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TV Legends Revealed: The Mystery of the Missing Batgirl Costume

by  in TV News Comment
TV Legends Revealed: The Mystery of the Missing Batgirl Costume

TV URBAN LEGEND: Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl costume ended up being owned by a surprising person.

On the 1966-68 “Batman” television series, Julie Newmar’s Catwoman and Yvonne Craig’s Batgirl and their respective skintight costumes launched a million crushes by adolescents watching the show (and I’m sure plenty of adults watching the show, as well). Newmar specifically went out of her way to make sure that her costume accentuated her curves by altering the way the belt hung on her Catwoman costume so that it showed off her hips. Newmar was so involved in that sort of thing she even ended up getting a federal patent on special pantyhose that wouldn’t flatten a woman’s curves! While all the attention was likely flattering to Newmar and Craig, at the same time it must have been a bit disturbing, as well, to constantly be under the scrutiny of the “male gaze,” even from fellow actors. Mark Evanier has a hilarious story about the late Craig’s response to some of that excess attention, while there is also a legend about Newmar responding to the come-ons of another actor with a sharp rebuke. Craig, meanwhile, was also in for a bit of a surprise when she returned to the Batgirl role one last time a few years after the series ended, when there was a mystery of — who had Batgirl’s costume?

As we detailed in an old Comic Book Legends Revealed, Yvonne Craig made one final appearance as Batgirl in 1972, four years after the show went off the air, at the behest of the United States Department of Labor.

In 1963, the Federal Equal Pay Act passed. The Act made it illegal to pay men and women different salaries if they performed jobs that required equal skill, effort and responsibility. Nearly ten years later, though, many employers still ignored the law. So the Department of Labor enlisted the Bat-crew to film a public service announcement about the law. Burt Ward, producer (and narrator) William Dozier and Craig all agreed to reprise their roles for the ad. Only Adam West (who was trying to get away from his role on the series, although obviously he eventually made peace with being Batman, as he later returned to the character in other situations) refused to do it, so Dick Gautier (Hymie the robot from “Get Smart”) filled in.

The ad shows Batman and Robin tied up in a warehouse with a bomb and Batgirl shows up to save them, but pauses before doing so to confront Batman about why Robin gets paid more than her. The ad ends in a cliffhanger, stating “Will Batgirl save Batman and Robin? Will she get equal pay?” and then they tell you to write in to the Department of Labor to learn more about the issue…

However, upon agreeing to do the shoot, Craig wanted to use her original Batgirl costume — only there was an issue. She told Trevor Kimball of TVSeriesFinale.com the issue back in 2008:

Her one caveat to reprising her role as Batgirl was that the production team would have to locate her original costume. That turned out to be a difficult feat but one was finally found, albeit in an unusual place. She tells us, “They were unable to find one that was intact (because I did my own stunts we only had three — one that had completely lost its shape, the one I was currently wearing [when the show ended] and one that was in the process of being made and was missing a front panel and sleeve when we shut down). Suddenly we heard that Burt had a ‘friend’ who might just have one. It was definitely the one I wore, complete with wig!”

She continues, “At the end of the day, Burt stood outside my dressing room door, waiting for me to hand him back the ‘friend’s’ Batgirl suit. In recent years after he’d been ‘outed’, and there was no one left at Fox to dispute it, he has taken to saying that he bought it from them. At the time we needed it, however, they said it had been pinched! Holy crimefighter theft!”

Hilarious. Craig apparently would often tell that story at conventions over the years.

So I’m going with the legend as…

STATUS: True

Thanks to Trevor Kimball for the information.

Be sure to check out my archive of TV Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of television. And click here for legends just about Batman!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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