It was September of 2006 and Craig was appearing at an event in New York City celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Batman, the TV series that made her an icon. I suspect she had heard those words once or twice before in the intervening decades, but she looked up at me and smiled as if I too were her first.
“Aw, that’s so nice to hear!” she replied, locking eyes with me warmly.
“It’s very exciting to meet you,” I continued, holding her hand far longer than any socially acceptable definition of “handshake.”
Batman was cancelled before I was born, but it lived on in daily syndicated reruns throughout my childhood. Every day after school I would park myself in front of the TV and air-punch along with the Caped Crusaders, as they battled a rogue’s gallery of villains portrayed by aging classic film stars. It was a budding Old Movie Weirdo’s dream, set to a frenetic jazz score.
Once, in first grade, I got so worked up by one of the fight scenes that I actually catapulted myself at the TV set. Some part of me thought that, if I really, really believed it was possible, I could dive head first into the action and battle alongside my heroes. Sadly, it didn’t work. The Zenith teetered, then tumbled backwards, pinning six year-old me under it with a frightening ZAP!
But waiting for my mom to get home and rescue me was just like a Batman cliffhanger, so it wasn’t a total loss.
Yes, Batman got me all sorts of worked up. But Batgirl had an entirely different effect.
In the show’s third and final season, actress and dancer Craig joined the cast as the mysterious heroine (and her librarian alter ego Barbara Gordon) in an effort to reinvigorate a faltering franchise. Batgirl wore a metallic purple costume that appeared to be painted on Craig’s athletic form, beating the crap out of bad guys with ballet twirls and gymnast kicks, her gold-lined cape spinning behind her like a pinwheel.
Back then I didn’t really understand my feelings for Yvonne Craig, but I do now. Batgirl was established in my developing psyche as the model for the perfect woman: sexy but self-sufficient, with no time for primping when there were asses to be kicked. And this girl was no cling-on (even though Yvonne would later appear on Star Trek), rescuing the Caped Crusaders from danger more than once.
The years passed, I grew older and Batman receded into my childhood. But I never forgot my first love.
“I hope you enjoy coming to these things,” I said to Craig, who was still striking at age 69.
“I didn’t even think we’d be discussing it forty years later,” she laughed. “But the nice thing about having done Batman is, you meet people and they’re watching it with their kids. They saw it when they were little and now they have kids to share it with.”
She looked down and noticed no child accompanying me. Then she smiled again.
“And of course the original fans still love it,” she said, scoring a nice save.
“When I watch episodes now I can still recite lines of dialogue!” I blurted nervously, doubling down on my inner dork.
“That’s better than I can do!” Craig laughed.
As she began to autograph my picture, I asked her why Batman was not yet available on home video.
“I’ll tell you in just a second, otherwise I’ll misspell my name,” she said. “And then it looks like ‘Rat Girl.’”
Craig offered her take on the delay, blaming it primarily on pending litigation with the heir of series creator William Dozier (who died in 1991). I nodded, all the while thinking, I’m talking to Batgirl! And we’re getting along really well! (Thankfully, the legal issues were resolved and the show made its debut on DVD and Blu-ray in 2014).
Then Yvonne Craig invited me to sit beside her so we could take a picture together. I sat down and gently put my arm around her shoulder like we were old friends, which we kind of were. Then we said our farewells, and I shook her hand. Again.
“You were totally flirting with her!” my girlfriend said afterwards, laughing. “And you were blushing the whole time”
“I know,” I replied. “But do you think she knows how happy I was to meet her?”
“Oh, she knows. Trust me. She knows.”
MeTV will honor Yvonne Craig this Saturday at 7 p.m. (ET) with two episodes of “Batman,” followed at 9 p.m. with her 1969 episode of “Star Trek.”