Everybody has that special somebody who covers all the bases, hits all the right notes, embodies everything you consider best about the kind of human being you find sexy. We're all different there, with our own perspectives on what that person is like. Some of us like them petite and pretty. Some might go for the tougher, butcher types. You might like them bright and blonde. Others might opt for the dark and brooding. For this awestruck columnist, my special someone has been and always will be the radiant Lynda Carter. Tall, dark, stacked, gorgeous, sweet, bright-eyed and stacked (that goes double), she's not only been the face of Wonder Woman for 4 decades, but also my #1 desire for almost that long as well. Doesn't matter that her days of lassos and super tight, patriotic outfits are behind her either. She's still my dream woman. And I don't think I'm alone there either.
Linda Jean Córdova Carter entered this world July 24, 1951 in Phoenix, Arizona to an Irish/English father and a Mexican mother. Her interest in entertainment came early, though as a young girl she was much more about singing than acting. She joined her first band in high school. Before she was out of high school she and a couple cousins joined another band and managed to get a 3-month gig in Vegas out of it. By 1970, Lynda had dropped out of Arizona State University to pursue her singing full time. Unfortunately, her curiously named third band, The Garfin Gathering with Lynda Carter played to virtually no one in their big break San Francisco performance in 1972, thus putting an end to her singing aspirations for the time being. Lynda returned to Arizona shortly thereafter.
Washed up as a singer, Lynda decided to fall back on her one most obvious saving grace - her looks. She entered a local Arizona beauty contest in 1972, which she won. Later, she received nationwide attention in the Miss World USA pageant, which she also won. Unfortunately Lynda only reached the semi-finals in the Miss World International Pageant (apparently the USA is a world all unto itself). Her pageant notoriety spurred her toward an acting career, starting out with classes at various NYC acting schools. With a loan from her parents to finance her new acting dreams, she moved to Hollywood and began doing small parts on various high profile TV shows of the day like Starsky and Hutch and Matt Helm. Her first movie role in 1976's BOBBIE JO AND THE OUTLAW featured her one and only nude performance. A 25-year old, nude Lynda Carter. What inspired casting...
By 1974, her finances dwindling and her career seemingly again in the dumps, Lynda tried out for the lead role in a TV movie centered around the DC Comics heroine Wonder Woman. Lynda ultimately lost the role to actress Cathy Lee Crosby, who went on to star in an updated version of Wonder Woman who neither looked like the comic hero nor seemingly had any of her powers. The show was a terrible failure.
By 1975, ABC was retooling their concept to better reflect the comic character's traditional look and characteristics. They were also in need of an actress who fit the classic Wonder Woman look. Now renamed The New, Original Wonder Woman, the show's producers remembered Lynda from her audition for the first special. They wisely realized this brunette beauty fit the role like a glove and cast her for the part.
The original premise of the show was similar to the comic. Wonder Woman, better known as Diana in her home land, is a princess of a tribe of Amazon women living somewhere near the Bermuda Triangle. When WWII American pilot Steve Trevor bails out over their island, the tribe of Amazon women hold a special series of games to see which of them will return the pilot to his homeland. Forbidden from participating due to her royal status, Diana disguises herself as a blonde Amazon for the games and wins, using her bullet-deflecting bracelets to defeat her opponent in the final round. Diana then returns the wayward pilot to his home base with the help of her powerful bracelets, Lasso of Truth (which is exactly what it sounds like) and invisible plane. Thwarting bank robberies and Nazi plots against her life, Diana eventually goes into disguise as a secretary for the war department, working in secret with Trevor from the inside to defeat the Nazi threat.
Clearly cheesy in that classic comic book fashion, Lynda's more faithful version of the show first aired to positive viewer response in November of 1975 as a movie of the week. Her remarkable beauty and earnest portrayal of the character, cultivated from years spent reading Wonder Woman comics as a child, endeared her to viewers and made the TV movie a huge success. ABC quickly ordered 2 more episodes which aired the following year, both receiving high ratings. From there, ABC ordered an additional 11 episodes, all of which garnered similar viewer numbers.
ABC hesitated renewing the show for a second season, due to concerns about the production costs associated with a period piece show and the limited, Nazi-heavy storylines. Eventually they decided to reject the show for a second season in 1977. The show's production company, Warner Bros. Television, then took the show to CBS with the idea that they bring Wonder Woman forward to the 1970s, thus negating ABC's issues. CBS agreed to the deal and picked up the show for two more seasons.
Various updates to the plot were orchestrated for the 35-year fast-forward in seasons 2 and 3. The show was renamed to The New Adventures of Wonder Woman and made into something more like the cop/detective shows popular at that time. Wonder Woman was now part of the IADC - Inter-Agency Defense Command. Being relatively ageless due to her Amazonian heritage, seasons 2 and 3 saw WW working with the son of her former pilot partner, fighting everything from criminal organizations to alien invasions. The show also copied aspects of other big shows of the day, such as orders being given to WW and her partners by a disembodied voice, similar to how things were done on that other 70s TV hottie powerhouse, Charlie's Angels. A disco beat accompanied a new intro, which was very much of the period. Such updates continued throughout the shows run, though necessary staples like WW's no-kill approach to bad guys and her patriotic, low-cut costume remained mostly intact.
While Wonder Woman was a popular show throughout its run, CBS's competing super hero show, The Incredible Hulk, scored much bigger numbers. That and the introduction of a new show called The Dukes of Hazzard in 1979, spelled doom for Wonder Woman's exploits. She flew invisibly into the sunset in September 1979.
Despite being gone from the airwaves, folks like myself still fondly remember Lynda's portrayal of the classic DC hero. Her legendary sex appeal and uncanny similarity to the traditional comic look of the character made hers one of the great superhero portrayals in the history of the genre. So popular is Lynda in the role that even 30+ years after the show's cancellation, she is still identified with the character, her iconic status discouraging subsequent attempts at revising the character due to a lack of faith that anyone could do as much with the role as Lynda did. Even the kitschy 70s vibe of the show has become a nostalgic treat all its own, leading to healthy DVD sales and merch of all kinds.
While Wonder Woman will probably be the thing Lynda is best remembered for, it didn't necessarily have to go that way. While on hiatus from the show in 1978, Lynda was cast in a Francis Ford Copolla film dealing with some now legendary production issues. Called APOCALYPSE NOW, Lynda was originally cast as "Miss May," who you will remember was a Playboy playmate stranded in a remote outpost in a far flung corner of Vietnam. Though Lynda's scenes were successfully shot, a typhoon that rolled in shortly thereafter destroyed most of the film's Philippine sets, essentially ruining much of what had been filmed up to that point. Unable to return to re-shoot her scenes for the movie, the role had to be recast with actress Coleen Camp. However, much of the promotional material for Lynda's portrayal of Miss May had already been completed - including, as rumor has it, her real life Playboy centerfold spread for the movie.
Lynda's centerfold was supposedly locked away in Playboy's archives and a duplicate centerfold shot with Coleen Camp for their 1978 tie in issue with the movie. Lynda's centerfold remained the stuff of legend until a short-lived gossip magazine called Expose! claimed to have found a copy used in the movie and published it in their magazine. Some claim the image is a fake, with Lynda's face airbrushed onto Coleen Camp's Playboy centerfold. Others argue in favor of the image. Nobody in the know is talking, unfortunately. Judge for yourself with this NSFW, side-by-side comparison of Lynda and Coleen's centerfolds. Looks fairly legitimate to me, but then again my bias is obvious here.
In 1978, Lynda was voted "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World" by the very knowledgeable-sounding International Academy of Beauty, as well as The British Press Organization. Her now world-renowned beauty and fame helped her branch out to new things as the 70s moved into the 80s. She signed on as a promotional model for Maybelline Cosmetics around this time and continued working in television, doing several TV movies like the 1983 Rita Hayworth biopic Rita Hayworth, Love Goddess, playing the titular silver screen siren. She also starred in a number of variety specials in the early 80s with names like Lynda Carter's Special, Encore, Celebration and Body And Soul.
Aside from her TV work, Lynda enjoyed a return to her singing roots in the early 80s with gigs on the Las Vegas Strip and Atlantic City. Her singing career got a boost from her Wonder Woman notoriety in the 70s. She produced a solo album in 1978 called Portrait which did little business, despite the fact that she managed to perform a few of the songs off the album on her show. It was another 30 years before Lynda recorded again, releasing her album At Last in 2009. She followed that up with a third album in 2011 called Crazy Little Things. In 2005, she portrayed Mama Morton in a West End London production of Chicago. Her one-woman cabaret show An Evening with Lynda Carter toured the US in 2007, performing in big time venues like The Lincoln Center in NYC The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
Lynda enjoyed a resurgence in her acting career in the late 90s and early 2000s, thanks in part to syndication of Wonder Woman on cable and her continued work in several TV movies. She had a small but memorable role as Governor Jessman in the 2001 cult movie SUPER TROOPERS, further solidifying her relevance with new fans. Lynda, ironically enough, appeared in the 2005 big-screen version of THE DUKES OF HAZZARD, the remake of the show that played a part in forcing Wonder Woman off the air 25 years before. That year also saw her lampoon her Amazonian alter ego in the adolescent super hero movie SKY HIGH, playing Principal Powers, the head of an academy for superhero offspring, who had the memorable line "I can't do anything more to help you. I'm not Wonder Woman, y'know."
Now in her mid 60s, Lynda still looks fantastic. In fact, she's almost as well known today for her enduring beauty as anything else. Married almost 30-years to attorney Robert A. Altman with whom she has a daughter and a son (imagine the horrible Oedipus Complex that kid must have), she busies herself with even more acting roles, singing gigs, speaking engagements and more. Decades removed from her days as super hero, Lynda remains the quintessential American beauty she always has been and a true wonder of a woman.