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TVGuideI have a bunch of TV theme songs on my iPod, “Get Smart,” “Mission Impossible,” “Star Trek,” and “The Rockford Files” among them. The other day I heard perhaps the most iconic one of all. It goes something like this:

Da da da da da da da da
da da da da da da da da

You know the song.

Written by big band veteran Neil Hefti (who also arranged Sinatra and Swingin’ Brass for Ol’ Blue Eyes), this was the theme song for the TV show that debuted in 1966 and became a national phenomenon. I was six years old at the time, and it rocked my world.

I remember watching the first episode with my parents and my older brother. (My sister was probably there, too, but she was only two years old and probably wasn’t into Batman.) My parents kept laughing at the show, which ticked me off. They laughed when Batman (the inimitable Adam West) went to a bar and ordered orange juice. (What’s wrong with that? It’s a fine beverage!) They roared when he went on the dance floor and did the Batusi. (Okay, not terribly superheroic, but not funny either, to my six-year-old perception). To me, this was serious business. You did not laugh at the caped crusader, even if he was wearing purple tights with what appeared to be a pair of panties pulled over them.

Now, of course, I realize that laughter was expected. Batman was supposed to be campy and tongue-in-cheek. Back then, though, I thought camp meant sleeping outside, and the humor soared way over my head. I just enjoyed it as an exciting adventure show.

There were two things about Batman that made it stand out at the time. First, it aired twice a week. Second, it was in color. And get this, kids of today: When the series debuted, my family did not have a color television. But our next-door neighbors did, and sometimes we went over to their house to watch Batman. The show was in vivid, eye-popping hues—the better to sell color TVs, I guess—and seeing it in its full glory was quite a treat for us at the time.

There was another great thing about Batman. During the fight sequences the show superimposed sound-effect balloons over the action: “Bam!” “Pow!” “Sock!” This offered me a great way to irritate my older brother. I simply read them out loud.

“Bam!” I would say.

“Be quiet!” he would reply.




“Make him stop!”

Eventually parental pressure would force me to end my reading, but I always sat back with a sense of quiet satisfaction.

It was around this time that our aunt and uncle paid us a visit from California. They brought Batman kits for my brother and me. I think each kit had a mask and maybe a cape. Best of all, each came with a yellow utility belt, complete with a grappling hook and a bat-a-rang (and probably some other stuff that I can’t recall). Someplace in the depths of my muscle memory I can still vaguely recall the feel of catching the yellow grappling hook on some convenient object and reeling it to me, or maybe me to it. I was still a little guy, after all.

We were not alone in our love for the Batman. The series was a huge hit, at first. Then people began to tire of the formula. The show went from twice a week to once, and then not at all.

The television Batman was neither the first nor the last adaptation of the comic book hero. There had been serials made in the 1940s and many movies since. The last three were brooding, super-serious films by director Christopher Nolan. I thought they were all way too long and pretentious and sank beneath their weight of their own self-importance. They were nothing at all like the Batman movie based on the TV series, which reached theaters in 1966. I saw it in downtown Augusta at the Colonial Theater. I loved it.

Of course, the humor flew right over my crew cut.

For instance, early in the movie, the dynamic duo (that’s Batman and Robin, natch) find themselves stuck onto a magnetic buoy in the middle of the ocean as a torpedo rapidly approaches. The situation seems hopeless—and then the movie cuts to Batman and Robin zipping across the water in the Batboat. Huh? How on earth . . . ? Batman casually mentions a heroic porpoise that jumped in front of the torpedo and saved them. All us kids just looked at each other and wondered, “How did we miss that?” We didn’t understand that the jump cut was part of the joke—we just figured the projectionist screwed up.

It wouldn’t have been the only time an Augusta projectionist fell asleep at the switch. When I was about eight, we all trooped to the other theater in downtown Augusta, the Capitol, to see a movie called Alaskan Safari. It had been heavily hyped in TV commercials as a roadshow attraction that breezed into town for just a day or two. We dutifully got our tickets and watched the show. Halfway through it, the end credits rolled. Then the movie resumed at the point where it had been about a half-hour earlier. The projectionist had mixed up the reels.

“Obviously some kind of post-modern approach to filmmaking,” I told my pals after the show, as I smoked a candy cigarette and fussed with my beret. “It’s the kind of cut-and-paste technique that William S. Burroughs used for Naked Lunch.”

“I preferred the more realistic approach Burroughs took with Junkie,” a pal replied.

“You have a conventional mind,” I sneered. If my cigarette had been real, I would have blown smoke in his face.

Such was life in back in the 1960s. Tell this stuff to the kids today, and they won’t believe you.



July 2015
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