‘Zowie!’ Interviews: Baddies

“Zowie!” presents Mark Voger’s interviews with “Batman” villians Burgess Meredith, Cesar Romero (both above), Frank Gorshin, Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Malachi Throne and others.

Following are excerpts from “Zowie! The TV Superhero Craze in ’60s Pop Culture” by Mark Voger ($43.95, TwoMorrows Publishing, ships July 31).

“Here’s a guy who fancied himself as a genius,” said Gorshin (shown at right in 2001) of the Riddler. 2001 photo by Kathy Voglesong

Frank Gorshin

Gorshin on playing the Riddler: “I thought he was going to be a fun character to do. Here’s a guy who fancied himself as a genius, as someone who could do everything. You know, he would think of himself as a great actor, a great scientist, a great mathematician. I thought it would give me that kind of scope. I thought I could end up doing Shakespeare, even, and things that the Riddler could do that nobody else could do as well, as far as he was concerned. I felt that I had a lot of levity in that role.

“It’s too bad it lasted only three seasons. Because they would write it so that I would touch on Shakespeare. I would have a situation where I was raiding the vaults of the motion picture museum, and in raiding the vault, I assumed the roles of different people. This is one episode.”

Burgess Meredith referred to his enduring “Batman” character as “This damn Penguin.”

Burgess Meredith

Meredith on the Penguin: “It just seems to hang on beyond its worth. You get introduced — with all that I’ve done — and somebody introduces you as ‘best known as the Penguin.’ The Penguin was very good in its day. If you write your own story, that isn’t the most important thing that happened to you. We (the ‘Batman’ cast) did it as kind of a very successful joke, but we never knew that it would have that kind of impact.

“It’s really amazing to me the way that it’s kept going. To this moment, if I look over on my desk, I see the fan mail, and much of it has to do with — still — the Penguin. I keep getting these endless requests, from all over the world, about the Penguin. I didn’t even know it played other places. I just got things from Germany and Sweden and all over. And not on any of the big things I did, but all on this damn Penguin.”

Meredith’s response when I said I would drop the subject: “No, that’s fine. I’m delighted. I’m just — I said that with endearment.”

“I just fell in love with the Joker,” said Cesar Romero.

Cesar Romero

Romero on how he was cast: “Bill (executive producer William Dozier) called me. He said he wanted me for the Joker. I went to the studio and they ran the first episode with Gorshin. I thought it was just terrific.”

On his Joker characterization: “I just did what came naturally, that’s all. I read the script and I just fell in love with the Joker.”

On whether he consulted comic books that featured the Joker: “No, I never did. I never knew anything about the comic books. When I began on the series, the Joker was a completely new character to me. I never heard of the Joker.”

Julie Newmar

“The secret is in the seams,” said Julie Newmar (shown in 1995 at right) of her Catwoman costume. 1995 photo by Kathy Voglesong

Newmar on her teasing interplay with Adam West: “I always thought that as a cat, I could toy with any male star. Probably, cats think they are the stars, and the rest of the cast is only there to be dabbled with. So the romantic scenes became very popular, as audiences continue to tell me.”

On her “poured on” costume as Catwoman: “It was me. See, I have the secret of making zingy clothes, form-fitting clothes. It’s almost as if licorice was poured over the body, and then they zip you into it. It’s very easy to wear. It’s secret is in the seams. The whole secret is in the seams, and I’m the only one who knows how to do it.”

The 1966 movie Catwoman, Lee Meriwether (circled), with her fellow felons.

Lee Meriwether

Meriwether on her villainous co-stars Gorshin, Meredith and Romero: “They were wonderful to me. They knew I was coming in late. Julie (Newmar) had done the first season of the TV show (as Catwoman), and here I was coming into the movie never having played the character.

“They had all played their characters. They knew what they were going to do, how they were going to move, everything. I was like a baby. Baby steps. But they were so supportive, it was incredible. I was so lucky to have them. All of them — each one in their own way — was very supportive, very encouraging.

“Cesar was very protective. On the first day, I was underneath the water in the submarine. He protected me a couple of times when there were electric shocks and steam pouring out. He wasn’t supposed to be there, but he was right there and protecting me with his back.”

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