BATMAN ’66 WEEK: Check out the sets and locations that still stand tall — more than 50 years later.
UPDATED 1/8/19: This first ran during 2018’s BATMAN ’66 WEEK, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the show’s final episode. The piece was so popular, we’re presenting it again for this year’s BATMAN ’66 WEEK saluting the 53rd anniversary of the show’s debut Jan. 12. Click here for more BATMAN ’66 WEEK features. — Dan
I consider myself lucky to be a New Yorker for all the reasons New Yorkers are boastful about (and for which most others hate us).
But when it comes to Batman — particularly Batman ’66 — I’m especially happy because Gotham City, which is of course based on NYC, is filled with alternate versions of real life places and names:
Mayor Linseed was John Lindsay. New Guernsey was New Jersey. The United World Building on Gotham East River? The United Nations on, well, the East River.
And then there’s all that awesome stock footage of, say, the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, or the avenues of Manhattan that play behind the Dynamic Duo as they cruise along in the Batmobile.
Nevertheless, when Batman and Robin — i.e., Adam West and Burt Ward — or any of their fellow Gothamites actually ventured off the soundstage and into the actual outdoors, they stepped into … Los Angeles.
Because that’s where the show was actually filmed. And what’s great is that a number of Gotham’s most recognizable LA-area hot spots are still around — and you can visit them if you have the chance.
John S. Drew of The Batcave Podcast and I made a point of hitting these places when we recently went to Los Angeles for the opening of the Batman ’66 exhibit at the Hollywood Museum. (Click here for an INSIDE LOOK at that. You definitely want to.)
I also brought a couple of friends along — Batman and Robin themselves. Or at least NJ Croce’s versions of them.
So, join us on our modern tour of 1966 Gotham, beginning with…
It’s nice to imagine that the Batcave really existed, that the set designers built Batman’s magnificent headquarters in a cavern beneath a mansion. Nah, it was just a big soundstage and the set came down shortly after the show wrapped.
But the secret entrance to the Batcave, the one you see the Batmobile roaring out of — or speeding back to? That’s in Bronson Canyon, a section of Griffith Park, not terribly far from the Hollywood sign. And it’s free to visit!
We took a Bat-Uber to the entrance of the park, walked a short distance up a hill, looked left — and there it was, smack in the middle of a rocky outcropping.
It looked naked without all the ivy that was added by the show’s set decorators — not to mention the moving rock and folding barrier — but it was still obviously the entrance to the Batcave. It didn’t take much to picture the Batmobile booming forth:
The entrance is actually the mouth of a man-made tunnel that opens in the rear to a more secluded cliffside spot. So in essence when you go through, you’re going through the Batcave. Kind of.
The Batcave entrance played a small but vital role on the show. For the characters, it was a portal to and from the rest of the world. For us viewers, it was a signifier of the adventures to come — or to continue within the episode.
Seeing it — and touching it — in real life was a special kind of magic, and much more affecting than I’d anticipated.
Most of the show’s outdoor locations are either long gone or have changed so dramatically as to be unrecognizable today. Or, like the real-life Pasadena mansion that stood in for the exterior of Stately Wayne Manor, they’re not really accessible to the public.
But one of the show’s most important pieces of real estate stands today much as it did more than 50 years ago — and is utterly striking when you see it in person: Gotham City Police Headquarters.
Police HQ and a few Gotham streetscapes are still in use on the Warner Bros. backlot, and, thanks to the fine folks at WB, we were fortunate enough to inspect them up close.
Our studio escorts first took us to a location that was instantly recognizable to die-hards — the part of Gotham where two streets form a fork, with a three-story building in the foreground:
But the best part — easily — was Police Headquarters, at the same angle that we see at the start of (almost) every episode.
As soon as I saw it, I’m not ashamed to admit, I gasped.
Just like with the Batcave, you could see into the past, vividly:
Now, this little section of Gotham isn’t as easy to visit as the Batcave entrance because it’s on private property, obviously. But you can take the Warner Bros. studio tour (click here for info). Keep in mind, however, that it’s not a guarantee: The whole area is still in use for film and television, so if they’re shooting that day, they’ll keep you away.
But I gotta tell you, it’s worth taking your chances.
BARRIS KUSTOM INDUSTRIES
Hollywood was built on an empire of artifice, and getting excited about visiting sets and shooting locations is testament to that.
But visiting Barris Kustom Industries was something else entirely: The show wasn’t filmed there but this is where the actual, bona fide 1966 Batmobile was built by George Barris and his crew.
The garage is not open to the public but Jared Barris, grandson of the late legendary customizer, was gracious enough to show us around his garage in North Hollywood.
There’s a Batmobile in the lobby (plus a Munsters Koach and KITT), movie posters and celebrity photos plastering the walls, and a remarkably huge collection of Batman and TV history toys and memorabilia.
Jared’s an incredibly enthusiastic steward of his grandfather’s legacy. I’m telling you, this place should be a museum. (Click here to check out the Barris website.)
But it’s worth stopping by even to take a picture outside, with the garage’s colorful, old-school decorations as a backdrop.
Because this is, after all, hallowed ground.
ADAM WEST’S STAR
We’ll wrap where our tour actually began: Adam West’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The Walk of Fame itself is the epitome of Hollywood cheese (and I mean that in a good way). It’s really just a sidewalk covered in large pink stars that are distributed up and down Hollywood Boulevard.
But when a celeb gets one, it’s something of a big deal — especially when it’s someone like Adam West, who should have gotten one long before he actually did.
West’s star is located on the south side of the 6700 block of Hollywood Boulevard, right in front of the Guinness World Records Museum. (Batman co-creator Bob Kane’s star is right there, too. Which means that Bill Finger needs a star too. Get on that, Hollywood.)
John and I were looking at the star when a woman stopped, turned and asked us, “Who’s Adam West?”
“Batman,” we patiently replied.
“I guess I should have known that,” she acknowledged, as we silently judged her.
A moment later, though, a guy decked out in tats and piercings stopped cold, looked down, took a quick pic of West’s star on his phone, and went on his way without missing a beat.
Our faith in humanity — and the power of Batman ’66 — was restored.
— BATMAN ’66 WEEK Index: 2019 Edition. Click here.
— BATMAN ’66 WEEK Index: 2018 Edition. Click here.