The Celebrity Collector:
African Masks for TV's Batgirl
Primitive and the Primal
Yvonne Craig's Favorites
Yvonne Craig is a
delight...not only to interview, but also to watch during the good
old days of TV and movies. Best known as Batgirl from the
live-action Batman television show of the '60s, Yvonne also guest
starred in more than 150 episodes of shows like Star Trek, The Man
From U.N.C.L.E., Dobie Gillis, Wild, Wild, West, 77 Sunset Strip,
Dr. Kildare, My Three Sons, It Takes A Thief, McHale's Navy, Love
American Style, Starsky and Hutch, and Fantasy Island to name a few.
Yvonne's film career included acting with Elvis Presley in Kissing
Cousins and It Happened At The World's Fair. She has also starred in
movies opposite Bing Crosby, James Coburn, George Hamilton, Sal
Mineo, Robert Vaughn, and Don Knotts.
Born in Taylorville, IL, to
Maurice and Pauline Craig on May 16, 1937, Yvonne embarked on a
career in ballet, joining the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1954.
Later, she moved to Los Angeles, and there she was approached by
Hollywood producers about a job in acting. Content as a ballerina,
Yvonne turned them down. When they approached her the second time,
she agreed to act-but only until she joined another ballet company
(which never happened).
Her first movie was the
western The Young Land with Patrick Wayne, son of John.
Today, Yvonne has added
author to her list of credits. She recently published a book, From
Ballet to the Batcave and Beyond, about her career and the people
she has met and acted with along way.
Yvonne is also a great
world traveler, and during her travels, she has picked up a love for
collecting African masks.
How did you get
started collecting African masks? What attracted you to
Yvonne: "They are just so
primitive and primal. My husband and I went to Africa in about 1972,
and I brought one home then. At the airport, the customs agent asked
if those were turkey feathers on it. Obviously, they were not turkey
feathers, so I said, 'No.' He said, "If you want to bring that into
the country, those are turkey feathers.' And I said, 'That's what
they are.' It was the 70s, so they were a little slack on the rules.
You know, love and peace."
"Each time we went back to
Africa, I would pick up another mask."
How many masks do
"Eight or nine. And some
others that are not from Africa. One is from Equador that has parrot
feathers on it. I have one made from armadillo skin from Oaxhuaca,
Mexico. I also have a fanged mask that is hard to find now, and one
made of ebony."
Most of your masks
have been "danced," correct?
"Right. Being "danced"
means they were made for a ceremonial purpose and not for tourists.
In the '80s, collecting primitive items became popular so danced
masks are hard to find unless someone sells their collection. Also,
Africa has changed. People are moving to the cities and away from
How can you tell if
a mask has been "danced"?
"By the wear marks."
Do you collect
The ceramic type,
"Yes. (Laughs.) When I was
touring with the Ballet Russo, my 12-year-old sister sent me a frog
in the mail. It was about the size of your cuticle. She wrote that
she had found this cute frog and knew I would like it. Of course, it
had been through a postal stamping machine, so it was flat when I
have you collected from your career? The Batcycle,
"No. I haven't collected
memorabilia. I am not a person who lives in the past. The book was
difficult to write because I had to look in the past. I don't keep
anything. I don't take pictures, but I do have the photos fans have
Where is the
Batcycle these days?
"It was torn down and
turned into a street bike after the show. E. Jeffries was the
company that customized a Yamaha 180 into the Batcycle. After the
show, they didn't need it anymore. No one knew in those days that
memorabilia would be important."
Were you a
motorcycle rider before you got the part as
"I was. I rode a motorcycle
in those days because it was fun. I wouldn't do it today. Los
Angeles has incredible traffic. It's beginning to look like downtown
"I saw a filmclip the other
day of the intro to Batman with me riding the Batcycle, and compared
to what you see today with all the speed and stunts, it looked like
I was just putting along." (Laughs.)
I hear the
Batmobile wasn't exactly a powerful machine
"The Batmobile was a mess.
It didn't run well. Bruce would take it to a show or convention, and
he would come back and say that it had died on him as he drove it
around. The Monkees' Monkee-mobile would be at the same shows and
drive circles around the Batmobile."
You are in that
select group of people that can say they starred in a movie with
"I did two movies with
Elvis, and both times not only was he was an absolute joy, but the
experience itself was wonderful. He was extremely
professional--always on time, knew his lines, and was very much a
part of the cast, never pulling rank as the "star."
He had a great
self-deprecating sense of humor and was very much a Žsouthern
gentleman,' as far as good manners were concerned. Because he
surrounded himself with his friends from Memphis, it was like always
having about 10 playful, but protective big brothers on the
You are also in
that very favored group of women who dated Elvis. Where did you go
and what did you do on your dates with "The
"We went to his house. He
rented a house in LA, and his social life centered around it. We
would have dinner and watch TV or a movie in his home theater. No
one went out in public with him."
Being a Star Trek
fan, I have to ask, what was your reaction when they said you were
going to be painted completely green as Marta?
"I didn't think anything
about it. It was body make-up. Actually, they didn't tell me they
were going to paint me green. I came in, read for the part, and
choreographed the dance. When I showed up for the filming, they
painted me green. It wasn't that strange. They had other characters
on the show who were blue.
"The villain, Lord Garth,
blew me up at the end of that episode."
Tell me about your
new book and why you decided to write From Ballet to the Batcave and
"I was coerced by my
sister. She told me that I do interviews and answer the same
questions all the time and tell the same stories. That argument
still did not convince me to write it. Then she said I should do it
for her children. If her children had wanted to know about my
career, they would have asked. So I still did not want to write
But after reconsidering
about answering the same questions from fans, I decided to write a
book. But I don't type well. I hunt and peck. So I bought a voice
recognition computer program. The faster you talk, the better it
likes it. After that, the book went swimmingly. In it, I have
chapters devoted to Elvis, Howard Hughes, Batman and Robin, Star
Trek (titled "Beam Me Out of Here"), and women I have worked with
and admired. I also have a whole chapter about