Yvonne Craig dressed up as Batgirl to demand equal pay in a 1973 Public Service Announcement
Wait… who is that playing Batman?!
Image: U.S. Department of Labor / YouTube
The original Batman television series aired its last episode in March 1968, when the Dynamic Duo took down the nefarious… Zsa Zsa Gabor! The third and final season of the camp classic had introduced Batgirl, played to perfection by Yvonne Craig, who added an extra KA-POW! to the groundbreaking comic book adaptation.
Years after production wrapped on the series, it was a rare occasion when the principle actors would slip back into their costumes. Notably — and regretfully — Adam West and Burt Ward returned as Batman and Robin for a 1979 variety show special dubbed Legends of the Superheroes.
However, for Ward, at least, that was not the first time Robin returned to his tights.
In 1973, Robin found himself in a bind — literally — in a PSA for the U.S. Department of Treasury. Tied to a pole alongside Batman, the heroes look to Batgirl for rescue. A time bomb ticks away in the foreground. Is this the end for our heroes?! In swings Yvonne Craig, dazzling as ever in her sparkling purple suit.
"Untie us before it's too late," Batman pleads.
"It's already too late," Batgirl proclaims. "I've worked for you a long time and have been paid less than Robin. Same job, same employer means equal pay."
Yes, the Treasury Department reunited the heroes to promote the Federal Equal Pay Law, which had been enacted a decade earlier in 1963. Even original Batman series producer William Dozier returned to reprise his role as narrator. Take a look at the spot:
This clip is notable for a few reasons. First, the supposed heroes react in rather misogynistic fashion. Robin rolls his eyes. "No time for jokes, Batgirl," Batman condescendingly Batman-splains.
Secondly, Batgirl and Robin were paid employees of Batman? Wait, this is a significant change from canon. Did they file taxes? Was Alfred paid? What are Batman's health insurance premiums? We have so many questions.
Oh, and perhaps one other significant change will stand out to you. That is not Adam West.
West was hoping to distance himself from being typecast in the role and passed on the PSA. In his stead was Dick Gautier, best known for playing Hymie the Robot on Get Smart. He has the kind of strong, chiseled chin you'd expect from an actor in the cowl. He also does a darn good West impression.
In 1966, West did shoot his own PSA as Batman to help promote U.S. Savings stamps to support the Vietnam War. "I have a special message for you from the President of the United States," he proclaimed. It was a far more low-budget affair, filmed against a faux cave wall. Apparently, he was not passing on those savings to Batgirl.