by Christopher Boyle
NEW YORK – Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 50 years or so, it’s safe to say that almost everyone knows of the infamously campy 1960’s Batman television show. Unlike modern portrayals of the Caped Crusader, the 60’s Batman was a much lighter, humorous, and family-friendly take on the DC Comics superhero that later went on to achieve cult status and catapult star Adam West into the status of a true pop culture icon.
Over the years, the popularity of the 60’s Batman show has continued unabated, thanks to widespread television syndication and especially the willingness of Adam West to embrace the silliness of his most well-known role, often appearing at fan conventions and in guest roles on TV shows poking fun at his time under the mask and cape. But, much like Batman’s arch-enemy The Joker, West himself was a bit of a prankster at heart as well, and it was discovered after his 2017 passing that he had used his local Sun Valley, California phone book – West and his wife Marcelle maintained homes in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, but spent most of their time at their ranch in Ketchum, Idaho – as a way to play an innocent-yet-ingenious practical joke on anyone who may have decided to try and track down the late star’s home address for an unannounced visit.
It all starts with a causal glance through the Sun Valley Telephone Pages directory; when opening up the book and flipping to the “W’s” to look up the name “Adam West,” the reader will notice that, in lieu of a corresponding phone number, the listing would instead note, “See Wayne, Bruce (Millionaire).“ Of course, most people would simple get a good chuckle at the ingenuity of Mr. West, realize that they’ve been had, close the book, and move on. But for those that were undeterred and willing to press on, they would soon realize that the joke goes a wee bit deeper.
Taking the second step and going on to look up “Wayne, Bruce (Millionaire)” in the Sun Valley Telephone directory then takes you a listing that instructs you to “Please consult Crime Fighters in the Yellow Pages.” From there, of course, you would need a copy of the Sun Valley Yellow Pages directory to proceed; for those in possession of it, a quick scan to the “Crime Fighters” category page leads to a single listing that, in turn, tells readers to simply “See Batman.” And for those who continue from there – and, after all of that intrigue and effort, who wouldn’t? – they will discover, shockingly enough, that the “Batman” listing tells readers to refer back to – you guessed it – Adam West’s original listing, and the circle is now complete.
While the print telephone directories and the Yellow Pages in particular have been getting a great deal of flack in recent years for their many shortcomings when compared to their digital/online counterparts – including their negative environmental impact and inefficient, out-of-date information – it’s nice to see that they’re still getting some positive use while they’re still in circulation. Plus, it would be much harder – practically impossible – to pull off a practical joke of this caliber using the Internet, as given the number of options users have when it comes to phone directories, it would be difficult to get them to consult the right ones each time. So kudos to Batman himself, the late, great Adam West, for taking full advantage of the print medium to relay a fantastic prank upon the unwary and giving his many fans a fond farewell along with a final, lighthearted chuckle.