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That time Yvonne Craig ran over Vincent Price with the Batgirlcycle

That time Yvonne Craig ran over Vincent Price with the Batgirlcycle
Actress and former ballerina Yvonne Craig, who played Batgirl in the TV series "Batman," dances to escape swords in a 1967 episode called "The OGG Couple." (Nelson Tiffany / Los Angeles Times)

Editor's note: This week actress Yvonne Craig passed away, causing us to pause and reflect on her legacy as Batgirl, her lacy motorcycle and even the public service announcement she appeared in educating TV audiences about equal pay. While looking through the Los Angeles Times archives, we uncovered an article reported from the set of "Batman" from Aug. 1, 1967, a little more than a month before Craig would appear on TV screens as Batgirl in the episode "Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin."

Below we've republished the article that takes you on set with L.A. Times staff writer Walt Dutton as Craig readies for her Batgirl debut, sharing hilarious stories about kicking the Batgirlcycle and almost taking down Vincent Price. However, it also showcases the atmosphere of casual sexism that was prevalent in Hollywood during the time. But thanks to Craig's superhero work, a lot of stereotypes were kicked down, opening the door for leading roles for women in the male-dominated comic book TV world.

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Here's the full article and art that ran in the newspaper, originally headlined, "Batgirl Jumps Into Crime Fight (Zowie!)."

Pow! Zap! Va-va-voom! Batgirl is here, and quicker than you can flash a Batsignal, Gotham City's Dynamic Duo has become the Terrific Trio.

In the illusory world of Gotham City, Batgirl's true identity is Barbara Gordon, the just-returned-from-college daughter of unsuspecting Commissioner Gordon. And in the illusory world of show business, Barbara Gordon's true identity is Yvonne Craig, a luscious ballet-dancer-turned-actress.

So far, Yvonne has been having a great time as a dedicated crime-fighter in the ABC series.

"I had never seen anything like it," she remarked the other day, referring to the first time she had seen Batman and Robin on her TV screen.

Loves the Show

"I didn't know what to think then" she admitted, "but now I love the show; there are so many fun things about it."

"It's wild and bizarre; while thrilling the kids with its action and costumes, its humor gets through to the adults who are watching with them. In fact, a politician recently told me he thinks Batman has produced some of the best political satire he has ever seen."

Yvonne was outside the studio soundstage watching the crew shoot an exterior scene.

"There it is," she smiled, pointing to an outlandishly purple motorcycle bedecked with bat wings, trimmed in lace and sporting a white bow on its rear fender. "It's the Batgirlcycle."

The cycle is full-sized and looks powerful.

"Oh, I can ride it all right," she boasted. "I just have trouble when it's stopped; it's so heavy, I can't hold it up. It fell over the other day and I decided to try talking to it."

"'Come on,' I said nicely, 'you can get up, can't you?' It didn't, so I kicked it."

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Then she recalled with a laugh how the thing nearly wiped out Vincent Price, who was guest villain Egghead.

"In the scene, I race in on the Batgirlcycle and make a panic stop at the curb, where Vincent is standing. Well, it stopped; but then -- voom! voom! -- it started again. He dodged it, but -- voom! voom! -- it went after him a second time.

"He ended up straight-arming it and cut his hand on the bat wing. It ran over his foot, too.

"I thought I was going to kill him; that would have been the end of art in Los Angeles."

Reportedly, Price had the urge to shout, "Ole!" and producer Howie Horwitz offered him two ears and an organdy bow.

Shopping Tour

"Let's go see Barbara Gordon's apartment," she suggested.

On the way, we detoured to her dressing room, where the wardrobe department's Pat Barto was looking over some new acquisitions for Barbara Gordon.

The clothes were the result of an earlier shopping tour. Pat took Yvonne along with her on this particular spree, and was amazed at the young actress' taste.

Modest Reply

"This kid's sharp," Pat exclaimed. "She really knows the personality of Barbara Gordon. I let her pick a couple of things out and she did remarkably well."

"Now," Yvonne interjected, "if we could just buy all of this stuff, we'd never have to shop for Barbara Gordon again.

"We saw some real groovy things, but they were too chic for Barbara -- not for me, of course," Yvonne said, affecting a snobbish tone. "I'm so elegant!"

"How are you in stretch jeans?" asked Pat.

"Not too great," she replied modestly. Those who have seen her in the form-fitting Batgirl costume might take exception to that statement. Although the outfit looks like a shapeless skindiving suit while on a hanger, on Yvonne it is rather stunning. (She confessed, somewhat reluctantly, her dimensions are 35 1/2-21-34 1/2.)

"But let's see the apartment," Yvonne urged.

The apartment was dark. The bright studio lights were turned off, and the only illumination on the set came from the open studio doors.

"I'd like to move in here!" she said. "That would be kicky. I really like that bedroom."

The living room of Barbara Gordon's apartment is contemporary in design, reflecting the tastes of a swinger. But the bedroom she spoke of is very feminine, with ruffles and antique furniture.

Secret Room

Behind her vanity table lies her secret room: Barbara Gordon's answer to the Batcave. It is replete with flashing lights and an iris-like exit leading to the Batgirlcycle.

All she needed at that point was the secret signal and off she'd go on her war against those well-known forces of evil.

"What's that?" Batgirl recoiled at the unexpected sight of an evil creature that somehow had slipped in unnoticed through the open doors.

"Oh," she sighed. "It's only a grasshopper."

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