: [crossing out one of my written down questions in my notes] Well, that answers when was the first time you met Adam. How about Burt?
first I met Burt was out here (Los Angeles) in ’87 where people knew
I had a Batman costume and they said, “ Hey, we heard on KLOS that
Burt Ward was going to be doing an appearance at a trade show at the
LA Convention Center.” So I thought this is cool. So I
took the bat costume along with me in a bag just in case he was cool
enough to where I can slip it on in a bathroom and we could take a
picture together. He was appearing in costume. So I show
up and they won’t let me in because it was a trade show and they
wouldn’t let people in off the street which they FAILED to mention
on the radio show. Why would he go on a radio show and say,
“Come see me at the LA Convention Center’…. His manager was
obviously not on it.
Scott: Since we’re on “first meetings.” When was the first time you met Julie Newmar?
Wally: That was at her place called Eat a Pita, I believe. My daughter was in town and my folks were in town, and we went to Eat a Pita, the restaurant that she owned over on Fairfax. The guy who was Burt Ward’s manager was also managing her for awhile and he said,” Oh yeah, Julie is there every Friday at Eat a Pita. So it was like, “Okay cool.” So we got our family over there and we had lunch, sat down and met her and took a couple pictures. Pretty cool.
Scott: Did you ever get to meet Cesar Romero?
Wally: I did actually. And Burgess at the re-premiere of the ‘66 movie. The night the Burton film opened in ’89, the oldies station in town did a …(suddenly Wally was distracted by a Mojo Nixon video for “Elvis is Everywhere” that was showing on his big screen television. After a few laughs, recognizing the Elvis impersonator, and reciting a few remembered lyrics…) So, at the re-premiere, everybody was there except for Adam because he had another engagement. But it was great, because I was there as a guest…I was doing some…photo stuff …for… something. Not in costume. I wanted to not go in costume that night, because I wanted to not be perceived as… a geek. (We both laugh at this point) I actually put a tie on and a nice jacket. It was a monumental evening. Cesar was there and I was talking to him and I had him sign a photo. We took a picture together, but the picture didn’t turn out so well. It was B&W and the contrast was really high so it was…you could tell it was us, but it wasn’t really ideal. And then Burgess was there, but Burgess was then pretty old and I had him sign a photo and said,” I think your favorite role of mine was in ‘Magic’ with Anthony Hopkins.” And he was like “--------riiiight??” As if he didn’t have any idea at all whatsoever. All the actors who were there went up on stage to do a little talk and there was a full stage where you had to go up some stairs over to the right and walk over to the microphone. It’s a full house of people who cared very little about the Burton movie and was all about the ‘66 film. So he gets up on stage and when he walks to the mic he does the little Penguin waddle. The house went CRAZY. It was really cool. I’ll never forget that.
And that was
the night I met Jan Kemp for the first time, because he was standing
around and having a beverage. He was this real unassuming guy
and we’re looking at all the madness and I was like, “It’s really
something, huh? Just to think that this movie is this old and
still people go nuts over it.”
Scott: Pre- “Wayne’s World.”
Exactly. “I’M NOT WORTHY!” I said,” I’ve been dying
to meet the guy who made the costumes for years!” I
said,” I made this costume nine years ago when I first met
Adam and I was just not happy with it. You know…we…we gotta
talk. I’ll pay you any amount to like consult on all the
stuff. I need to know.”
Scott: I guess a question that probably should comes up is, “Was there anybody from cast members that you didn’t get to meet or regret that you didn’t get to meet.”
Wally: [thinking really hard] Umm…?
Scott: Like Neil Hamilton or Stafford Repp?
Wally: Yeah, those two [he never met] and they were cool, but unlike Star Trek where I met everybody from the main cast except for McCoy…which that sucks. But for Batman, I think I pretty much met everybody. I mean Neil Hamilton and Stafford Repp were okay, but I was more into the costumed characters. I mean pretty much the four main villains: Riddler, Joker, Penguin and Catwoman. And I met all the Catwomen, ‘cause I met Eartha Kitt at the Roosevelt Hotel singing for one of her cabaret shows. And even Alan Napier, during the Fox Late Night thing, I got a great shot with him. He was in his wheelchair. Actually, it’s in the book.
Scott: So nobody was missed?
Wally: Maybe Vincent Price, not really because he’s Egghead, but because he was such a horror icon as well. Never met him. But Cesar was so great and so polite. Yeah, I think I got to cover all the bases on almost all the Batman people, so I was really lucky.
would you say is the most fun thing about being in costume?
Wally: Umm…there’s so many fun things. I guess the look on a kid’s face. Because when we were in Austin [ for a 2004 1966 Batman convention where he appeared with the Gotham Gang] it was cool because the parents came to meet Adam, Burt and Frank. But they said, “Oh Timmy…Batman, Robin and the Riddler are going to be there.” Thinking that the kid is going to think Adam West, Burt Ward and Frank Gorshin, but as a kid, he’s thinking of the TV show that he just saw last night which was over thirty-five years ago and that they are going to be there in costume. So they mean different things to
different people. So the parents were there to meet
Batman, Robin and the Riddler meaning Adam, Burt and Frank.
But the kids were there to see the costumed guys, because to him
that was Batman, Robin and the Riddler. So it was really funny, because
the kid would say, “Can I get your picture or could I get your
autograph Batman?” And I’m like,” Well, don’t you want the
real Batman and Robin? Because they’re right over there.” And they look at you like,” Whatta
you mean? That’s just a guy. You’re Batman.” [laughs] So
I’m there,” Okay then, I’m Batman.” Because the folks are
going to know, you know
Scott: What’s the worst thing about being costume? Adam complained about the cowl and the tights being itchy…
Wally: Um...yeah… [thinking] All the stuff he hated about it we made improvements on. A comfortable fabric. Supplex is more smooth finish than the original tights that were kind of a Nylon and scratchy. The boots are extremely comfortable. The belt’s fine. The cape is fine, though you kinda develop a thing for moving it around. The cowl once I got it to a point where it was looser and I got the foam in it . It sat there really nice. I guess the lack of peripheral vision is the only thing I can think of.
Scott: Now, from being around you and even looking around Wallywood, you have a lot of other interests other than Batman.
Wally: Yeah, but very few interests that have hung around as long. I kinda come and go on stuff. I’m into Kiss and out of Kiss, into Austin Powers out of Austin Powers. But, Andy Kaufman and Batman are the only to…well Batman is the longest thing that I’ve had and I’ve had that since I was five.
Scott: Well, the other part of the question was that out of all these other interests, was there a point where you drifted away from Batman and then came back?
Wally: When the TV series took a real low profile and it was the new Burton stuff I really got out of the whole Burton-rubber-black-Batman-thing, I was like, “I’m not much into it anymore.” But once the series started showing up again and there were internet sites and showing up on TV again, I was like, “Oh, well this is kinda cool.” But the whole violent Batman thing really…eh, I got out of it. I’m not into that.
Scott: Which leads to the last question.
Wally: Uh oh, the pay off question.
Scott: What would you like to see in Batman’s future?
the sixties thing is done. There’s just no way they can
recreate that. The sensibility of popular culture is
completely different and it was a show for its day. And while
it sure looks cool in re-runs and it sure is funny, they could
never do that again. First of all they could never find
the correct cast members who could do those characters like that.
I mean it’s a formula that is lost. Forever lost.
Scott: Thanks Wally.