Updated: August 11, 2017
BURT WARD PHOTO GALLERY #06
Actor Burt Ward had to endure one of the toughest setbacks ever to befall a TV star once his camp-styled antics as the "Boy Wonder" superhero ended on the one-time hit series Batman (1966). Irreparably typecast, he was out of commission for much of his "post-Robin" career with the cult star eventually becoming a frequent participant at TV nostalgia conventions. He was born Bert John Gervis, Jr, the oldest of three children. His father, Bert Sr. was the owner of a traveling ice show called "Rhapsody On Ice." By age two, young Bert was billed as the youngest professional ice skater and his name was even featured in the book Strange As It Seems, a predecessor to the popular Guinness Book of Records. Eventually Bert's family migrated to Los Angeles where his father sold real estate. Bright and athletically inclined, Bert Jr. was active on the high school track and field, wrestling, and golf teams. He was also a chess champion at school and took up karate.
Following graduation in 1963, Bert met Bonney Lindsey, whose father was the well-known musical conductor Mort Lindsey. Through Mr. Lindsey's contacts, Bert and Bonney apprenticed at the Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, Pennsylvania, where he worked behind the scenes building sets and assisting with props. It was enough to pique his interest and, after attending the University of California at Santa Barbara where he worked part time as a deejay at the local college station, he transferred to UCLA and became a motion picture and theater major, supplementing his income during that time in real estate.
After college, Bert ventured on with his work as a broker and actually made his first sale to producer Saul David who introduced the young hopeful to an agent. In 1965 ABC started its search for a "new face" to appear on an upcoming comic strip series. Bert lucked out and managed a screen test with Adam West for the role of Dick ("Robin") Grayson opposite West's caped crusader. Bert's compact build, slightly awkward sense of humor, and assured athletic skills (he was a brown belt in karate at the time) were instrumental in his winning the role. He adopted the last name of Ward for his moniker, which was his mother's last name, and changed the spelling of his first name to "Burt."
Without any professional acting experience at all, Burt was suddenly thrust into the limelight big time. Batman (1966) premiered in January of 1966 and caught on instantly. It became a ratings smash. The kitschy, tongue-in-cheek humor combined with the colorful sets, gimmicky props ("Batmobile") and heroes' catchy phrases (including Burt's "holy (whatever), Batman!") all added tremendously to the cartoon fun and triggered huge profits for ABC. Popular guest stars villains such as Frank Gorshin, Julie Newmar, Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, Vincent Price, Victor Buono and even Tallulah Bankhead joined in on the outrageousness. Faithful to Bob Kane's original comic strip, fans could not get enough of the Dynamic Duo or the show. Adam and Burt made frequent personal appearances and appeared everywhere in numerous magazine articles.
The sudden thrust of celebrity eventually took its toll on Burt's young marriage to Bonney and they divorced around the beginning of the show's second season. He then married lovely actress Kathy Kersh whom he met when she appeared as a guest on the show. This marriage too fell apart after only a couple of years. Kersh went on to marry actor Vince Edwards. An untried talent at the time he started the show, he made, as such, only $350 a week during the first season. He did not fare much better in the subsequent seasons ($450 for the second; $500 for the third). Moreover, by 1968 audiences lost interest and, after two-and-a-half years, his "fifteen minutes of fame" was over. Like a new dance craze, the novelty wore off and all the hoopla surrounding it disappeared. The show went into the ratings tank. Towards the end they tried adding a sexy Batgirl (lovely Yvonne Craig) to spice up the proceedings but it didn't help.
With the demise of the series, Burt had no prior acting credits and nothing sound to fall back on. Both he and Adam West, who once had a serious reputation as an actor, would pay dearly for the characters that turned them into overnight sensations. They did wind up providing the animated voices to their superheroes on Saturday morning cartoons. Burt put aside the acting business and used his smarts in other suitable ways. He used a bit of his savvy and organized fan clubs, seeing that all his fan mail was given responses. He also launched a fund-raising business to help schools and hospitals raise money. During the late 1980's, Burt created an early education program for children aged 3-8 that taught social values, good health and safety rules, and critical thinking skills. It was called the Early Bird Learning Program.
It was through this education program that Burt met fourth wife Tracy Posner. They married on July 15, 1990, and had daughter Melody Lane Ward the following year. He also has an older daughter, Lisa, from his first marriage. Together Burt and Tracy organized Great Dane Rescue which rescues and finds homes for this special breed. Unlike others who have suffered similar career fallouts, Burt has ventured on productively with his life. He also went on to make a game comeback of sorts in low-budget films in the late 80s with such dubious titles as Virgin High (1991) (with Tracy), Hot Under the Collar (1992) and Karate Raider (1995) leading the pack.