He’s proud to have rescued and rehomed more than 15,000 four-legged friends through Gentle Giants, a non-profit organisation Burt formed with fourth wife Tracy Posner, who shares his passion for pets. At any one time the couple have 50 rescue dogs living in their home in Norco, California, some of whom share the marital bed with them. “We love animals and this is our life’s work,” says Burt, 74. The couple spend their days nursing dogs back to health and putting them up for adoption while also developing nutrition products for canines.
“If you go to the trouble of saving an animal’s life you’d like it to live as long as possible and in the course of this care we have developed a dog food that has helped them live up to 27 years old and many are running around like puppies,” he says.
“The food is called Gentle Giants, too, and while currently only available in North America it will be in other countries soon.”
All profits from sales go towards helping dogs in need. But while the charity takes up most of Burt’s time, Batman is never far from his thoughts – especially with the 1960s show being constantly repeated around the world, allowing new generations to discover his outrageous interpretation of Dick Grayson and his crimefighter alter ego, Robin the Boy Wonder.
Burt was back in the Bat-signal spotlight on January 9 when he was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “It means a lot to me,” he says. “I’ve waited 50 years for this – but I’m a patient man.”
He was especially pleased that his star on Hollywood Boul-evard was next to that of Adam West, who played the title role in Batman and remained a close friend until his death in 2017.
“Adam and I met at the auditions for the show, had a laugh from the start, and we didn’t stop laughing for the next 50 years,” he says. “All the actors who have played Batman since have been wonderful actors but in my mind the only real Batman is Adam West.”
Ward recently returned to the role, filming a cameo appearance as Dick Grayson in Crisis On Infinite Earths, a US TV multi-part special drama uniting superheroes past and present from the DC Comics universe. “It’s really got people talking and I’m thrilled. What other actor has ever recreated a character they last played over five decades ago?”
But when you consider how perilous the original Batman show was to film, it’s remarkable he even made it out of the series alive. “I was in the hospital emergency room for four of the first five days of filming due to second degree burns from explosions, a broken nose and other injuries. It was a really dangerous show.”
He realised that when filming the very first scene of the series – the famous shot of the Batmobile speeding out of the Batcave and making a sharp left turn to race towards a crime scene.
“I got into the Batmobile for that scene and noticed the person sitting next to me in costume wasn’t Adam.
“He explained he was a stuntman named Hughbie and then said, ‘I’m here because this is a very dangerous stunt, bad things can happen and they don’t want to take a chance of Adam West getting hurt.’
“I wasn’t encouraged by that so I called the second unit director over and he explained there was no stunt double for me because they had been unable to find one who looked like me.”
Despite all the injuries, Burt made it through and helped turn Batman into a hit for both children and adults, largely thanks to the cheeky double-entendre dialogue the two of them sneaked into the script.
“All that suggestive stuff was improvised. The double meanings helped us get the young adult audience. We snuck in words all the time. Like when Robin says, ‘Gosh Batman, Batgirl is really very pretty’, Adam’s line was, ‘I’m glad you noticed, Robin’ but he added, ‘It shows the oncoming thrust of manhood’.”
The show has been parodied in comedy shows ever since, perhaps most famously in Britain when Del and Rodney dressed up as Batman and Robin in an Only Fools And Horses special. But Burt admits: “I think the parodies are great but I haven’t seen that one. Maybe I’ve spent too many hours in the Batcave!”
● Burt spills more secrets from the Batcave in a special episode of podcast Who’s The Best? (whosthebest.fm). Learn about Burt’s canine charity at gentlegiantsdogfood.com