When Adam West, who played Batman in the 1960s TV series by the same name, passed away recently at 88, he was praised with a number of accolades by a variety of well-known people in and out of the entertainment industry.
Cool. Charismatic. Positive. Good-natured. Had a sense of fun. A legend. Gracious.
Loving. Kind. Knew humanity. The nicest guy.
And time and time again, even though the character has been played by countless other actors over the half-century since, people gave West the greatest tribute by saying, "You will always be my Batman."
But I never saw where anyone called him colorful. And to me, that's exactly what West was - literally.
About the same time that the show began its two-year run in 1966, my next-door neighbors while growing up, the Cunninghams, became the first family on our street to get a color TV.
This probably sounds archaic to anyone 55 or younger, but color TV was a huge deal - one of the biggest things to happen in the 20th century - when it came out. It indeed was a jaw-dropping innovation.
First there was radio. Then there was TV. Then there was color TV. And finally, there was high-definition TV.
My dad's family had the first radio in their little town along the Ohio River in the 1930s. He told me of people coming from all over on Saturday nights to listen to the iconic radio shows of the time.
My parents didn't get a TV until 1951. It was a big Zenith with a combination radio and record player. The only thing missing was a can-opener attachment. It seemed like it weighed as much as a car. You couldn't budge it. So I guess you could say that TV, in more ways than one, was here to stay.
But everybody and everything looked the same. They were colorless.
Was Jackie Gleason wearing a blue shirt? Or gray? Or red?
Was that Dodge Dart yellow? Or green?
That's the Atlantic Ocean, so it must be blue. But how can you tell? You couldn't.
In 1964, Channel 8 in Cleveland got equipped to show its programming in color and announced it was going to showcase all the new colors viewers would be seeing. The unveiling, as it were, was set for 4 p.m. one Sunday afternoon.
My parents and I invited my aunt and uncle and their three kids to our home to witness this special event. We turned on that big Zenith and breathlessly awaited for our eyes - and our hearts and souls - to be colorized.
Finally, after a grand introduction, the show began and thin strips of color after color rolled across the screen.
Our hearts pounded as we watched for a half-hour or so even though nothing had changed. We still couldn't tell what color anything was. You had to have a color TV for that, and it would be four years before such a purchase would be in our family's budget.
But not for the Cunninghams. They beat the Kings' timeline by a full two years. And when their youngest son, David, invited me over to watch "Batman" on their new color set, I just about passed out. For a kid only a few months short of 11 years old, that was the ultimate. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
David didn't have to ask me twice. I high-tailed it to their front door a good 15 minutes before "Batman" started. I didn't want to be late. I wanted to perch my pudgy little frame in just the right spot to catch all of the colorful action.
I was not disappointed. I was mesmerized as I sat there. The rich colors were better than I ever could have imagined. I distinctly remember the purple -- at least I thought it was purple (they say that males are colorblind, you know) -- on Batman's outfit.
I don't recall anything about the story line. I'm sure it was the typical deal of Batman and Robin battling The Joker and The Riddler with all kinds of Pows!, Bams! and "Booms! But I was focused solely on the colors. It could have been anything on TV - even a replay from "The Farm Report" from that morning or the sign-off from the previous evening, complete with jets flying over and a rendition of the national anthem (look it up, Millennials) - and I wouldn't have cared. It was color TV, and by witnessing it, I had arrived.
"Look, Mom, I made it."
But in retrospect, it probably meant more that I was seeing color TV for the first time via "Batman." The show was cool. Batman and Robin were cool. The Batmobile was cool.
Adam West was really cool.
And now I was really cool, too.
Well, sort of, anyway, until I tried to steal a cookie from the cookie jar when I got home. Then I was back to being me again, which wasn't cool at all. Neither was having to go to bed early as punishment for my crime.
But I didn't care. I dreamed about color TV that night.
Years and years later, long after "Batman" had run its course, I came around a corner in the back of a Walmart and was greeted by a whole wall of high-def color TVs. This was color TV on steroids. Again, like I had done that night at the Cunnighams' living room, I stood there with my mouth wide open. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Everything was just ... so clear and crisp. It was like I was actually there in the scene of the TV show that was on.
But the first time with anything, including getting thrilled electronically. is always the best time. Nothing ever beats it as long as you live.
So, yeah, Adam West will always by my Batman, too, for he was the one who colored my world.