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Monday, May 22, 2017 Last update: 04-28-17
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CATWOMAN UNMASKED 6-15
(or why I love writers)

The circuitry connecting Stanley Ralph Ross’s brain to his
fingertips flows with pure genius. He wrote five of the six
episodes in which I appeared as Catwoman on the Batman
television series of the sixties, sleekly dressed head to toe in
skintight black as the stealthy arch-nemesis to the Caped
Crusader. Stanley was to Gotham City what Shakespeare was
to historical Europe: In Stanley’s case, his words provided
high-octane fuel for Catwoman’s prima donna role. They
never clogged the engine. Instead, his scripts energized me to
be felinely arrogant, susurrant of voice, and lithely pompous.
The dancer’s bits were mine: Little choreographic diagrams
would appear in my script, much like the drawing boards used
by directors in illustrating scenes for cameramen, art direc-
tors and assistant directors.

To me, the funniest scenes included my sidekicks, those
unruly and flatly incompetent blokes. Catwoman's companions
in crime unwittingly sabotaged her schemes, rendering
her something less than all-powerful, although still seething
with self-assurance. Opposites attract and make for heav-
enly comedy.

Naturally, every female cat is six feet tall, physically
unchallenged, and in possession of special sartorial secrets.
Whatever curious popularity I have as a performer is usually
ascribed to my being “larger than life." In truth, it has been
my ability to “right-size" myself that has defined me as a
woman during the changing eras of American culture. In the
fifties and early sixties, I recall bending at the knees so that
the male star could look me in the eye. Other times, I sugar-
coated my voice to lend fragility and vulnerability to my fem-
ininity. These early acting efforts now look dated. It was the
Catwoman role that ultimately provided for me the bench
mark transition between eras.

In the Cat world, it is the female who decides which
male has his pleasure with her. I’ve noticed that men don’t
mind in fact, they enjoy-being dominated, provided the
results are mainly pleasurable. Incidentally, Desmond
Morris's book Catwatching was my resource for the film
Oblivion, in which I played the madam of an outer-space
cathouse. Director Sam Irwin insisted I was a cat in an earli-
er life. Maybe, maybe not. But l often wonder why I am
always asked to purr – on street corners, in television studios,
and at restaurant tables. You tell me.

It is true that all the cats I've played have a background
that includes ballet school. It's all in the feline choreography
of living and loving: the quietest room, the softest pillow,
when and where the sun’s rays are kindest, who keeps the tid-
bits, and which trees offer the most frolic and the fastest
escape. The perfect earthly dancer – the cat.

– Julie Newmar

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