Yvonne Craig, the dancer-turned-actress best known as TV's Batgirl in the 1960s, died Monday of breast cancer that had metastasized to her liver. She turned 78 in May.
The obituary posted to her official website contains a lengthy recap of a long career that began with a stint with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo; she always considered herself a dancer who just happened into acting. Hers is a binge-watching-worthy filmography -- stints on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The Six Million Dollar Man, Love American Style, Star Trek (as the green-skinned Marta) and, of course, Batman, among countless other Golden Age reruns. And it includes appearances alongside legends: Elvis Presley (in two films), Bing Crosby and Dennis Hopper (in her very first).
But for our purposes, it's worth noting here what others won't elsewhere: Craig spent most of her teen years in Dallas -- Oak Cliff, to be specific. She was born in Illinois, raised in Ohio and moved to Texas around 1951. She enrolled at W.E. Griener Middle School, then went to W.H. Adamson High School, then Sunset. She was a single PE credit away from graduating before being whisked off to join the ballet.
Until we spoke in January 2011, I thought she'd graduated from Adamson; after all, most alumni websites say she did. Not true.
"I didn't have the best experience in Dallas schools," she recalled at the time. "I remember, I once asked the principal if I could have a French class, and he said 'Yes, if you can find a teacher who will teach it.' And I said, 'Mr. Johns at Sunset will teach it,' and I got 14 students to sign up, and then the principal said, 'Well, I'm not going to do it because I don't know where you'll ever use it.'
"I had enough credits to get into college. I just didn't have a PE credit, and it was my fault. I wouldn't dress, and I wouldn't play. I always had an excuse. At that time we didn't know I didn't have any depth perception" -- she laughed -- "and why I never could catch anything. But I was missing a quarter of a credit for PE. And I didn't get a diploma because of it. Which is fine with me. I went to UCLA and took a couple of courses, so it wasn't like I was penalized in any manner. It was just a piece of paper. But Mr [C.C.] Miller, the principal at the time, later went on the school board, and he didn't want to jeopardize his future." Again, a laugh."
The Adamson Wikipedia page lists her among the school's notable alumni, alongside Ray Wylie Hubbard and Jim Wright. Not so.
"Isn't that crazy?" she said when sent the link in 2011. "We moved to Texas when I was 14. I was in the top half of the ninth grade at Greiner Middle School for that half grade, then I went to Adamson for a semester. Then we moved to another part of Oak Cliff, and I went to Sunset for the three years. The funny thing about the PE credit is, I was going to the Edith James School of Ballet, and she'd have recitals at the art museum, and [the PE teacher] would come see me dance my little legs off, and then I'd come in to PE class, wrapped up, and claim I'd sprained and couldn't play a sport.
"But I was strange in high school, very strange. I was very nerdy. My sister once said, 'You were so wrapped up in ballet, didn't you miss football?' And I said, 'Oh, sweetie, when I went they didn't have football games.' She said, 'What do you think the pep rallies were about? And I said, 'Well, I don't know -- I went to study hall because they were too loud.' I danced to a different drummer."
Craig was discovered in Dallas by Alexandra Danilova, among the most famous ballerinas and instructors in the world. She came here to teach, and left with Craig -- who became, at the time, the youngest dancer in the history of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, which was founded in 1932. She was Batgirl and a slave girl, but, always, a dancer first.
In 1967, she returned to Dallas to star in Larry Buchanan's immortal (?) Mars Needs Women.