Beliefnet
Where Hope Lives

YouTube Preview Image

Adam West, star of the cult-classic 1960s Batman TV show, has died in Los Angeles after a battle with leukemia. He is survived by his wife, Marcelle, and his six children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

West’s role on the ABC-TV series lasted only three seasons, but made an indelible mark on the heart of pop-culture. The series—as well as Neal Hefti’s catchy earworm of a theme song—is now required reading for anyone wishing to pass the threshold into superhero geekdom.

Born William West Anderson in Walla Walla Washington on September of 1928, West’s father was a farmer, and his mother, a pianist and opera singer who once held dreams of Hollywood stardom. Even from a young age, West expressed his desire to follow in her footsteps.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in literature, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, developing his memorably dramatic voice as an announcer on American Forces Network television. After an honorable discharge, West moved on to Hawaii to pursue his television career.

West’s earliest work included a sidekick role in the El Kini Popo Show, a children’s show, wherein he eventually went on to take over the starring role. In 1959, he took the stage name of “Adam West,” choosing “Adam” because he simply liked the way it sounded when paired with his last name.

He went on to have guest roles in several television Westerns and crime dramas, portraying classic characters such as Doc Holliday and Wild Bill Hickok, and later making appearances in crime shows Johnny Midnight and The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor.

It wasn’t until the 1960s, however, that Adam West became a household name. After seeing West perform as Captain Q in a commercial for Nestlé Quik, producer William Dozier cast him as Bruce Wayne in the Batman television series. The show, beginning in 1966, was full of bright colors, wacky villains, and witty one-liners delivered in West’s signature deadpan style. It wasn’t just ‘60s kitsch—it defined ‘60s kitsch.

As opposed to today’s dark night, West saw his incarnation of Batman as “The Bright Knight,” according to a statement made by his family, and he “aspired to make a positive impact on his fans’ lives.” West’s Batman was a more lighthearted take on a Caped Crusader who embraced the value of human life, donated to libraries, and fought for the underprivileged—including those he imprisoned.

Indeed—one of the things that made West’s Batman so unique was the moral character he displayed. In the 1966 Batman movie, released not long after the first season of the show aired, Batman has to get rid of a bomb that has been placed above a bar full of drunks. He carries the bomb away, but each time he tries to dispose of it, he’s humorously thwarted by the presence of increasingly innocent bystanders, including a group of nuns and some innocent ducklings.

Eventually, Batman manages to toss the bomb into the ocean, after which Robin remarks, “You risked your life to safe that riff-raff in the bar?”

Batman responds only with “They may be drinkers, Robin, but they’re also human beings.”

Despite how different West’s candy-colored Batman is from the decidedly more gothic Dark Knight we know today, his role had a massive impact on the direction the character would take for the next few decades. Batman broke through into public consciousness at a time when the Batman character had yet to truly make his mark on pop culture. The show’s popularity—particularly in the years after its cancellation—firmly cemented the idea of the Batman into the world’s psyche.

Without West’s contribution, we might not have Nolan’s The Dark Knight. We might not even have The Avengers, and its slew of related superhero cinematic universe films.

After West’s reign as Batman burned out in 1968—the result of a steep drop in ratings—the actor found it difficult to find other work. Permanently typecasted, he was unable to return to the more serious westerns and crime dramas that began his career. As a result, he moved away from Hollywood for a time.

“When you wear a mask and funny tights, it gets a little frustrating from time to time,” West once said. “I was turned down for a number of parts over the years, I feel, because of that.”

Despite this, West never became bitter, and embraced his place in pop-culture’s hall of fame. Ever charming and affable, West was always open to interacting with Batman fans for the entirety of his life, attending conventions well into his eighth decade.

On the abrupt ending of Batman, West told the audience at Comic-Con in 2014 that, “The only thing I thought is that it would be the end of me, and it was for a bit. But then I realized that what we created in the show—we created this zany, lovable world.”

West did eventually get to enjoy his iconic status—his popularity brought him roles in voice-acting and documentaries, even playing himself in an episode of Big Bang Theory and voicing the lunatic mayor of Quahog, Mayor West, in the animated series Family Guy.

Seth MacFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, eulogized West on Twitter, writing that “I am beyond fortunate to have had the privilege of working with him, and he will be profoundly missed by all of us. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that you have given, Mr. Mayor. You’re irreplaceable.”

In the end, Adam West, our original Batman succumbed to the oldest villain of them all—time. His contributions to geek culture, ability to laugh even at himself, and sincere openness ensure that his legacy will live on forever, even as others take up the cape and cowl.

“I look around and I see the adults,” West said at the 2014 Comic-Con. “I see you grew up with me, and you believe in the adventure. I never believed this would happen, that I would be up here with illustrious people like yourselves. I’m so grateful! I’m the luckiest actor in the world, folks, to have you still hanging around.”

Moore_Bond

Bond. James Bond.

This is the name that made Roger Moore’s career, as he stepped into the shoes of Ian Fleming’s superspy over the course of seven films. He would go on to be voted “Best Bond” in an Academy awards poll, and is beloved for bringing a more light-hearted approach to the character. After a brief battle with cancer, Moore passed away in Switzerland on May 23rd, as confirmed by in a family statement.

“It is with a heavy heart that we must announce our loving father, Sir Roger Moore, has passed away today in Switzerland after a short but brave battle with cancer. The love with which he was surrounded in his final days was so great it cannot be quantified in words,” it read.

Roger Moore was the son of a policeman who investigated a robbery at the home of director Brian Desmond Hurst—this led to Moore being introduced to Hurst and subsequently being hired as an extra on the 1945 film, Caesar and Cleopatra.

Impressed, Hurst went on to pay Moore’s tuition at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he studied alongside future Bond co-star Lois Maxwell, who would go on to play Miss Moneypenny. It was here that Moore cultivated the effortlessly relaxed and humorous demeanor which would make him later stand out as one of the best Bonds of all time.

At 18, Moore was conscripted just after WWII, and was commissioned into the Royal Army Service Corps as a second lieutenant, serving in the Combined Services Entertainment Section.

In addition to his work as a model, Moore had a very successful career in television, and was well-known to American audiences even before donning Bond’s suit and gun. After starring in the medieval adventure series, “Ivanhoe,” shown in American in 1958, he starred in the popular western, “Maverick,” playing Beauregard Maverick.

In 1962, Moore starred as a wily thief in The Saint, a popular British television series that ran until 1969, and then as a millionaire playboy in The Persuaders from 1971 to 1972, where he became the highest-paid television actor in the world with a salary of 1 million British pounds for a single series.

But it was in 1973 that Moore found his calling as the vodka martini-sipping British spy, James Bond, starring in the 1973 Live and Let Die, and going on to reprise his role six more times.

Moore, hired at 45, was the oldest actor to take on the role, and spend the longest amount of time playing Bond, eventually stepping down in 1985.

Where Sean Connery played Bond as a witty, but serious, detective, Moore’s depiction was decidedly more light-hearted. Playing Bond as a debonair playboy with a firm instinct for tongue-in-cheek humor, Moore quickly became popular with fans, despite the fact that, of all the Bond actors, his performance was the furthest from Ian Fleming’s original creation.

His likability as Bond would go on to earn him the status of “Best Bond”—both in official title, and in the eyes of fans.

Moore wasn’t just good for thrilling audiences, however. After his stint as James Bond, Moore became a United Nations Children’s Fund good-will ambassador thanks to his friendship with Audrey Hepbrun, visiting countries like Ghana, Honduras, the Philippines, and more, as he advocated for some of the world’s most vulnerable children. He made use of his worldwide fame, publically raising issues of landmine injuries, child labor, and iodine deficiency, working for these causes right up until his death.

“With the passing of Sir Roger Moore, the world has lost one of its great champions for children—and the entire UNICEF family has lost a great friend,” said Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF.

In 1999, Moore was knighted for his charity work, becoming Sir Roger Moore—a well-deserved title—saying that it “meant far more to me than if I had got it for acting.”

In 2007, Moore was finally awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in film and television, appropriately located at 7007 Hollywood Boulevard.

Moore is survived by his wife, Kristina Tholsrup, his daughter, Deborah, and his sons, Geoffrey and Christian. His family, in a statement on Twitter, wrote a moving goodbye, saying “We know our own love and admiration will be magnified many times over, across the world, by people who knew him for his films, his television shows and his passionate work for UNICEF which he considered to be his greatest achievement.”

“Thank you Pops,” they wrote, “for being you, and for being so special to so many people.

Indeed, Moore will live on forever in the hearts of Bond fans everywhere, as well as in the hearts and minds of those lives he touched—and saved—through his charity work.

Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave, and one of the most recognizable voices in contemporary rock music, was found dead in his Detroit hotel room, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office. The cause of death was suicide by hanging. Cornell was 52.

Mere hours before he took his own life, Cornell sang one last time with Soundgarden at Detroit’s Fox Theater, and the band was scheduled to perform in Columbus, Ohio later in the week at the Rock on the Range Festival.

Around midnight on May 18th, 2017, the Detroit Police Department responded to the report of a suicide, the victim of which was not immediately identified. The department did, however, release the victim’s date of birth—July 20th, 1964, which is that of Cornell. He was found in a bathroom with a band of some kind wrapped around his neck.

The vocalist’s unexpected death has stunned fans all over the world. One of the leading architects of the 1990s grunge movement, Chris Cornell gained critical acclaim as the frontman of Soundgarden. His success went beyond the Seattle-based band, however, and Cornell went on to find further acclaim for this solo albums, and with his vocals and songwriting for bands Audioslave and Temple of the Dog.

Cornell’s voice, with its near four octave range and its ability to go from a soul-filled howl to a rumbling growl, was both powerful and memorable, but his skill at writing his own music was just as incredible, earning him a Golden Globe nomination for his work on “The Keeper,” from the film “Machine Gun Preacher.”

“To create the intimacy of an acoustic performance there needed to be real stories,” said Cornell in a 2015 interview with The Associated Press. “They need to be kind of real and they need to have a beginning, middle and an end. That’s always a challenge in three in a half or four minutes—to be able to do that, to be able to do it directly.”

Cornell, like many of the great figures of the music industry, had a troubled youth, and delved into drug abuse at the tender age of 13, getting kicked out of school at 15, according to a 1994 interview with Rolling Stone. He went through a period where he had few, if any, close friends, and those he associated with only pulled him further into the world of drugs.

At 16, though, something changed. Cornell became serious about his love for music, and began to practice his drum technique while working as a dishwasher.

Cornell finally found his footing in 1984, when he formed Soundgarden, which went on to earn a Grammy Award nomination for Best Metal Performance in 1990. The band went on to become one of the most successful  in Seattle’s emerging grunge scene, finding huge commercial success with their 1994 album, “Superunknown,” whicih won two Grammys and racked up over five million sales in the U.S.

Soundgarden broke up in 1997, and Cornell once again descended into drug use, according to a 2009 interview with The Guardian, citing OxyContin abuse and a subsequent stint in rehab. In 2001, the singer joined Audioslave, formed from former Rage Against the Machine members. The band combined 1970s hard rock with 1990s alternative rock, and in its six years of existence, received three Grammy nominations and became the first American rock band to perform in an outdoor concert in Cuba.

With Audioslave having disbanded in 2007 due to personality conflicts amongst its members, Cornell reunited with Soundgarden in 2010, releasing “King Animal” two years later and continuing to perform across the country. Their music, as described by New York Times writer, Jon Pareles, as “one reunited band that can pick up right where it left off.”

But as successful as Cornell’s public life was, his private life was often marked by problems. In a 2015 interview with Rolling Stone Cornell referenced drinking problems, marital issues, and depression. He referenced ideas concerning death and suicide in his second solo album, “Carry On,” which Cornell describes as coming out of “me trying to imagine why somebody would be, for example, a suicide bomber.”

The music industry, as well as Cornell’s legion of diehard fans, have publically mourned the singer’s death. Elton John, himself, has tweeted that he is “Shocked and saddened by the sudden death of @chriscornell. A great singer, songwriter and the loveliest man.”

Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, with whom Cornell toured in 2007 and 2008, wrote a moving letter concerning Cornell’s death.

“I just watched a video of you singing ‘ A day in the life ‘ by the Beatles and thought of my dream. I’d like to think you were saying goodbye in your own way. I can’t imagine a world without you in it. I pray you find peace in the next life. I send my love to your wife and children, friends and family. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life.”

Cornell leaves behind a legacy in the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation, which supports children facing issues of homelessness, poverty, and abuse. He is survived by wife Vicky Krayiannis, his son, Christopher, and his daughters, Toni and Lillian.

Boykin

Christopher Boykin, one half of the “Rob & Big” reality television duo, has died, as confirmed by his representative, who told People that Boykin died of a heart attack.

A Mississippi native and former member of the U.S. Navy, Boykin found fame as the bodyguard and best friend of professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek, on the MTV reality show, “Rob & Big.” Episodes followed the pair as they embarked on random adventures that included skateboarding, exorcising their home, and making attempts at Guinness world records. The show ran from 2006 to 2008.

The two men first met when Dyrdek hired Boykin to serve as his bodyguard in a promotional skit for DC shoes. They quickly became friends, and the chemistry that emanated from that very real friendship is what made their reality shows so beloved.

From this chemistry came show-worthy situations–once, when the two took an on-camera trip to restock the ATM Dyrdek had installed in his house, Boykin had to be especially on guard to protect the large amount of cash. While they were waiting for the money to be delivered, though, Boykin took a little time to help Dyrdek home some “boy band” dance moves to help inject a little fun into the day.

“Rob & Big,” however, ended abruptly in 2008, when Boykin and Dyrdek had a falling out due to the strains of sudden fame. According to Dyrdek, the “fundamental strain of not wanting to be connected to each other” was what caused creative differences to drive the two apart—both wanted to be known for their own talents and personalities, and working together became difficult.

But that division couldn’t keep these friends apart for long. Boykin later returned in Dyrdek’s 2011 follow-up reality show, “Fantasy Factory,” where he made appearances in seasons 4 through 7.

An oft-imposing figure at 6-foot-6, Boykin’s size and profession belied a kind, gentle, and charming personality, and he was well-loved and respected by those he worked with. Dyrdek, himself, sent out a series of Tweets in memory of his former friend.

“My heart is broken. I don’t want to write this post. I don’t want to believe that this is reality. I am so thankful for you. We truly were brothers that lived an unexpected unforgettable adventure. I just can’t fathom that it would end so suddenly. You will forever be in my heart.”

Shannon Boykin, Boykin’s ex-wife, also sent out a grieved tweet, saying “I’m heartbroken to tell you of Black’s passing. He’s everything to me and Isis and we will miss him.”

In an official statement to People, MTV has stated that it “is deeply saddened to learn the news of Christopher ‘Big Black’ Boykin’s passing. He was a longtime and beloved member of the MTV family and will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends at this time.”

Boykin’s rise to fame from military member and security worker to reality television star, musician, and owner of his own clothing line stands as inspiration for those who dream big, and his humorous contributions to MTV’s lineup will be long-remembered.

Boykin is survived by his ex-wife, Shannon, and his 9-year-old daughter, Isis.