If the cult '60s TV version of Batman was a colourful romp, off screen, it would appear the show was a positively kaleidoscopic mix of endless sex (with whipped cream and chocolate pudding), wardrobe malfunctions and epic rivalry. That is, if you believe the tales in Burt Ward’s 1995 autobiography, Boy Wonder: My Life in Tights.
Kapow! Thwack! Rivalry!
Behind the scenes, Adam West as Batman/Bruce Wayne and Ward as Robin/Dick Grayson appear to have developed a rivalry to equal that of Crawford and Davis. In a backhanded compliment, Ward describes West as “the quintessential Superhero, with a face of stone and a style of acting as wooden as a larger-than-life crime fighter should be.”
Ward writes of tussles over who got the nicest carpets in their dressing rooms, which room was closest to the set and penis envy (that would be West of Ward’s). The pair tested the crew with their prima donna antics according to The Independent: “At one stage, each was refusing to enter the set before the other, so that producers had to rap on their doors simultaneously and lead them out shoulder to shoulder, like Premiership football captains.”
According to Ward, West was unhappy that Robin was made to look like the smarter of the superheroes, solving problems long before Batman. “Adam accused the writers and producers of ganging up on him to make him appear stupid,” he wrote. Batman’s producers kept the peace by giving West half of the lines that resolved the duo’s many challenges.
West seemed to write the rivalry off, at least in part, to Ward’s insecurity.
“I think that, from time to time, Robin had a real problem with not being Batman," he told The Independent in 2005. "Burt wanted to play Batman. But he was a marvellous Robin. He was perfect."
Holy debauchery, Batman!
“I’m beginning to feel strange stirrings in my utility belt!” was just one of West’s pickup lines according to Ward, who says he and West were both prolific womanisers, or “sexual vampires” as he described them. It’s a wonder the pair could stand up to film their scenes if the tales of rampant sex on set are even partly true. Interludes, says Ward, would occur “on set during lunch breaks”, “between shots, in the dressing rooms, in our cars parked near the sound stage”. Years later, West would reportedly reveal that “because of the physical limitations of the costume, you gotta have quickies.”
Ward spends a good deal of his autobiography describing the duo’s sexcapades in much more explicit detail than we can repeat here, and with typical, arguably delusional, overstatement. He somehow calculates that 95 percent of women who attended the pair’s promotional appearances were out to bed them: “Some women, in frenzied anticipation, climaxed repeatedly in front of us before we even touched them.” Holy virility, Batman!
There are tales of kinky cosplay (“truckloads of Batman and Robin costumes were sold and they weren’t just for kids”) and women beating down doors while West and Ward were in mid conquest. And then there were West’s rampant erotic fantasies – the unfulfilled “BatSandwich” (a ménage à trois with Batman, Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl and Robin), and the fulfilled, with West purportedly a voyeur to Ward and his French girlfriend, who had “a passionate romp involving chocolate pudding, whipped cream, nuts and two dozen orgasms”.
There was also an orgy incident that became something of Hollywood legend when West and his Batman co-star Frank Gorshin, who played The Riddler, got kicked out of an LA orgy buck naked for talking in character and making the revellers laugh.
West was more discreet than Ward when remembering his wild antics as Batman fame took hold. “In a sense, I took advantage of it,” he said, “with all of the human pleasures that one could accrue.”
Battle of the Bat Bulge
It seems not every part of the daring duos’ costumes were ill fitting, with the undies-on-the-outside receiving unwanted attention due to the masses inhabiting them. As Ward tells it, it was Boy Wonder’s green-clad bulge that was of particular concern to the Catholic Legion of Decency, who had raised the issue with broadcaster ABC, with the “crotch crisis” potentially jeopardising the show.
Peppered throughout his autobiography, Ward reels off his various nicknames for his self-described epic manhood, claiming the crew called it “the beast in the BatTrunks”.
He described the agony of attempts to hide his massive member: “Dancer’s belts, jockstraps, double-thick jockey shorts, dong socks, testicle supports, padded underwear… nothing reduced the swelling! Not even ice packs!”
The “ultimate screen hog”
If you believe Ward, West took the name of the show to heart, becoming the “ultimate screen hog”, using every opportunity to upstage his co-star.
“How many times have you watched the Batman series and wondered why you see so much of the back of Robin’s head?” West wrote in Boy Wonder. “How many times have you noticed Batman’s advanced cape blocking techniques which covered Boy Wonder’s face? How many times can you remember Batman speaking his lines so slowly that you could fall asleep between the words?”
Following West’s death earlier this year, Ward couldn’t help but exhume the sore point in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter.
“I realised he was playing a game. He understood that this was a 30-minute show, so if he talked slowly, the camera would have to be on him for 29 minutes,” he wrote. “Sometimes in a scene, he would turn unexpectedly off his position and walk right up to the camera and completely block me out of the scene. After a couple of times, I learned to just sneak up under his cape and get in front of him.”
For his part, West seemed to take Ward’s broadsides and wild tales in his stride.
“It was apparent to me," he said in a 2005 interview with The Independent, "that Burt fell victim to making up stories to sell books. But in a way it was flattering, because he made me sound like King Kong."