Wednesday, September 2, 2015

YVONNE CRAIG (1937-2015)

The past couple weeks were filled with sad goodbyes, good memories, exciting possibilities. With your kind indulgence, these are what I’ll be writing about for the next few days.


We lost the wonderful Yvonne Craig [May 16, 1937 – August 17, 2015] to metastatic breast cancer that had spread to her liver. She was a ballet dancer and an actress, probably best known and loved for playing Batgirl on the final season of the Batman television show of the 1960s. I got to know her and her sister, Meridel Carson, via her several appearances at Roger Price’s Mid-Ohio-Con. The three of us were con buddies and exchanged Christmas cards for many years. It was always wonderful to see them in Columbus.

People who knew Yvonne much better than I did have said and written many loving tributes to her. Countless fans she met at conventions have done the same. I don’t think it was a possible to meet Yvonne and not fall in love with her...all over again. She was unfailing kind to her fans and, of this I have no doubt, anyone who met her. Our world is less wonderful without her.

Virtually every online memorial from one of Yvonne’s fans mentions how beautiful and sexy she was. That she was breathtakingly lovely is obvious to anyone who ever met her, saw photos of her, watched her in movies or on television. Many men and women of my generation and later generations had crushes on her. Many of us told her that when we met her, which now seems embarrassingly creepy to me. She always took the confession in good grace where someone less elegant than her would have been at least mildly disturbed.

This being a comic book-centric blog, I should write about Yvonne’s year as Batgirl. Back in the day, as a oh-so-serious afficionado of the comics art form, I had tired of the Batman television show and its “camp” demeanor. Yet Yvonne made that third season must-watch TV for me. Thrust into the midst of all that Bat-silliness, Yvonne played Batgirl and Barbara Gordon straight. She was a most serious crime-fighter, crazy-smart, ever-courageous and the stuff of a 16-year-old comics fan’s dreams. Though, in my defense, they were the most chaste of dreams, nothing more torrid than holding hands and the occasional peck on the cheek. Batgirl’s status as a heroic icon loomed larger than her undeniable sexiness. Yvonne’s portrayal of the character made Batgirl a role model for boys and girls of that era. Others have played or voiced Barbara Gordon, some of them very well, but Yvonne is forever my Batgirl.

Yvonne’s life was a life well spent. She was a great dancer and a terrific actress. Whenever I see her in a movie or on a TV show, I always enjoy her performances. She was a smart businesswoman and an activist on several fronts. She was honestly wonderful to her fans.

Yvonne was a Mid-Ohio-Con guest on several occasions. Meridel would come with her and it was always a delight to spend some time with the sisters. With the hope that my memory has the details right or at least mostly so, I want to share a pair of special moments with you today.

Though she was born in Taylorville, Illinois, Yvonne was raised in Columbus, Ohio, the home of Mid-Ohio-Con. One year, she and Meridel brought their mother with them. They’d arranged a reunion with some of her Columbus friends. Their mom was every bit as charming as her daughters. Having the three of them at the convention made it even more family-friendly than usual.

At another convention, Yvonne and I got to talking about art. She knew more about it than I did, which isn’t difficult since I am a “know what I like” art admirer. Knowing that I occasionally came to the Los Angeles area, she invited me to visit her home and view the art she and her husband Kenneth Aldrich had collected. I cracked up Meridel when I said:

“Let me get this straight, Yvonne, you’re inviting a guy you know had a crush on you to your house to see your etchings.”

Yvonne laughed and, zap pow, there was that smile that lit up every convention she ever attended. I can picture that smile to this day.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2015 Tony Isabella

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