Thursday, October 13, 2022

Whatever happened to Burt Ward (Robin on Batman)?


Holy Time Sure Does Fly, Batman!  Don't look now, but the actor who played TV's Robin, the Boy Wonder is 77 years old.  Burt Ward was born Bert John Gervis, Jr. on July 6, 1945 in Los Angeles, California.  His father, Bert Sr., was a prominent Beverley Hills real estate agent.  His mother, Marjorie (née Ward), was a homemaker.. 

Bert Sr. owned a travelling ice show called "Rhapsody on Ice."  As a two-year-old, Bert Jr, was classified as a professional ice skater in the magazine Strange as it Seems, based on a popular comic strip.  As a teenager, Burt was an accomplished athlete, skilled in martial arts, wrestling, track, tennis and golf.

Burt also displayed a sharp intellect.  He was a member of his Beverly Hills High School chess club.  and was a noted speed reader.  In a 2017 phone interview with the digital broadcast television network Heroes & Icons, Burt discussed his speedreading ability.  "I was considered the fastest reader in the world," he said.  "The average reader reads 240 words a minute with 40% comprehension.  "I had one of the most prominent speed reading teachers in the country.  He had me test in front of the American Medical Society in Beverly Hills, and I was tested at 30,000 words a minute with 90% comprehension."

Burt was 19 years old when he auditioned for the part of Robin, the Boy Wonder/Dick Grayson, the "youthful ward" of wealthy philanthropist Bruce Wayne/Batman, played by Adam West.  Bruce and Dick lived in "stately" Wayne Manor," along with Dick's Aunt Harriet, and Bruce's loyal English butler, Alfred.  At the time of his audition for the role of Robin, Burt was studying acting at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he achieved the top 3% in math and science tests.  He was also selling real estate for his father's company on weekends.

Batman aired on the ABC network for three seasons, from January 12, 1966 to March 14, 1968, twice weekly during the first two seasons, and weekly for the third.  120 episodes of the series were produced.  Batman is known for its campy style, its upbeat music and vivid colours.  As the show's executive producer William Dozier put, it. Batman was the only situation comedy on TV without a laugh track.

For the role of Robin, Burt had to compete against more than a thousand other hopefuls.  He and Brooklyn-born actor Peter Deyell were the finalists, and Ward credits his high energy level with winning him the role. "That was 100% me in the character - pounding my fist in my hand and leaping over the door in and out of the Batmobile," he said in a 2016 interview for the Spectrum.  

 After being chosen to play Robin, Bert Gervis, Jr. changed his name to Burt Ward, taking on his mother's maiden name, which he considered easier to pronounce than Gervais,  He also altered the spelling of his first name from "Bert" to "Burt" "to add punch."  

Adam West and Lyle Wagonner were the finalists for the role of Batman, with Adam winning the role.  Lyle went on to star on The Carol Burnett Show.  West and Ward became TV's Dynamic Duo on a very popular series.  Although Adam usually used a stunt double when filming action scenes, Burt performed his personal stunts most of the time.  During the first six days of filming, he was in and out of emergency hospitals with broken bones and burns.

Burt and Adam West

When Batman went off the air in 1968, Burt and Adam West found it difficult to find other acting jobs.  The two were unable to avoid being typecast.  However, Burt did appear in several made-for-TV movies.  After Batman, he and Adam made numerous personal appearances at giant comics conventions.

In 1977, Burt provided the voice of Dick Grayson/Robin in The New Adventures of Batman, a 30 minute animated television series.

Burt also appeared as Dick Grayson in a 2019 episode of Supergirl entitled "Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part One" (Season 5, Episode 9, Air Date: December 8, 2019).

Burt has been married four times.  His first wife was Bonney Lindsey, daughter of the late Mort Lindsey, a renowned American conductor and composer.  Burt and Bonney wed in July 19, 1965.  They had a daughter, Lisa Ann Ward (born August 4, 1966), and they divorced in 1967.  

From 1967 to 1969, Burt was married to actress Kathy Kersh, who appeared aa a villain on the Batman television series.  His third wife was model Mariana Torchia from 1985 to 1989,  

Since July 15,1990, Burt has been married to actress, animal activist and businesswoman Tracy Posner, whom he met in 1989.  Tracy is the daughter of the late billionaire financier Victor Posner, who passed away in 2002.  According to Burt in his Heroes and Icons interview, Tracy's father did not want his daughter to get married.  "He called me up and offered me $10 million to send his daughter back.  I said, 'Sir, it's a very kind offer, but I live your daughter and I'd rather have your daughter than the money."

Burt and Tracy have their own daughter, Melody Lane Ward, who was born on February 16, 1991.

More recent photo of Burt Ward

In his interview with Heroes & Icons, Burt was asked to pick one favorite "Holy" exclamation.  He replied, "You mean like . . . 'Holy strawberries, Batman, are we in a jam?'   You can use that one,  That's a pretty good one!  I had 387 or 370 holies or something like that."  


* Burt says, "I was the Caped Crusader, now I'm the Canine Crusader"  In 1994, he and his  wife, Tracy, opened a non-profit foundation to save dogs in Noroco, California, the community where they live.  The foundation is called Gentle Gants Rescue.  Through the years, Burt and Tracy have saved the lives of several thousand dogs.  Their foundation provides for the food, shelter and medical needs of the animals.  A program has also been developed, which has succeeded in extending their lifespan.

Burt and Tracy have also helped to create a top of the line dog food that is affordable and healthy.  They launched a company, Gentle Giants dog food, to produce it.  There is also a Gentle Giants cat food.  Both are available online and in stores such as Target and Walmart.

* Adam West died of leukemia on June 9, 2017.  He was 88 years old at the time of his passing.  Upon Adam's death, Burt made the following statement to People magazine: "Adam and I had a special friendship for more than 50 years.  We shared some of the most fun times of our lives together, our families have deep love and respect for each other.  This is a terribly unexpected loss of my lifelong friend.  I will forever miss him."

* Prior to her marriage to Burt (1967 to 1969), Kathy Kersh was married briefly to Vince Edwards of Ben Casey fame.  Kathy and Vince divorced in 1965.    

* In 1995, Burt published an autobiography, Boy Wonder: My Life in Tights, about his time portraying Robin.  

* Burt has a black belt in karate and he was a friend and neighbour of the famed martial arts film star Bruce Lee.

SOURCES: Heroes and Icons, "18 Things You Didn't Know About Burt Ward, As Told By Burt Ward Himself," by Heroes and Incons Staff, July 7, 2017; The Spectrum, "Burt Ward's life with dogs," by Nick Thomas, September 1, 2016; Wikipedia; Internet Movie Database (IMDb)

- Joanne

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