Hollywood Museum Celebrates 80 Years of “Batman” in Latest Catwoman Display, & 80 Plus Years Combined via Christening of its new “Six Million Dollar Man” and “Bionic Woman” Exhibit!

Photo by Bill Dow; Courtesy of the Hollywood Museum

It was a night of nostalgia, nimble precision, and nestling, and as throngs of stars, classic, current and transcontinental convened at the Hollywood Museum to commemorate, if not celebrate, the 46th anniversary of the airing of the Six Million Dollar Man, and the 42nd anniversary of that of The Bionic Woman as museum President and Founder Donelle Dadigan welcomed the latest exhibit in honor of the classic TV Franchise. Additionally a very special nod to Catwoman reigned supreme as an ancillary, but exemplary, display convoking six life sized feline goddesses (from small to silver screen) could be witnessed right across from a plethora of disguises sported by the Bionic Man himself (in a disguise all his own by way of alien-like faceless mannequins). According to Dadigan: “This exhibit will be the first time that Batman’s lifelike Catwomen will be together. We are also thrilled that the Bionic Woman and the Six Million Dollar Man will join our 20th Century Superhero Legends exhibit, and be at the Hollywood Museum forever!”

Chief among participating guests were Bionic Woman series creator Kenny Johnson, Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, movie critic Leonard Maltin, Peter Mark Richman, noted Hollywood actor, and frequent guest star on The Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman series, the venerable grand dame of all cat women Lee Meriwether,  Catwoman’s Daughter (i.e. Eartha Kitt’s regal kitten of the same last name, only first) Kit McDonald, Kate Flannery of The Office, and Burt Ward (aka Robin) of classic TV Batman Fame, but the icing on the cake was an appearance and verbal address from none other than Steve Austin himself: Lee Majors!

All the while, speeches were made, curtains were unfurled, proclamations were bestowed, and tales were woven as three individual glass cases were unveiled revealing recreated scenes, costumes, props and alley-cat-a-gories of the heroes and respective villainesses in question.  Chief among display scenarios: a robustly bucolic scene (set in motion-stop-time—natch!) depicting both the Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman jogging outdoors in unison (down to the detail of Steve Austin’s chest hair blowing in the breeze in all its 1970s, zip-down jacketed glory), such that museum visitors and onlookers could actually envisage the two heroes without witnessing a mere blur at the hands, (or feet, rather) of their incomparable swiftness!

Nearly every metallic lunch box, doll (boasting a twisty, high tech, neck,) comic book, and Colorform a Gen Xer could ever recollect, adorned a glass case center stage.

Across the way, an assemblage of televisions displayed continuous loops of watershed scenes from The Six Million Dollar Man series, as faceless mannequins donned nearly every notable ensemble ever sported by the Six Million Dollar Steve Austin! Catty corner–but not quite–and in honor of the 80th Anniversary of Batman (the same age as Lee Majors: the REAL reason the two were unveiled in unison, never mind any notions involving sci-fi hero sensibilities), resided a 6 devious Catwomen in a glass cage. Aptly dressed mannequins encompassed that of Michelle Pfeiffer from 1992’s Batman Returns, Halle Berry: 2004’s casting recipient, Anne Hathaway of 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, and 3 classics from the early 60s: Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and Lee Meriwether. A pink neon sign garnished the corner emblazoned with the message, “Hello There” but not so much as a greeting, but more of a “truth-in-plain-sight” caveat of the implied risk therein as the “O” was cryptically extinguished.

Photo by Bill Dow; Courtesy of the Hollywood Museum

Museum President and Founder, Donelle Dadigan graced us all with an interesting and informative intro: “As we all know, it’s quite something to star in a hot TV Series, but to star in three ever popular classics (The Big Valley, The Fall Guy and The Six Million Dollar Man) with tens of millions of followers worldwide is a major…(to Lee Majors) oh that’s your last name…is a major thing, and we are so proud tonight to have Lee Majors with us… You can [now also] see Lee in the international thriller, filmed in the U.K. and Europe [entitled] Thunderbirds are Go where he reprises his iconic character Steve Austin!”

But the evening truly commenced with a speech from an 80-year-young Lee Majors, right on the heels of a lovely woman in her 40s informing everyone in the press bay to “wait ‘til you see him. He is still SO HOT!  I would totally marry him!”  (As to the aforementioned claim, the LA Beat can only corroborate the first half. As to the second portion, it would appear to be the effect of mere fabrication, if not wishful thinking, for the simple reason that well… Lee Majors is already married, and not planning on moving to Utah any time soon, that the LA Beat has been made aware anyway…)

Chief among sentiment was Majors’ appreciation for his career by way of “God above” and the love of his beautiful wife Faith Majors, also present. The audience additionally enjoyed an, all too perfect, joke regarding his agent thereafter, but alas, not all could hear—(and hopefully neither could his agent.) (Regardless, the LA Beat has a clean conscience in its deaf ignorance either way, and certainly hopes no heavenly strife comes of any actor-Agent-God-Agent/God provocation–at least not on its account!)

Councilman Mitch O’Farrell subsequently gave a rousing accolade or two all the while bestowing Mr. Majors with a majestic proclamation:

(L-R) Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, Donelle Dadigan, Faith Majors, Le Majors, Peter Mark Richman, Kenny Johnson, and Leonard Maltin; Photo by Bill Dow; Courtesy of the Hollywood Museum

“I think that between the Bionic Woman and the Six Million Dollar Man, they were an unstoppable duo, and that’s exactly what we need in the world today. Right? (cheers) So as a huge fan of all of Mr. Majors’ TV shows, [to speak nothing of] The Six Million Dollar Man which was the number one television program when I was in Junior High, and High School, we worked on a special little certificate that says, ‘On behalf of the City of Los Angeles and the 13th Council District- which I have the great honor of representing here in Hollywood-and beyond, I would like to commemorate the grand opening of this Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman exhibition at the Hollywood Museum, here at the historic Max Factor Building,’ and a special recognition and gratitude to Lee Majors; this remarkable man who is more than just a six million dollar man, I would call him priceless!”

Rounding out the night, the speech giving continued and the conversations flew!

According to film critic Leonard Maltin, “Comic book and superhero characters used to be regarded as ‘kid stuff.’… Now they not only dominate the entertainment world, but have taken their place as symbols of American culture…  When you have [something] like this [exhibit]…it’s not just [about] nostalgia. I think that word gets overused, and even misused. It’s part of our memories. It’s part of our lives. Jimmy Stewart said…’What we’re giving people is pieces of time, and those pieces of time add up to a lifetime.’ So, nostalgia seems too small a word to encompass all of that. It’s wonderful to have…all of you here because we remember, and we care about that, and we’re never going to forget these moments that they gave us!”

“How ‘bout The Bride of Frankenstein?” recounted Kenny Johnson, Bionic Woman creator, of his pitch to Steven Bochco regarding The Six Million Dollar Man’s sister show. “I ran into Lindsay [Wagner] a couple of weeks ago, and we were talking about how the show had a really profound effect on young women… It was the first show that helped empower women, and to show young girls that there could be a strong female lead in a series like that!  I get a lot of emails from people around the world, [from] women, [from] children, and from the LGBTQ community about The Bionic Woman and why they loved Jaime Sommers… It was because she looked like one thing on the outside, but she was something else on the inside. But it’s an honor to have co-created something that…who knew it was going to turn into this icon that 45 years later…would still [make people] want to come out and say ‘hello!?!’”

With studio ensured legs for ten million dollars, except in the event of death (not ‘theft’ as her publicist would go on to make clear in passing…or joke after the duet of words, due to their homophonic commonalities—Yes I said homophoNic) Julie Newmar (one of TV’s original Catwomen, and daughter of a Zigfeld Follies’ girl and Engineering professor to boot) was unable to attend, as her legs had taken (but not bribed) her to go elsewhere unexpectedly. She did, however, offer the following written words: “The role of Catwoman was one I almost missed out on.  I had initially declined the role, but my brilliant, and wise brother was a fan of the genre and saw the potential. To please him, I took the role; and history, as they say, was made! As with all the characters, I have been blessed to bring to life, I took Catwoman very seriously.  I was involved with every aspect, including the design of her costume.  I became drawn to this creature and her complexity.  She was intelligent, seductive and had a horde or henchmen at her beck and call … What woman wouldn’t love that?  But most importantly, Catwoman was equal too her villainous male counterparts, and the purrrrfect advisory to Batman and his Boy Wonder.  I am very proud of my contributions to the history of this literary and TV villainess, and grateful to The Hollywood Museum for recognizing her importance in this very loving tribute … A tribute that I fully intend to visit as soon as I am able.”

(L-R) Donelle Dadigan, Lee Meriwether, and Kit McDonald; Photo by Bill Dow; Courtesy of the Hollywood Museum

Eartha Kitt, Catwoman circa 1967, was also dubbed one of the “most exciting woman in the world” by Orson Welles. This was also “a lot to live up to” according to daughter Kit Shapiro who began her reflective notions with the statement ‘I do not to have a ‘nice voice like my mother,’ (but according to the LA Beat, she probably sounds more like her mother than she thinks she sounds). Shapiro, nonetheless, had the following to impart: “I have to say, in looking back, as we talked earlier, about the female role models that are here in the museum…and having grown up with this woman who embodied the feline qualities that she became known for…she was only in a few episodes, just the irony of that is pretty amazing! It’s interesting to see…all of the women that have come after, not only my mother, but all the other women who are here in this museum, and the other women who starred in Hollywood, and in television, who really stood their ground and fought for the roles, and fought to be seen, and to be heard. Now when my mother took on the role, it was quite…shocking…because this was a woman of color who was dressed in this skintight, sexy outfit who had this chemistry–this sexual chemistry–with the white male lead. That was a huge risk that was taken by the network, by the producers, by the cast…we don’t think about it too much this day in [age] but certainly, when I was a child, when she played the role, it was a really big deal…So I commend them all for having taken that risk and having stood their ground!

From 1955 Miss America, to Barnaby Jones to TV’s first (and primarily personified) Catwoman in the 1966 movie, Lee Meriwether could only declare: ”I am so happy we will all live on as Mannequins!”

Burt Ward–Boy Wonder–and present-day creator of Gentle Giants Dog Food did not just speak, he exclaimed!!! “Wowie Zowie! What a Holy Turnout!  Golly Gee!!! It’s great to be here! We’re all thrilled! We all love Batman. Those of us that made our series have a special fondness that will never go away. It will always be in our hearts. We miss Adam. We love him. I had the pleasure of working with him for over 50 years. We became best friends on the set when we were [the first to do] our screentest within five minutes of talking [to each other] and then I was laughing, and I never stopped laughing in over fifty years… the greatest guy in the world! So we’re here tonight for the very special event… There were six actresses that played Catwoman: three of them on our show. It’s a great celebration and Donelle [Dadigan] has done a fantastic job!

Mitch O’Farrell bestowed yet more proclamations as to the exhibit opening, to none other than Lee Meriwether and Kit Shapiro in honor of Catwomen the world over: “My brother and sisters and I were the target audience for Batman. I was five when it went on the air. We lived to watch Batman, and in my view, every time there was a cat woman on the screen I thought, ‘That’s the person in charge of this entire operation,’ whether it was Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt or Julie Newmar, I thought, ‘That woman’s in charge here!’ So, congratulations! Let’s hear it for the Super Woman!”

Photo by Jennifer K. Hugus for The Los Angeles Beat

Regrettably, Lindsay Wagner (the Bionic Woman herself) could not be there due to a cinematic gig out of state, but had this to say, via the reading of Hollywood President and Founder Donelle Dadigan: “Over 40 years ago, the character of Jaime Sommers, fondly referred to as The Bionic Woman, literally JUMPED into my life.  This role changed my life and helped to change the image of women across the globe. Unfortunately, my work schedule does not allow me to be there with you tonight. However, I am happy Lee will be there for the unveiling of The Bionic Woman & The Six Million Dollar Man Exhibit.  May this tribute bring as many fond memories to all of you, and the future visitors, as the privilege of portraying Jaime Sommers has for me.”

Kate Flannery aka  Meredith on The Office, was one such Wagner-inspired-girl-turned-woman: “I have to say, there was something about them creating The Bionic Woman that…as a young girl in grade school, I felt…just kind of opened up a sense of possibility…and I felt like it had more heart. She was cool but she wasn’t super glam. She was completely relatable: a teacher. I just thought it was the best idea. We lived for it every week… I mean we just couldn’t wait. It’s on Cosi TV [now]. The pilot was on Sunday. My sister and I were talking on the phone [about it]!”

The LA Beat could not resist asking Leonard Maltin, film critic extraordinaire, what he would think or look for, should The Six Million Dollar Man and/or The Bionic Woman ever be turned into a cinematic movie: “It was a TV Movie (but not a theatrical release). They’re recycling/rebooting everything. I’ve heard a lot worse ideas than reviving these two shows! I think they still have a very clever premise and–why not?”

(L-R) Kenny Johnson, Faith Majors, Lee Majors, Leonard Maltin; Photo by Bill Dow; Courtesy of the Hollywood Museum

Alice Amter aka Raj’s mom from The Big Bang Theory, experienced not only her own fandom, but the fandom of others in embarking on the meeting of her own childhood idols and TV Heroes: “I was a massive fan as a child in Birmingham England, which is not glamorous or wasn’t glamorous at all back in the 70s. I just liked the music first of all, and then [the famous line], ‘Gentlemen, we have the technology. We can rebuild him,’ [along with] the concept that you can have this massive awful crash, and science [can fix it]. I mean, we have it today with amputees…where they have a prosthetic, but a [high-tech] prosthetic [in today’s world] I would think it would be doable. So, I became a massive fan of The Six Million Dollar Man…and the spinoff which was The Bionic Woman. The last time I was here, I met Lindsay Wagner outside and said, ‘Oh my God I’m this huge fan… Can I get a selfie with you?’ and I did, and she was very gracious…and I said, ‘I know it’s so weird, what people do to me, when they come up to me is what I’m totally doing to you.’ So, we did the selfie, and I had it in my phone, and then her publicist contacted me and said, ‘Where’s the selfie? Lindsay Wagner would love to have it because she’s actually a big fan of The Big Bang Theory.’ So that was like, ‘Wow!’ we were both fans of each other and for me, as a little girl to have that…become the reality of the future was just amazing. And I was just amazed by how well [Lee Majors] looks. My goodness. He looks like a Bionic EVERYTHING!”

Peter Mark Richman, venerable guest star on both The Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman series, had this to say: “It has been many years since I guest starred with Lee Majors in his series… During the Bionic exhibit unveiling at the Hollywood Museum, it gave me great pleasure to renew our friendship and be part of the wonderful presentation.”

Game show host Wink Martindale of Tic Tac Dough fame attained a wealth of fond memories from the evening in question as he exclaimed: “The new exhibits at The Hollywood Museum featuring these truly iconic stars are both entertaining and compelling.  A knockout of an unveiling and an exhibit!”

Wink’s wife Sandy could only concur, “As someone who grew up in Hollywood just walking inside the historic Max Factor building is worth the price of admission…itself. There is so much of Hollywood history in that building. If the walls could talk!?”

Comedienne/accordion player extraordinaire, and Love Goddess Judy Tenuta swiftly followed suit with her own XOXO response pertaining not only to Wink but all that was in keeping with her supernatural love aspirations and feminine feline purrsuasions:  “It was an exciting Superhero night at the Hollywood Museum! I was looking for a Six Million Dollar Man & got a smile from Lee Majors! Also grabbed a hug and a sweet ‘Meow’ from Glamorous Cat Woman, Miss Lee Meriwether and a wink from Wink Martindale!–It could Happen!!! Donelle Dadigan once again hit it out of the park with the unveiling of the Superhero Exhibit! Get thee to the Hollywood Museum!”

Alice Amter couldn’t help but sing the exhibit’s praises to squared and double bionic proportions!!!: “Attending the launch of The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman exhibit at the Hollywood Museum, as well as see Lee Majors up close and meet Lindsay Wagner, has been a childhood dream come true.  Lee Majors is not only a TV icon but the sexiest octogenarian I have ever seen!!!  Not only does he look amazing, he emanates class & humility. The exhibit is a must see for all classic TV lovers!”

Chrystee Pharris of Passions and Queens of Drama fame observed the following as mirrored by her own fervor and the namesake of the royalty purrtaining to her secondary show: “What an incredible night: The history, the legends, the ones who set the path for us… I thank Eartha Kitt for fighting for the next generation of African American performers like myself. Last night was so inspirational and educational. And having the opportunity to learn more from her daughter was inspiring. A night I will never forget!”

Jeremy Miller, best known as “Ben” from Growing Pains, and, all around cool cat in real life, rounded out the sentiments as follows: “Just a great time at The Hollywood Museum last night! The new tribute to the different Cat Woman actresses is very cool! But my New favorite is The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman exhibits. The props and costumes are an absolute must see!”

All in all, a fun-filled, empowering, nostalgic night for all!

That said, to see more for yourself, you can start by visiting the museum’s website at:

http://thehollywoodmuseum.com/

 

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Jennifer K. Hugus

About Jennifer K. Hugus

Jennifer K. Hugus was born at a very young age. At an even earlier age, she just knew she would one day write for the LA Beat! Having grown up in Massachusetts, France, and Denmark, she is a noted fan of Asian Cuisine. She studied ballet at the Royal Danish Ballet Theatre and acting at U.S.C. in their prestigious BFA drama program. She also makes her own jewelry out of paints and canvas when she isn’t working on writing absurdist plays and comparatively mainstream screenplays. Jennifer would like to be a KID when she grows up!
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