At the time of his death on Friday at the age of 88, Adam West was married to his third wife, Marcelle Tagand Lear. While their 47-year union was by far the Batman star’s longest marriage, it isn’t only notable for its longevity, but also for the positive effect Lear had on West’s life after the TV series that made him a household name got canceled.
From 1966 to 1968, West brought the Caped Crusader to television via his role as Bruce Wayne, aka Batman. The series’ humorous and campy nature is, for many modern viewers, a huge departure from the mostly-serious film characterizations of Bruce Wayne/Batman, as played by actors such as Michael Keaton, Christian Bale, and Ben Affleck. And, as West explained in a 2014 interview with the Sunday Express, he was living the life of a rock star as he played his most famous TV role; Adam West was, at that time, divorced from his second wife, and enjoying life as a single, and very famous man.
“There was a lot of drinking involved, womanizing. It’s not easy to deal with that instant fame when you become kind of a rock star. When you’re young and available it is difficult many times to pass by someone who might have some kind of need.”
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Still in his late-30s when the original Batman TV series was a big hit among viewers, especially the younger crowd, West was admittedly living a decadent lifestyle, one that included a drunken encounter with Pope Paul VI. But it was a few years after Batman was canceled, at a time when Adam West had just recently married third wife Marcelle Tagand Lear, when he had “hit rock bottom,” seemingly reduced to a self-parody of his famous role. Mainly, he said, he was upset that being typecast as Batman had caused his acting career to suffer, and he would turn to alcohol to numb the sorrow.
“I became very self-destructive,” said West.
“That came from being disillusioned and frustrated. I was bitter when I realized Batman had caused me to lose a lot of roles afterwards. Then I had an epiphany.”
That epiphany was the realization he had been wasting his talent through alcohol, and that motivated him to “get back to work” and get his life and his career back on track.
It also helped that Adam West’s wife, Marcelle, as he quipped to the Sunday Express, was the type who was “not understanding,” and wasn’t willing to let him get away with his self-destructive behavior. He stressed that that was also the reason why he and Marcelle had stayed together for what was then the 44th year of their marriage.
Senior City Local noted that Adam West had two short-lived marriages before settling down with Lear. In August, 1950, he was still known by his real name, William West Anderson, when he married 17-year-old Billie Lou Yeager. At that time, he was entering his senior year at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, but it was only six years later when the couple divorced without having any children. A year later, he married Tahitian dancer Nga Frisbie Dawson, and while they had two children together, they divorced in 1962.
According to a 1986 article from People, Adam West met his third wife, Marcelle Tagand Lear, during the days of the Batman TV series, back when she was still married to airplane heir Bill Lear. As Marcelle recalled to People, she was mainly attracted to his sense of humor when she and Adam first met, while West was wearing his Batman costume in a publicity shot with Marcelle and her then-husband.
“I saw Adam in costume and thought, ‘This is very strange.’ But when he removed the mask, I saw a very attractive man with a good sense of humor.”
Marcelle Tagand Lear became Adam West’s wife in November, 1970, and it was this marriage, which ultimately lasted until West’s death, which he had often credited for helping him beat the bottle. Aside from his two children with his second wife, West is survived by Marcelle’s daughters, Moya and Jill, and their two children, Nina and Perrin.
[Featured Image by Kent C. Horner/Getty Images for SiriusXM]