A Truly Wondrous Woman
The 1970s’ American pop culture scene bred many iconic images and personalities.
Some are still with us; others are deservedly consigned to the trash heap of oblivion (any and all things related to The Love Boat or Eight is Enough, for example).
However, when one thinks of the Seventies each person carries a mental image of an archetype that symbolizes the era. For some, it may be the wasteland of disco; for others it may mean the Pet Rock.
And for still others it might mean these gals:
When mentally conjuring up icons befitting the Seventies, turning toward the women of that decade is probably the better bet. [Other than The Fonz, Luke Skywalker, and Vinnie Barbarino, name one Seventies male icon. There ain’t many, I tells ya!] Nope, it was the dames that made the decade better.
You still think the best is these three, dontcha? Farrah’s goofy flipped back hair, with her scrawny/tawny beach-bunny look; Kate Jackson’s . . . uh . . . forget it. Jaclyn Smith was the only one of the bunch who ever got my attention (still does, and I’ve never watched the show, and can’t even tell you the characters’ names).
But the Seventies’ archetypes are not best represented by this teasing triad.
For once, the rules of Poker are gonna change, because the Charlie’s Angels Three-of-a-Kind cannot, under any circumstances, beat this Pair: And that’s why I am madly in love with Lynda Carter.
There’s obviously more to Lynda Carter than a great rack, and I’ll get to that, but just gimme a few minutes to fondly reflect . . . [Insert cheesy visual effect, sinking back through a wormhole in space-time, spinning, warping, falling, falling. . . . ]Credit: Vic Dillinger, 2011
Back in Time
. . . It’s 1975, and there’s a new show on, and boy, I gotta tell ya as a 12-year-old I’d never seen anything like it!
I loved comics and I loved super-heroes, but I especially loved super-hero women (even the villainesses).
But this slice of Paradise Island pie was a dead-ringer for who she played, and it floored me completely!
I didn’t know the goddess’ name yet, I didn’t know from what gigantic clamshell kissed gently by sea-foam she sprang forth, I just knew she was it!!Credit: CBS TV
There was no hotter woman on the tube then. [The skirts from Charlie’s Angels looked like dog meat compared to this Amazonian temptress.] The mild tingling sensation in my boy parts told me she was the real deal.
Seriously, think back to the Seventies: how many women were built like her or were that downright stunning? I mean, yeah, there were some cuties, but most women were stick figures back then with funky hair.
Lynda Carter wasn’t that by a long shot. She was a walking, living, breathing pin-up. She was miles of curvy roads and mountains. Plus, her unique combination of black hair and blue eyes was enthralling. [I once had a girlfriend who was a natural blond with brown eyes, and I felt the same way about her—it was the rare hair/eye pairing that made her even prettier.] Lynda Carter was riveting, even on the rinky-dink screens of the Seventies. Face it—the “sex symbols” of the day (Farrah, Suzanne Sommers, I can’t think of any more than that), although probably more popular and making more money, just weren’t much compared to this woman.
Linda Jean Córdova Carter (and I love her hillbilly name, “Linda Jean”, it’s so Jed Clampett-y) is a vine-ripened product of the Phoenix, Arizona, sun. Her birth in 1951 must have been heralded by Aphrodite herself since she grew up into such a fine specimen of womanhood.
While in high school, Lynda (the name’s spelling later changed from the more pedestrian “Linda”) dabbled in music. Her little combo displayed the talents of an eclectic group of musicians and featured a marimba, a conga drum, an acoustic guitar, and a stand-up bass played by another girl.
She then hooked up with two cousins of hers who were in another band. And straight from the “It’s-A-Small-World” category, Gary Burghoff (“Radar” from TV’s M*A*S*H) was this other band’s drummer! Lynda and this group got gigs in Vegas at the Sahara. They played there for three months, but Lynda was underage and had to be sneaked in through the kitchen every performance night.
She then went on to college at Arizona State, and she joined up with the buffies, Alpha Xi Delta. Lynda was more interested in singing, however, and she won a contest in which she was named “Most Talented”. At that validation, she dropped out of college to find her way as a singer. In 1970, she sang with a group who did some shows in San Francisco but then petered out. She went back to Arizona in 1972.
Lynda, being the smoking hottie she was then (as now), signed up for a local beauty pageant in 1972. This stepping stone led to her going on to the Miss World USA competition (representing Arizona). She won, and went off to represent the good old United States in the Big Show. She was a semi-finalist there, but her out-of-the-blue showing brought her national attention. She actually toured with Bob Hope’s USO show on the strength of her pageant exposure.
Lynda trekked to New York as many acting aspirants do, and she took some acting classes. She shuttled to Los Angeles and got some parts on TV in Starsky and Hutch, Cos, and Nakia (I hafta say I don’t remember either of these latter two programs at all). She still struggled, and the money she’d saved supplemented with some cash her parents had set aside for her was almost gone.
Babe to Woman-ly
Lynda didn’t have to become a mattress test pilot, though, because her big break came soon enough.
She had auditioned for the role of Wonder Woman for a new series for ABC (when the time came the last two seasons aired on CBS). She was on the verge of calling it quits on acting and heading back to Arizona, however, when her manager buzzed her with the good news she had gotten the part.
This series has an interesting back story in and of itself, and Lynda probably saved it from tanking.
In 1974 Cathy Lee Crosby played Wonder Woman on a made-for-TV project that was a tentative pilot for a Wonder Woman series (and I saw this on the tube when it aired and was mighty confused).
But, even I (a wee, unsophisticated, young squid) knew this could not work. Cathy Lee Crosby was blond (wrong), she was built like a mop-handle (wrong), and the premise of the show was she had no super powers (all kinds of wrong—this movie was based on a hippie/mod period in Wonder Woman’s comic history in the late 1960s where she had to give up her powers to stay with that dipstick Steve Trevor, the guy who runs her life in the TV series). [Yeah, I just threw my geekdom down for all to see, don’t care, I just had to tell you why the Cathy Lee Crosby thing was horrible].
Cathy Lee also had an on-screen presence about as thrilling as watching a bowl of poi congeal. People who remember her hosting that cruddy show That’s Incredible! (which should have been called This Is Only Mildly Interesting but Most Often Just Plain Stupid!) knows she just isn’t that dynamic.
ABC still wanted to develop a series, hence the casting call in which the lovely Lynda got the part. The pilot movie aired in November 1975, and the response was good enough for ABC to order up two more one-hour episodes. Ratings for these were good as well, so they ordered a complete run to fill a season.
Lynda Carter was attention grabbing right from the start. Even as her alter ego Diana Prince, Lynda rocked. That buttoned-down look, with the big glasses, has a certain good girl/bad girl appeal, just like Sarah Palin has—it’s hot!!
But when she went into “The Spin” and came out of it in that red-and-gold bustier, the gold bracelets, the gold tiara, those blue hip-hugging whatever that bottom part is, my jaw hit the floor.
This woman was truly wondrous, and she was busting out all over the place (in that fun, spanky way). The 24-year-old Lynda was breathtaking in that get-up. She was sexy without looking nasty or sleazy, and the show had the potential to send a positive message for little girls watching.
Unfortunately, this was the 1970s so the idiot she worked for (Steve Trevor, played by Lyle Wagoner) condescended to her character and dismissed much of what she did in her alter ego role. Just once, if this guy had known who she was, he might have been less inclined to patronize her. I mean, she could’ve easily kicked his hacky-sack right up into his uvula, and he wouldn’t have known what hit him.
The show was campy, it had its cheesy moments, but it really was the first time anyone got to see a woman be extremely physically powerful and self-possessed on TV. [Absolutely no contest between her and The Bionic Woman, which came a year later.] As Diana Prince, Lynda Carter occasionally bungled and self-effaced, but as Wonder Woman she was large and in charge. That was a plus, and Lynda made this show fun, too (not just because of the bustier). She always smiled prettily (a blindingly beautiful smile), and she usually had a kind of mischievous glint in her eye. Her face was very expressive, and even then I knew this woman had star power.
Despite its success ABC felt reluctant to order another season (the show’s setting was during World War II and production costs were very high for replicating that period). Also, the thinking (rightfully) was this scenario had a short shelf-life (in the 1940s the only real bad guys were the Nazis, and Wonder Woman couldn’t just keep fighting them week after week). The period-piece element had its charm but was self-limiting. ABC decided not to continue with the program. The show was then shopped to CBS with the idea of updating it to the 1970s. The update was done, CBS took it up, and ran it for two more seasons.
Lynda developed a huge fan base, and she was an icon by then. And for the trivia minded, Diana Prince’s spinning action to transform into Wonder Woman was actually something Lynda Carter came up with herself. The show’s creators had no clue how to do an effective quick change act on TV (Clark Kent would’ve demanded residuals if she’d used a phone booth). “The Spin” was later incorporated into the comics themselves—the transformation spin was not part of the original.
One more thing about “The Spin” and then I’ll shut up about it. One of the coolest moments on TV in recent years owes a debt to Wonder Woman’s spin. Emily Deschanel, who plays the lead in the forensic crime series Bones, wore a Wonder Woman costume in a Halloween episode. At the end she does “The Spin” in this costume which was totally awesome (and Emily Deschanel filled that Wonder Woman costume just fine, thank you very much). Lynda, darling spinner, thank you!! [And newer babe, Kaley Cuoco, donned the classic costume in an episode of CBS’ smash sit-com, The Big Bang Theory, and filled it out very nicely, too.]
While working on Wonder Woman, Lynda squeezed in some other appearances on variety shows, usually in a singing capacity (she is a fairly decent singer, and my belief is that is probably what she truly loves to do rather than acting).Credit: Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw, 1976
She did a low-budget movie in 1976 called Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (this film has her only nude scene in her mainstream movies). I’ve included a still shot. I thoughtfully cropped and airbrushed out all the fluffy, lumpy parts—you can thank me later.
What cracks me up? Look at the expression on Lynda’s face!! If I ever get the honor of meeting Lynda Carter, and could only ask her one question, I’d ask her what she was thinking about to produce that strange look on her otherwise angelic countenance. Was it feigned lust? Boredom? She has a certain eye-rolling “What-ev-er” look there, doesn’t she? I’m dying to know what was going on in her head. [Actually, the only thing she is doing in this still photo is changing her shirt in front of a closet, but she does get nekked bizzy several times later in the movie.]
In 1977 she married her former talent agent Ron Samuels (they divorced in 1982). Lynda still loved music, so she was able to record an album’s worth in the late Seventies; some of the songs she co-wrote. She also sang two of her own original songs in a 1979 Wonder Woman episode.
That same year Lynda had a poster issued (at urging from her then-husband Ron Samuels) that sold over a million copies. She didn’t particularly like the idea of it, however.
As proof of her hotness, she was voted “The Most Beautiful Woman in the World” in 1978 (by a British press group and an international beauty academy).
Wonder Woman ended its run in 1979. She got a part in 1979's Apocalypse Now, but her scenes were cut for the final version (probably so director Francis Ford Coppola could budget some extra bucks to feed the obviously malnourished Marlon Brando).
In the early 1980s, Lynda went on to perform in Las Vegas and Atlantic City as a vocalist.
Lynda Carter has done a lot of made-for-TV movies.
One of her best roles was as the Mexican actress Rita Hayworth in a biopic, Rita Hayworth, Love Goddess (1983).
She’s had some of her own variety specials aired on the tube as well (two shows in 1980 and one each in 1981, 1982, and 1984). Also in 1984 she married some lawyer guy (to whom she’s still married today). They have children.
She starred in a few short-lived TV series. One of these was Partners in Crime (1984) with Loni Anderson (and I remember this, thinking it was definitely a “Battle of the Big ’Uns”). Another show was called Hawkeye (1994–95). She leapt into Maybelline’s modeling world in the early 1990s, doing cosmetics commercials and acting as a spokeswoman.
In 1995 she also auditioned for the role of Captain Kathryn Janeway for Star Trek: Voyager. [How cool would that have been? I worshipped Kate Mulgrew as Janeway, but Lynda Carter? Be still my beating heart!]
She does commercials, she does movies, she sings, she pitches product, what else? Well, she did stints on two different Law & Order shows (the regular one and Special Victims Unit) playing a recurring role of a female con artist/murderer. She was awesome as a criminal. I love it when good girls go bad! And in 2013 she did a comedic turn on CBS’ long running sit-com, Two and a Half Men (canceled in 2015)
Oh, yeah, she does “legitimate” theater, too. She enjoyed a role in the West London production of Chicago in 2005, and her version of one of the show’s songs featured on a 10th anniversary CD collection of the show's tunes. She dusted off her stage tights again in a one-woman songfest/cabaret in 2007 called An Evening with Lynda Carter (I could only dream of spending an evening with Lynda Carter). Her show toured and she played some pretty big venues: Jazz at Lincoln Center and The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. She released her second set of songs in 2009, and it managed to hit the Top Ten on Billboard’s Jazz Albums Chart.
Lynda Carter lives with her old man in Maryland near the Potomac River. He got in trouble in 1992 for some international business fraud junk (boring) but was acquitted.
In one of her life’s more bizarre moments, she was out for a row on the river in June 2008. She found a dead body floating in the drink. She called the cops and that pretty much ended her involvement.
Interestingly, in that same year she admitted she had entered a rehab facility for alcohol problems.
Wonder Woman Lives?
NBC had developed and put into pre-production an updated series for Wonder Woman. This show would have been obviously slicker and more serious than the Seventies’ version. It was based closely on the current version of Wonder Woman running successfully in DC Comics. This new Wonder Woman is more independently mercenary (closer to Jessica Alba’s Dark Angel).
Although NBC officially scheduled this show for its Fall 2011 line-up (and announced it as well), those plans were put on hold.
Why, you may ask?
Well, it’s because of this:Credit: movie promo shot
That’s right. After umpteen Superman and Batman flicks, Wonder Woman was supposed to get her day on the big screen in a BIG way. [And it’s about damn time, too!] I didn’t know how to feel about Megan Fox as Wonder Woman (you gotta mighty big bustier to fill there, missy), but it turned out to be a moot point. The movie was slated for a 2011 release, then pushed back to 2013, and then was jammed up in a creative limbo, not due any time within the foreseeable future thanks to script, director, and casting changes.
Meantime, the character of Wonder Woman is supposed to be part of a movie, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, slated for release in May 2016.
And the real vehicle for Wonder Woman floating around since 2011 is finally set for a tentative release date in 2017. This will star a relative unknown, Gal Gadot, in the lead role. She is an Israeli-born actress whose most notable work to date has been in the infinitely stupid, yet amazingly lucrative, Fast & Furious franchise. [She will also play the part in the 2016 Batman vs. Superman movie.]
I don’t really care who plays the lead (as long as it’s not someone like Sir Lady Gaga or some other flavor-of-the-minute) or when it gets released, I just want it. Badly. I have maintained a near-permanent state of . . . er . . . “anticipation” since I first heard about it. I can’t wait.
Meanwhile, NBC had canceled the series, apparently years prematurely (they could have had a good run with it during the major motion picture’s downtime) to avoid eroding into the big-budget movie’s market. And thanks to on-line fanboy supergayness (mostly beefs about the TV character’s costume!) NBC finally completely walked away from the project (rather than take a “wait-and-see” stance). It has been optioned for development by the horrific cable outlet, The CW Television Network, for possible release soon with much revising.
She is of Mexican extraction (on her mother’s side; her dad is Irish). During those horrible times in the Seventies when minorities were either ignored or poorly represented (usually as stereotypes) it bothers me somewhat that her Hispanic heritage was not brought out as a positive example.
I mean, think about it—most Mexican actresses back then (if you saw them at all) either played hookers or mamacitas. As for their male Hispanic counterparts you had the guy who played “Julio” (Puerto Rican) on Sanford & Son, and you had Freddie Prinze in Chico & The Man (nothing against Prinze, it was just a lousy show).
Lynda has played the role of Rita Hayworth, a full-blooded Mexican actress who had to deny her ethnicity, going so far as to suffer painful surgeries to alter her face and skin bleaching treatments to lighten up. [But that was the 1940s.]
Man, Lynda, do you have any clue how many little Hispanic girls out there would have loved to have known that Wonder Woman was Mexican??? I had a Mexican girlfriend a few years ago who told me she used to pretend to be Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman when she was little. When I told her Lynda was half Mexican this woman was beside herself in disbelief: “Wonder Woman is Mexican?”
If Lynda mentioned her heritage at any time during her Wonder Woman years then I’ll apologize right now for bringing up the issue, and I'll grovel for eternity. If she did not, I’ll just have to assume she had her reasons (I’m guessing maybe she feared a racist backlash). It’s a matter of personal choice, I suppose. [For example, why doesn’t Mariska Hargitay (Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) play up the fact she is Jayne Mansfield’s daughter?] Anyway, Lynda is forgiven because I love her; I just think a golden opportunity was lost back then, that’s all.
Singer, actor, model, beauty queen, civil rights’ advocate, hottie, mother, wife, all-around entertainer. I guess in the end, Lynda Carter really is a Wonder Woman. She will turn 65 this year (2016 on July 24), and I’m here to tell you she can still make my boy parts tingle a bit every time I see her.
That’s why I am madly in love with Lynda Carter.
The Spin (it's classic!)
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Getting in with the newer "Wonder Woman" starts here!
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