I recently read of the death of Yvonne Craig, an actress best known for her role as “Batgirl” in the campy late 1960s “Batman” TV series.
While Yvonne wasn’t a baby boomer — she was 78 when she died after a two-year battle with breast cancer, weakened by a long regimen of chemotherapy — she was an icon of sorts for many boomers. She was a role model for young women — the first woman superhero, predating “Wonder Woman” and the rest — and an object of desire for many young men of the era.
I’m writing about Yvonne not because of this but because my wife, Catharine, and I briefly knew her while we were on a small ship cruise together down the Croatian coast of the Adriatic Sea eight years ago.
It wasn’t her role as “Batgirl” that impressed me so much as the fact that we knew her for several days before she even mentioned it — or, for that matter, her many other roles on TV and in the movies, including two in which she co-starred with Elvis Presley. She even dated Elvis for a short time.
Yvonne was age 70 at the time but could easily have passed for 50. She was trim, in great shape, and still beautiful. It turned out she had started out as a dancer, a ballerina with the Ballet Russe, the youngest in the company at age 15.
After her acting career was over, she became a successful businesswoman and was active in many philanthropic and charitable endeavors. She and her husband, Ken Aldrich, a successful businessman himself, traveled the world extensively — including taking the cruise on which we met.
One afternoon, fairly late into the cruise, the four of us explored the medieval town of Trogir, a tiny jewel along the Adriatic. While Ken and I climbed a church tower for a panoramic view of the town, Catharine and Yvonne went to a cafe for coffee and chatted.
That’s when Yvonne revealed her past as “Batgirl,” and later we all discussed some of the details, including the fling with The King, Elvis. She was as modest and self-effacing about her success as anyone I’ve ever known.
Rather than talk about it much, she just suggested going to her website for more of her life story. She was more interested in talking about travel, Trogir, and her trips to Africa and around the world.
I won’t pretend that you’ll meet a former TV star on every small ship cruise you’ll take. But, with just two dozen or so people aboard a ship, as this one had, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll meet everyone else on board if you’re at all social.
I loved Croatia, but I equally loved the communal dinners we had that cruise, with eight of us around each of three tables. We would switch dining partners around every night, and, besides Yvonne and Ken, there were a number of fascinating folks we became friends with, if all too briefly.
We’re still in touch with some couples we’ve met on other small-ship cruises, and we’ve received a number of invitations to reconnect with them in places like Utah, Georgia, and Florida.
Yvonne’s death was a shock — I still think of her as someone in her 50s rather than late 70s — but she left a lasting mark on the world: the first woman superhero and a whole lot more.
My sympathies go out to Ken and the rest of her family. She will be missed.
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