As children, my brother and I were obsessed with Wonder Woman. We watched her win the Olympic trials, fly in her invisible plane, struggle with the awkwardness of Diana Prince and spin in that famous circle to become Wonder Woman. We had our own gold lasso and made bullet-refracting bracelets; it was true devotion. So talking with Lynda Carter for the Windy City Queercast was a career high for me.
A former Ms. World USA, Carter became a superstar as the most popular female superhero of all time, Wonder Woman, and the role won her millions of fans. Her work as a spokesmodel, activist and singer continues to define her.
Amy Matheny: You've been quoted as saying that if you ever had a gay following, you would know that you made it. Obviously you made it BIG time! I don't know any lesbian or gay man who does not love Wonder Woman. Why is there such a loyal gay following?
Lynda Carter: The person I looked up to the most with her career was Bette Midler. She started in the bathhouses and … I thought, if I could just have a tiny bit of her personality and that way she communicates. I tried [ with Wonder Woman to bring ] some honesty to the role, and I think that's what people respond to. It's also the archetype.
AM: Is it also the secret identity?
LC: Yeah, the secret self. That you can't tell anyone…that you're different. Every kid of every sexual orientation feels like they don't belong. But, when you just start learning [ about ] your sexuality...coming to grips with that, it's that secret self.
AM: And the fabulous costume…and she lived [ with ] Amazons on Paradise [ Island ] . I think all lesbians can relate to that.
LC: You know I never put that together! Can you believe it? I love that!
AM: Did you have a favorite episode?
LC: No, they all kind of blend together. There were some people I really liked. There was one about a leprechaun I really liked. There was one with Ed Begley that I really liked. But I haven't seen any of them in years.
AM: You came up with the famous transformation 'spin.' How did that happen?
LC: Like all great things, it is a collaboration. We were filming the pilot, and they had some contraption that was supposed to turn me around.
AM: Like they're frosting a cake?
LC: Yeah. And I said, 'Why don't I just spin? Why don't I just do a thing?' They were saying, 'Maybe we should flash instead…' And I said 'Well, why don't I just turn around?' They said, 'You could do that?' I said 'Yeah!' And…that's how that happened.
AM: Over the years there has been incessant talk about a movie. Who would you like to see play Wonder Woman or Steve Trevor?
LC: I don't think I've ever been asked about Steve Trevor. Hey, you score another one.
AM: This is a once-in-a-lifetime interview. I'm pulling out all the stops.
LC: I think she needs to be an unknown. Not necessarily inexperienced, but known without a lot of star baggage. The biggest thing is that honesty and goodness and vulnerability and likeability. All the rest of it…that's all done cinematically. People got to know Wonder Woman in many ways through Diana Prince, and that's really who you have to cast. And it's not this mousy thing. It's a strong everyday woman.
AM: Can you think of a leading man for Steve Trevor, or do you think he should also be unknown?
LC: You know, I would really have to give it some thought.
AM: Do you know if they are ever going to get a movie made?
LC: It's political. You need the right people and script. I just hope they do it before I die. It's been 30 years.
AM: You are very politically active as a Democrat and friend of Hillary Clinton. Is it time for a woman to save the world?
LC: Well, we all can't be Wonder Women. But I think she's come awfully close. She is the smartest person I know. I love her. She's fantastic. I don't understand when people say 'Oh, she's cold' or 'Oh, I just don't like her.' Or now the latest is that she's too buttoned-up, so she wears something that's got a scoop neck, and now she's showing cleavage. You know, they started off getting on her about her headband, and then it was her ankles. It's like, would we be talking about Fred Thompson's… midriff?
AM: Well, [ there is ] John Edwards' hair.
LC: Anybody that talks about fluff like that, I just want to strangle them. We need somebody who really knows what they're doing, that is smarter than everyone else. We need someone that is smart, that has experience, that's been exposed to all of this, that has had eight years in the White House. They can't find anything new, so they're going to go back over all of the old stuff and I think that that's a big mistake, because we're all sick of it. We don't want to hear something about 12 or 14 years ago. And so what? A lot of women have their husbands cheat on them. So what? You know, they say family values…she's the epitome of it. She didn't cut and run; she stayed and worked it out. And, anyway, it's none of my business.
AM: How did you meet Hillary?
LC: My husband and I met the Clintons in 1983 at the Kentucky Derby. She is so dedicated [ and ] so focused, and I think she will be great for this country.
AM: Where do you stand on [ same-sex ] marriage?
LC: I think that anyone that wants to get married in front of God, the judicial system, their friends and family….I think it makes a difference in the relationship. I got married because I wanted to commit for the rest of my life to this marriage, to have children, to have a family, to have someone that I walk through life with, and it is no different for a gay man or a gay woman. There is no difference. That's the way I feel.
AM: You bravely came out about your struggle with alcoholism. What was the wake-up call for you?
LC: My drinking pattern was [ established ] a lot of my life. You think [ the solution ] is willpower. So, I just wouldn't drink. I wouldn't drink for three years, or two years, because I could stop anytime. And then I would drink [ again ] for the same reason anyone else would drink. But the disease goes on without you, and those periods of time became closer and closer together. I had a long talk with my husband, and… I really felt like I didn't know what was wrong with me.
AM: Was there a lot of shame?
LC: Oh my gosh, there's so much shame, because you don't remember stuff that you did or said. It's just ugly. And you spend all your time trying to keep the truth from everyone. I did a really good job with that. My husband and I talked about it, and I was ready to just throw it all away my career, everythingbecause I knew people would find out. And what happened instead, I drove onto the grounds of [ rehabilitation facility ] Father Martin's Ashley in Maryland, and I really felt like I had come home.
It's not just about not drinking. It's really so much more about understanding the disease itself, what happens in your body. I mean I feel like I drank against my will. It was against my will. So I had to figure it out, and I did.
AM: Is there any hope you can offer in recovery for people struggling with addiction?
LC: You can't do it alone. There's no chance. You have no chance if you try to do it yourself. You need help, and you just have to be willing to listen. It's just about going to meetings and being around other people who walk the walk and talk the talk. And understand there are millions of us out there. There's nothing to be afraid of. The only thing is to take that step. You know, we all beg, 'God, please God take this from me,' and yet it's right there.
AM: You produced and performed in five Emmy-winning variety TV shows. You played Mama Morton in Chicago in the West End. Now you are touring with your cabaret show. What influences are in this show?
LC: Well, when I decided to sing again, I ended up going through what I thought I might want to sing, and I got a big pile together, and the truth was that it spans such a variety of tastes. It's just the things that, right now, I want to sing; that may change next year.
It's about sharing an experience for an hour and fifteen minutes with a group of people. I sing a lot of blues and jazz. I do this Charlie Parker solo. I sing something by Patsy Cline that Willie Nelson wrote, and then an obscure song here and there. It's kind of eclectic.
AM: And to capture the show, you just recorded a new CD that will be out in the fall. Lynda, if you could have one of Wonder Woman's powers, what would it bephysical strength, lasso of truth, invisible plane, bulletproof bracelets [ or the ] tiara as a weapon?
LC: There's no questionit's the lasso of truth. I live in Washington, D.C. [ Having that lasso ] would be amazing, wouldn't it?
'An Intimate Evening with Lynda Carter' is at the Apollo Theater Sept. 11-16. Call 773-935-6100 or purchase tickets through ticketmaster. To hear the full interview, visit www.windycityqueercast.com .