RIP Lyle Waggoner.
Whether he shared the stage with an ensemble, or held his own as an All-American sidekick, Lyle Waggoner was a career television man. This week’s sad news of Lyle’s passing has fans refelecting on the actor’s amazing legacy. Military radio operator; 70’s heartthrob, TV celebrity, and believe it or not, Lyle almost became the Batman!
One Step At A Time
Before I jump ahead too quickly, let’s track the beginnings of Lyle’s amazing resumé. Born April 13, 1935 this Kansas City boy’s acting career began, not dark and brooding – as one would expect from a Batman candidate – but with slapstick hilarity. Lyle made his first big splash on the smash sketch comedy series The_Carol_Burnett_Show. Lyle juggled a multitude of hats alongside this talented ensemble. But Waggoner’s debonair good looks were always prominent in the silly characters he portrayed. Especially as the self absorbed Mr. Handsome, whom Burnett would swoon and faint over repeatedly.
A Man Of Action!
Waggoner quickly became a household face. Being recognizable launched him into a playing military man Steve Trevor on the groundbreaking television series adaptation of Wonder Woman. With that classic square jaw and real life military experience, LW embodied the perfect counterpart for the Amazonian Goddess.
Holy Different Batman, Batman!
Allow me to lift the veil if you will. Between our safe, comfortable living rooms, and the dog eat dog world of network acting auditions. Here, away from the adoring eyes of America’s housewives, Lyle Waggoner’s career almost took a much different shape. Few fans know how quantum-ly close LW was to becoming the Caped Crusader! It’s 1964. Network giant ABC secretly announces the role for a Batman television show. Lyle auditions and is soon neck and neck with actor Adam West. The race for the role is so close the casting exec’s demand a lengthy screentest be filmed. Finally, the decision is made. Lyle loses the cowl to West, but quickly rebounds with the Steve Trevor gig. Oh, but how I would kill to see that old screentest footage! Who knows? Perhaps Lyle’s Batman can be found somewhere out there in the DC Multiverse.
Since Waggoner’s passing, stories abound of his warm, down to earth nature. In her memoirs, Burnett speaks kindly of Lyle spending an hour a day to answer fan mail. And look at the glow on Wonder Woman star Lynda_Carter as the two actors share some down time.
No one can deny that Waggoner is perpetually dashing. This air of wealth would have easily made for a believable Bruce Wayne. And yet, if Lyle were cast as Batman, we might miss all of the depth he brought to Steve Trevor. Nonetheless, long after Wonder Woman, Lyle’s magnetism continued to pay off. Dozens of guest appearances on America’s most cherished television shows are testament to the actor’s professionalism and tremendous versatility.
Lyle Wesley Waggoner passed on March 17, 2020 in Westlake Village, California. He was 84.