The name Frank Gorshin may no longer ring familiar in every home in America, but news of the 72-year-old actor's death has much of the nation taking one last opportunity to appreciate just how far-reaching his influence was on modern-day pop culture.
Gorshin, a master impressionist and veteran of nearly 200 film and television appearances, is best remembered for his Emmy-nominated role as the Riddler on '60s TV show "Batman." After a lengthy battle with lung cancer, emphysema and pneumonia, and with his wife of 48 years at his side, the actor said goodbye to a world anxiously awaiting next month's new "Batman" film, whose villains will undoubtedly have some trace of the actor's fingerprints on them.
"He thought ['Batman'] was great, because no matter where he went, it's a legendary show," said Fred Wostbrock, his agent and longtime friend. "It's a classic. Every 10 years a new generation of fans discover it. Everybody would come up to him."
Gorshin's regular appearances as the rail-thin, cackling villain in green tights set the blueprint not only for the other evildoers on the hit show, but also for future generations of TV and film supervillains.
"He, too, was on the very first episode," Adam West, the show's titular caped crusader, said in a statement about Gorshin. "He helped make the series a smash. I'll miss him dearly. He made me laugh; it's a great loss."
"He helped bring life into our classic 'Batman' TV series," West wrote in his statement. "Frank will be missed. Frank was a friend and a fascinating character."
Gorshin impacted the film and television industries and was also a part of music history. "He was [on 'The Ed Sullivan Show'] the night the Beatles were on," Wostbrock said of the 1964 American debut of the Fab Four. "He performed on that very show. He'd always told me a funny story: he looked out the window at 42nd and Broadway and saw hundreds of girls lined up. He turned around and said, 'Hey, how did they all know I was here?' "
Most recently, Gorshin was surprised to learn that his list of admirers happened to include one of the hottest directors in Hollywood. "Quentin Tarantino directed John Travolta in 'Pulp Fiction,' where John Travolta did Adam [West]'s Bat-dance, the Bat-toosie," Wostbrock remembered. "Quentin said, 'Hey, do the Adam West dance,' and they did it ... [Tarantino was a] big fan of Frank, and a big fan of Adam and a big fan of 'Batman.' "