Sunday, June 11, 2017

A One-Two Punch

Recent days have felt like a one–two punch to me — I guess boxing aficionados would call it a combination.

I heard yesterday that Adam West, the star of the 1960s Batman TV series, had died at the age of 88, unleashing memories of my childhood.

About 24 hours earlier, Glenne Headly, an actress whose work I have greatly respected as an adult, passed away unexpectedly at the age of 62.

They were both body blows for me — I guess the greater was the one from West's death although, given his age, I should have expected it. I didn't know he had been suffering from leukemia, which is not the death sentence it was when I watched West in my childhood, but when one is nearly 90, any disease has the potential to be fatal.

Batman's run ended in 1968 so I probably watched it in syndication. So did my best friends in those days. When we played together — and that was darn near every day — our games were almost always variations on Batman episodes we had seen recently. We made capes out of bath towels and played games in which we were the caped crusaders on a mission to save not only Gotham City but the whole world from some dark menace.

Sometimes we created villains to suit the circumstances of our games. Most of the time, though, we simply used characters we had seen on TV, like the Riddler, the Joker and the Penguin. (I never liked playing one of the villains much, but I did rather enjoy playing the Penguin with his distinctive quacking sound.)

Batman is a cherished memory from my childhood. There have been many Batmen in the movies, but West will always be Batman to me. West even played Batman in a movie once, but if you want to watch it you really have to look for it.

You don't have to look too far to find Headly's movies although most of her recent work has been on television.

I don't remember the first time I saw her in anything, but she definitely made an impression on me in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." When I heard of her death, I also thought of "Mr. Holland's Opus," in which, as usual, she wasn't the star, but she left her mark.

I did not think of "Dick Tracy," but apparently many people did. I liked the movie. It just didn't come to my mind.

I did think of her television work, mostly Lonesome Dove in which she played an Arkansas sheriff's wife who was still attached to a bad–boy lover.

To my great regret, I didn't mention Headly's work when I observed the 25th anniversary of Lonesome Dove a few years ago. But, as always, she could be a scene stealer, no matter what she did. And, while her screen time in Lonesome Dove was probably brief, it was memorable.

The same could be said of her work several years later in the made–for–TV movie "And the Band Played On" in which she played one of the researchers in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. As usual, she was surrounded by many talented people; also as usual, she left an impression.

They both did.