Ever since movies came along more than a century ago, a tween's first crush has been likely to be a celebrity he or she never met in person. Young Judy Garland expressed the experience as well as anyone in her first hit recording Dear Mr Gable (1938). There are, of course, a handful of people who have difficulties with reality, and who imagine a two-way relationship actually does or could exist with their celebrity crush. For these people, restraining orders are in their futures. For most folks, though, such crushes are perfectly harmless and normal elements of a stage of life. There even are distinct advantages over the guy/gal next door. The risk of rejection, always present from someone you know personally, is nonexistent from someone up on the screen; buy another ticket and the theater always will welcome you back in. The screen images of our youth, like the songs of our youth, help define who we are in more ways than we commonly imagine -- our romantic tastes among them.
Yvonne Craig was one of the images (and crushes) of my own youth. Yvonne’s beauty wasn’t the brassy kind that catches one's attention far down the street; it was the understated kind that is all the more effective for being so, especially when coupled with a role that was anything but understated. It took me a while to notice her, but well before her iconic portrayal of Batgirl in the Batman TV series I knew who she was. No wonder. Though never really a Hollywood A-lister, she was a hard-working actress who turned up everywhere in the 1960s and 1970s: Elvis movies, Perry Mason, Fantasy Island, Genesee Beer commercials, Star Trek, In Like Flint, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. …everywhere. Sometimes, as in the legendarily awful Mars Needs Women, she was the only redeeming ingredient.
I’ve been acknowledging the passing of a lot of performers from my youth lately, as I suppose is natural given their time of life and – uncomfortable thought – mine. Yvonne Craig was 78 when she died earlier today. I met Yvonne in person only once and briefly, but am glad to have done so. As imaginary girlfriends go for a tween/teen, she was one of the best. I didn’t tell her that of course. It’s hard not to make that sound unsettling. Nonetheless, thanks for everything.