Happy Belated, Miss Yvonne

It’s been kind of a rough week for my generation of pop culture fans; folks my age are getting nasty reminders of our mortality every few days, it seems like. (Losing Peggy Lipton, especially, came as a shock; we just saw her in the Twin Peaks revival and she looked GREAT.)

So it cheered me to see that one of those iconic celebs from my youth is still immortal, four years after her passing. On what would have been her 82nd birthday– last Thursday, May 16th– the internet lit up with tributes to Yvonne Craig.

A lot of those tributes mention how HAWT Ms. Craig was and how she jumpstarted so many teenage libidos.

I certainly can’t disagree with that, but truthfully I was a little too young for that to be a factor in my initial admiration of her. Even in her sexy swimwear, what always struck eight-year-old me about Yvonne Craig was how much she always looked like she was enjoying herself. She just seemed like she’d be a fun person to hang out with.

Of course, in all the different articles and blog posts and so on popping up the last few days, the first remembrance of her is always as Batgirl. Mine too, it must be admitted.

And there were some truly wonderful tributes to Batgirl showing up online in the last few days. Here is an amazing commission from Sandy Jarell.

And here’s a fun fan video edit of “Be My Batgirl.”

However, she wasn’t just Batgirl. The second line of her obit usually noted that she did Star Trek as well…the second actress to play one of the galactic superbabe Orion slave girls, and the first one to actually have lines to say in the episode.

(Before any keyboard warriors start girding for battle, I will add that yes, of course Susan Oliver had lines to say in “The Menagerie,” but not as the slave girl. So settle down.)

But that still leaves out a lot. She was all over my television in the 1960s. Sooner or later she was on all my favorites.

She was the femme fatale “Ecstasy de Joie” — no, really — on The Wild Wild West

An old flame of Captain Crane on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

A reformed outlaw girl on The Big Valley

A flirty love interest for Napoleon Solo on The Man From UNCLE

….twice!

She seemed to be the only series regular to get work after Batman, as well. She showed up as a magician’s assistant on It Takes A Thief

…a time traveler on Land of the Giants

…and a villainess on The Six Million Dollar Man.

By this time you could tell she was getting a little older, but she still looked like she was having fun.

Probably my favorite non-Batgirl Yvonne Craig role was as Natasha, the Russian ballerina with a secret love of decadent American music, in In Like Flint.

Not a huge role, but certainly memorable.

And of course, she was on the convention circuit for decades.

I don’t really have a con story but our paths did cross briefly when I was doing press for CBR at the San Diego Con one year. I’d heard she was going to be there and emailed trying to set up an interview; her assistant brushed me off but then Yvonne herself overruled the assistant and emailed me back, talking to me like our dumb little website was up there with Time and Newsweek. We had even talked about her dropping in on the drawing class I would be teaching on Sunday, but then her whole appearance fell through because she and the Comic-Con people had a falling out over her table setup. I still am a little peevish about CCI screwing up my chance to meet Batgirl. (And Natasha and Marta and Ecstasy de Joie and so on and so on.)

Mark Evanier, though, has what has to be the best Yvonne Craig convention story ever. I won’t spoil it but you can check it out yourself here.

And this is just a lovely remembrance of Ms. Craig from an old family friend that’s too good not to share.

Of all the tributes I’ve seen in the last few days, though, this is my very favorite. Not specifically about Yvonne Craig or Batgirl, but certainly she helped inspire it.

The thought that Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl is still inspiring little girls after fifty years makes me ridiculously happy. I suspect it’ll still be happening long after I’m gone.

Back next week with something cool.

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13 Comments

  1. Joe

    I know a woman who danced with the Ballet Russes and on Broadway before becoming an instructor (now retired) at the local university. When I told her that one of my cats was named “Batgirl,” she exclaimed “Oh Yvonne Craig! We were in ‘The Unsinkable Molly Brown’ on Broadway together. I used to use her i.d. to get into bars…”

  2. Joe

    I also remember a role in a comedy where she plays an office assistant, and is asked to spell “geriatrics,” which she spells “j-e-r-r-y-a-t-r-i-x.” Does anyone remember which movie this was? Ida Lupino may have been in it. Or not…

    1. Jeff Nettleton

      That sounds more like Fitzwilly, with Dick Van Dyke and barbara Feldon. Van Dyke is butler to a once wealthy woman, whose money is long gone; but, he and the servants pull a series of cons and thefts to keep her in her lifestyle (and theirs, as well). Feldon is hired as a secretary to Miss Vicky (the “wealthy” woman), who is creating a dictionary for people who can’t spell. She tests Feldon with geriatrics and then asks her, after misspelling it, how she would look it up and then gives the premise of her dictionary. Van Dyke tries to run her off so she can’t expose their operation; but, falls in love with her. it all culminates in a Christmas Eve robbery of Gimbles.

          1. Jeff Nettleton

            Yeah, Barbara Feldon is the love interest in Fitzwilly; no Yvonne Craig. They were the 60s crush gals, if you liked smart women in tv adventure/comedy shows. My two earliest actress crushes were Feldon and Meredith MacRae, from Petticoat Junction. I didn’t get to see Yvonne Craig until I was hitting puberty, in reruns.

            Fitzwilly is a highly underrated, entertaining romantic caper film. You can also see John McGiver (the balding character actor from dozens of 60s tv and movies), a young Sam Waterston, Noam Pitlik (Bob Newhart Show, director on Barney Miller), Norman Fell, and John Fiedler (also Bob Newhart and the voice of Piglet).

  3. Edo Bosnar

    Hm, yeah. The Batman TV show really packed a double-whammy for all of us adolescent boys watching the reruns: Yvonne Craig and Julie Newmar.

    I’d never read that second post you linked; it put a bit of a lump in my throat…
    And I’m glad you linked: a) the Mark Evanier obit. I gut-laughed when I read that last line the first time; b) the tribute video – it is so thoroughly awesome, and I think every Batman or comics fan in general needs to see it (although tastes vary apparently; I posted a link to it a few days ago at the Classic Comics Forum and the response was crickets).

  4. Le Messor

    I was once eating at a restaurant in San Francisco, and they had pictures on the wall of some of the celebrities who’d eaten there.
    Yvonne Craig was one of them.

    (So was Peter Mayhew, who we lost very recently.)

  5. ” Even in her sexy swimwear, what always struck eight-year-old me about Yvonne Craig was how much she always looked like she was enjoying herself.”

    I had the same reaction to Phoebe Cates. Even in horrible films (and she had several to her credit) she came across as someone who enjoyed what she was doing

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