Aaarghh!!! Once again, the curse of the Cult Sirens! Well, kind of a good curse: another one of our distinguished guest who doesn’t seem to age (she’s becoming more beautiful, in fact) and who remains one of the most ravishing creature to ever grace the small screen. Every guy of my age that I knew back then fell in love with Lynda Carter somewhere in the mid-seventies. And for a good reason: who doesn’t remember the cult television series Wonder Woman (and more particularly the costume that Lynda wore?).
Lynda Jean Carter was born on July 24, 1951, in Phoenix, Arizona, the youngest of three children of a family having some Hispanic roots. Around the age of 10, she began showing interest in music and even started composing songs. Eventually, she became a participant in choirs and high school plays. After only one semester, Lynda left Arizona University to become a full-time singer. So, she joined a band named Just Us, who would tour England around 1970.
The experience left Lynda dissatisfied, though, and she suddenly decided to participate in her first beauty contest, the Miss Phoenix Pageant, which she won. In a short while, she was crowned Miss Arizona and finally, the logical next step and ultimate achievement, Miss USA in 1973, which made her the official representative for the Miss World contest. After fullfiling her duties towards these organizations, Lynda decided to study to become an actress. In 1974, she thusly enjoyed some appearances in a couple of TV shows, but without making much impact. Around this time, auditions were being held to cast the principal role in a new show having as main character the most popular female super hero of all time, Wonder Woman.
Wonder Woman was created in 1941 for D.C. Comics by Charles Moulton, with the goal of proposing the first female hero in comics in a world being dominated by macho men in tights. The character made her first appearance in All Star Comics #8 and got her own regular series in the summer of 1942, which would be published until 1986, reaching issue number 329. Soon after, D.C. decided to clean up their publications in publishing the critically acclaimed Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series, resulting in Wonder Woman getting a new series starting again with a #1 in 1987, still going strong these days. And of course, Wonder Woman was the first female member of the Justice League of America, with some other unknown guys strangely named Superman, Batman, Flash, Aquaman, etc.
What do we know about Wonder Woman’s road to the screen? A barely five-minute long sequence (who looks more like a bad sketch) was filmed in 1967, with the obvious goal of creating something that could equal the Batman TV show’s popularity. But with the failure of the Green Hornet show and the mediocrity of this test, the project was dropped. Actress Ellie Wood Walker portrayed a dim-witted Wonder Woman, completely dominated by her mother (a neurotic householder!). Then came a TV movie in 1974 with Cathy Lee Crosby as the main character. We were now light years away from the original source, with a blonde heroine sporting an hideous costume and an awful script dealing with spies, with no super powers in evidence. But still, the idea stayed on. Another attempt was then considered, this time with actress Joanna Cassidy coming close to get the so hard-to-cast part. Finally, 5f 9in Lynda Carter was elected the new Wonder Woman, as the first time she ever put on the legendary costume, she left in the dust 1999 hopeful starlets and on the floor all the guys around who became stunned by this wondrous vision.
On Friday, November 7, 1975, ABC aired the pilot for The New Original Wonder Woman, aptly titled after a couple of false attempts. Believe it or not, I was personally in front of the small screen on that fateful night and my life was never the same since. Our story takes place during WWII, thus giving credibility to our heroine’s true origins, and preserving a juvenile charm to the entire production. We can talk for hours about Lynda Carter’s beauty, of her perfect casting to portray Wonder Woman in the flesh, but let’s admit also that her freshness as an actress became a big plus for the series, as her character’s naivete in discovering the world outside her island entirely inhabited with females was entirely convincing. And she kicked Nazi butt, too!
So, Lynda saved the entire project by her magnificent presence as, in all honesty, the script was not the strongest point and the special effects were minimal. But we were delighted to see the character’s entire classic props: the costume (as if I had to mention it once again), the bullet-stopping bracelets, the magic lasso that can make people tell the truth, and the invisible airplane. Lynda took all this very seriously, constantly training and even becoming a vegetarian. Still today, she’s proud of her work in playing a strong female character.
Even with the pilot’s success, ABC was still not sure, unable to decide if Lynda was in fact too sexy for a show that could count among its potential fans many youngsters. In that time of indecision, Lynda shot the action movie Bobbie Joe and the Outlaw, where we can glimpse a bit of naked breast. This production remains a perfect example of the drive-in movie, with many car chases and crashes, as Bobbie Joe (Lynda Carter) gets involved with a gang of thieves. But, oh joyous news!, ABC gave the final go-ahead with no costume alterations (thank God!), producing a first season of 13 episodes. Two were aired in April 1976, the others between October 1976 and February 1977. We’re still during WWII, where Wonder Woman works as a military secretary for the U.S. Army, under the name of Diana Prince. The first season also introduced the character of Wonder Girl, played in one of her first roles by Debra Winger. Of course, our heroine encountered many strange adversaries, namely a Nazi Wonder Woman, a misunderstood gorilla and even Roy Rogers (who agreed to be a guest star only if Wonder Woman wore a mini-skirt!). In all this, Lynda found the time to be a guest on The Muppet Show, like many stars of that era.
The second season brought many changes. First of all, CBS was the new channel producing, following ABC’s lack of interest (and this with good ratings!). The title became The New Adventures of Wonder Woman and the action was now taking place in 1977, resulting in the series losing a bit of its charm. The costume became more revealing (?!?!?!). A total of 22 episodes were aired between September 1977 and July 1978. The third and last season would be for the 1978-79 lineup, where WW’s hairstyle is made more modern and her attitude more serious. But, believe it or not, one episode is titled Disco Devil! Get down, mama! Even veteran actor John Carradine guest-starred in an adventure. We finally learned that Wonder Woman was 2227 year old! On August 28, 1979, we could admire Lynda Carter for the last time in the role that made her immortal. During all this, she married Ron Samuels, who became her agent. The two latter divorced in 1982.
Lynda had not forgiven an eventual singing career, as her first album was released in 1978, titled Portrait (on which we can find three of her own compositions). Consequently, she would star in five TV variety specials between 1980 and 1982, one of which would win an Emmy Award. More significantly, sales of her poster would beat the record of former champion Farrah Fawcett! Lynda’s biggest acting challenge would soon come her way, as she was asked to portray legendary screen legend Rita Hayworth for a telefilm in 1983. Shortly, she would be transformed into a redhead, sporting contact lenses to transform her magnificent blue eyes into brown ones. In 1984, Lynda was offered a new regular series, Partners in Crime, co-starring Loni Anderson. The show was about two women searching for clues after the death of their former husband (the same guy, d’oh!), eventually inheriting his detective agency. Twelve episodes would be filmed, but the project was soon canceled for its mediocrity.
Lynda remarried in 1984 with lawyer Robert Altman (no relation to the famous and irascible movie director). To this day, they’re still together, with two children. In 1986, a new beauty video was out, entitled Lynda Carter: Secret to Perfect Make-Up. Soon after, she became model for the Maybelline line, displaying her perfect and calm features to numerous publicity ads. Her acting roles were now exclusively for television, at a less frequent rhythm.
In 1994, Lynda came back to TV in the Hawkeye series, with an intrigue taking place in 1755 America. Lee Horsley (famous for his role as Matt Houston) had the starring role, with Lynda his co-star. The series would not be renewed after 22 episodes. Still, Lynda became spokesperson for Lens Express. These days, she keeps busy with numerous charity work and is a frequent guest at many galas around the White House, as the couple lives near Washington, D.C. In 1996, Lynda met another legendary Siren, Pam Grier, for the TV movie Family Blessing.
Do you remember Diana Prince doing a spin-around… and soon be transformed into Wonder Woman? Wasn’t it wonderful? These images were a delight to our young eyes. Interestingly, women appreciated Lynda in the series, even with the revealing costume (hey, it was the exact replica of the one used in the comic!). She still remains a positive and strong character (even with the occasional sexist remark coming her way, she never lost her dignity). So, we can only salute one of the few actresses that aptly portrayed a female super hero on any screen. Long live Wonder Woman, and long live Lynda Carter.
1976 Bobbie Joe and the Outlaw 1993 Lightning in a Bottle 2001 Super Troopers 2004 The Creature of the Sunny Side Up Trailer Park 2005 Sky High; The Dukes of Hazzard 2007 Tattered Angel