Lynda Carter didn’t need to do this interview. Nor do I suspect she needs to be on the cover of “People” or “Newsweek.” I make these assumptions not because the actress/singer/super-heroine stated as such—she might be delighted if more press called—but, rather, because Lynda Carter doesn’t seem to be a woman in need of external confirmation. Carter is happy, content, and thrilled to live within each moment of her wonder-filled life.
Carter’s new album, her third, is called “Crazy Little Things,” and, in its delightful mix of standards, country, and pop tunes (Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” is on the same bill as Peter, Paul & Mary’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane”), there exists an almost microcosm of a life controlled by nobody’s rules but her own.
“I’m willing to take a chance, and I don’t see a reason to play it safe,” says Carter of the new CD. “It’s like buying a gift. If I give something I like, it’s always a hit. If I’m trying to please someone else, it never works.” She’s also not biting her nails waiting for critic or fan approval. “If someone doesn’t like it, that’s fine. If you do like it, I’ll take the credit.”
Carter knows that a lack of public scrutiny allows her flexibility in the musical arena (“I was never a music star; I don’t have the rules other people have”), but she’s also got an iPod streak in her creative impulses. “I don’t think anyone listens to a whole album anymore,” she says. “I have playlists.”
Like any great playlist, the trick is to provide variety within a distinct narrative. Carter achieves that on the record and in her refreshing “off the record” manner. She’ll shuffle from pop culture to politics without missing a beat and without second-guessing her words. This is a woman who, when I first asked her about returning to music, flippantly tossed out, “My husband works and my kids are in college. What else am I going to do?”
Carter, who grew up in Phoenix, got her first professional singing gig at the age of 14. She won the Miss World USA pageant and headed to California, where she sang jingles and spent all of her money on acting classes. Then, with a flick of the wrist, she landed the title role of “Wonder Woman,” which lasted from 1975 to 1979 and cemented Carter as an Amazon-size star.
“I’d be a pretty miserable person if I didn’t want to talk about it,” Carter says of the show. “People relate to it, and it’s allowed me to do everything else I’ve done. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude.” The show’s success helped get the six-foot-tall Carter a lucrative Maybelline contract, and got me a reminder about the inaccuracies of the press. “I’m five feet ten,” Carter tells me. “I have no idea how that rumor got started.”
Carter also doesn’t know why people ask to see her home in Delaware—which doesn’t exist—why it’s been recorded that she stopped drinking four years ago (“It was fourteen years ago”), or the obsession with her rumored plastic surgery (Google her name and there’s pages devoted to the subject).
“No, I’ve not had plastic surgery, but I reserve the right,” she says, adding that she’s “terrified of looking weird. I look at people and wonder, ‘Why did she do that to herself?’ They look monstrous. It doesn’t seem to matter how much money they paid for it.”
On the media’s attention to her famous face, Carter says that “it’s easier to dismiss someone who looks good for their age if they’ve had plastic surgery,” and adds that she doesn’t know if that’s necessarily a bad thing, just a fact.
Facts play a big role in Carter’s life, as does humility. She’ll talk about her alcoholism “if it will help someone,” and sums it up succinctly. “I got the tall gene, the blue-eyed gene, and the alcohol gene.”
When I teasingly enquired about the correct way to dodge bullets with your wrists, Carter laughed, first, then added a literal answer. “I had buttons in my hands; I was pushing things,” she divulges, on how those flashes eminated. “That’s why, if you watch the show, you never see the center of my hands.”
Carter also says she never objected to being a pin-up girl, as has been stated, but that her priorities were elsewhere. “I was thrilled to have a million-selling poster, I was thrilled that I was called the most beautiful girl in the world. Do I know I’m attractive? Yes. But I never played it. I was never asked out on dates.”
“If you’re attractive, you have to work harder at disarming yourself. You’re not walking around with a mirror in front of you. That’s not how you see yourself.”
There’s been Hollywood talk for years about a Wonder Woman movie, yet nothing has surfaced. The rumor mill on that front is that Carter is so associated with the role they can’t find a replacement. Carter’s heard those stories, and has her own take.
“There’s probably some truth to that, but they’re also terrified of having a woman in an action film. It’s territory that doesn’t work.”
Gay men would run to a Wonder Woman film faster than Diana Prince could throw off her glasses and sport an American Eagle bustier, and Carter’s joined a pantheon of ‘70s TV ladies revered by the community.
“During my fame the gay population was talking about themselves in a new way,” says Carter. “They were able to say ‘I can be a diva.’ It’s not much different from girls who say I want my hair to be like Farrah’s. They want to have that special something, that accomplished, great woman, this other side of themselves. It takes a lot of time for heterosexuals to figure out what kind of man or woman they want to be. When you add attraction to the same sex, how awful must that be? You just want to fit in.”
Carter took part in this year’s New York Gay Pride Parade, the same week the State legalized same-sex marriage. Both events were a wonderful experience for the star. “I’m so happy, I’m so happy!” Carter says of the new law. “You make a commitment that is binding, in front of friends, and you work together. You’re a couple walking forward in the world.”
Carter, who’s been married to attorney Robert Altman for 27 years, is pro-marriage (gay and otherwise), and anti-bullying. “People crack me up when they say they want the government out of my life, then say ‘you have to love this way, or sleep with this person; but otherwise, I want them out.’”
“I am so sick of bullies,” she adds. “Sarah Palin is a bully. Buchanan is a bully. They talk about things they don’t really know about. Go back to school, learn your stuff, and stop being a self-promoter.”
My conversation with Carter lasted longer than expected, and she digressed into favorite quotations, documentaries, her family, the company coming over that evening, and dealing with unprofessional people in the entertainment and music world, as well as other industries.
“If you ask a stupid question to a famous person you will never speak to that person again,” Carter said of journalists. “I’ve cut people short. They pick up the phone and think they can wing it.”
Of all Carter’s comments, that was my favorite. It was honest, frank, and unapologetic. I wouldn’t have my super heroes any other way.
For more information, visit Lynda Carter’s website. All photographs: Karl Simone.