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Lynda Carter: Wonder Woman Then and Now

Editor Picks | August 1, 2018

Lynda Carter stars in the CBS television series " Wonder Woman." Image date 1978. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

For superhero fans in the '70s, both men and women, Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman is the idea, the gold standard. Christopher Reeve's Superman was excellent, Lou Ferrigno's Hulk wasn't bad at all, but Diana Prince as played by Lynda Carter stands out not only as a heroic star but also a role model for young girls who'd never seen a lady kick so much ass on TV. Beginning in 1975, Wonder Woman was a phenomenon, a hit show with a lead role that was perfectly cast.

At least, they got it right the second time around. Did you know that the Wonder Woman show we all love grew out of a made-for-TV movie that didn't star Lynda Carter? The 1974 TV movie Wonder Woman had Cathy Lee Crosby in the title role.

Young Lynda Carter Gained Attention For Being Tall And Lanky

Lynda Carter Portrait Session LOS ANGELES - CIRCA 1985: Actress Lynda Carter poses for a portrait circa 1985 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images)

It’s hard to believe that a woman as beautiful, sexy, and successful as Lynda Carter didn’t always have the world by the tail. How is it possible that Wonder Woman herself ever didn't get everything she wanted? It is true enough that her career got off to an early start at the age of 5 with a brief spot on Lew King’s Talent Show. Although her performance was not necessarily something to write home about, it got her noticed. What does she look like now? You'll find out momentarily, but first, let's take a look back at Wonder Woman's glory days.

Young Lynda Carter was a standout in the crowd; not for being especially beautiful and talented but for being “tall and lanky.”

Maybe She Should Have Played Tight End

Although her statuesque frame and stunning chestnut hair would soon become her trademarks, she didn't always consider them assets, believe it or not. As we can see from photos like the one above, she was always a knockout, but she was merciless teased about her appearance. Carter always had dark hair and was quite noticeably taller and thinner than her friends and peers as a child. For this reason, she was taunted by being called, “Olive Oyle,” a character in the cartoon, Popeye. Carter especially stood out among her friends as most of them were on the shorter side with blonde or very light hair. Sadly, she didn’t make the cheerleading cut in high school because she “towered over everyone else.” If only they had known.

"I was taller than all the boys except the tackles on the football team," Carter told TV Guide.

In an effort to find her niche, Carter turned her attention to music and began singing. She initially landed a job singing at a local pizza joint for a whopping $25 per week. Luckily, she was successful enough to join a small-time band which led to other opportunities.

Radar O'Reilly Is Wonder Woman's Cousin

Lynda Carter is the cousin of Gary Burghoff, who played Radar on M*A*S*H. How could those two possibly share genes?

Lynda Carter is the cousin of actor, Gary Burghoff. It is ironic given the fact that they are polar opposites on the growth charts. After a brief stint with another band, Carter and Burghoff started their own band called, The Relatives. They played some gigs in Las Vegas and were actually pretty entertaining, but that life on the road got old, real fast! How did this small-time lounge lizard become the standard to which all of today's female superheroes aspire?

Starsky and Hutch was one of Lynda Carter’s initial TV series appearances.

Carter left that scene and went back home to her home state where she entered and won a beauty contest. That was all she needed to gain the confidence to enroll in acting classes. Not long after, she landed roles on episodes of TV series including Starsky and Hutch. This was all the exposure she needed.

In 1974, Lynda Carter auditioned for the part of Wonder Woman in a TV-movie being produced for ABC by Warner Bros. Carter didn't get the part -- it went to Cathy Lee Crosby. The TV-movie was a modern spin on Wonder Woman, with the heroine wearing a much different costume, and lacking super powers.

Crosby's Wonder Woman program was underwhelming, so ABC and Warner Bros. changed course. They came up with a show closer to the original DC Comics version of Wonder Woman, set in World War II, and starring Lynda Carter. The pilot aired as a TV movie on November 7, 1975, and in April 1976 the first season continued

From this point on, Lynda Carter was and will forever be, known as Wonder Woman.

Carter, after being cast as the first, ever, female superhero on a TV series, was essentially paving the way for future, beautiful, leading, female roles. Up until this point, females had been known for roles being dutiful and/or funny, not powerful and glamorous like Carter's Wonder Woman would be. Carter’s portrayal of Wonder Woman was an entirely new concept. Producers didn’t know if viewers were ready for it or not.

After Carter was cast as the iconic superhero, she was warned by producers that the (then) current leading women in TV roles were Carol Burnett and Laverne and Shirley type characters. She was cautioned that she would be primarily disliked by female viewers because of her sex appeal. Would the viewing audience of the '70s accept such a strong and threateningly beautiful woman? Or would they reject her and turn back to the comforting comedic types?

Fortunately, that wasn’t necessarily the case. Wonder Woman commanded a large and varied audience, resulting in Carter being endeared to all of her viewers.

Wonder Woman soon gained international stardom and products, with her likeness, flew off the shelves.  The momentum of the character of Wonder Woman took on a life of its own, both on television and in marketing. Lynda Carter had become a sex symbol as well as an idol for young girls. Unfortunately, some of her fans took it to the next level and would write her inappropriate and explicit fan mail. How would Carter cope with this newfound surge of attention? And more importantly, how would she top it?

Over the years, Lynda Carter has enjoyed a successful acting career, even beyond her Wonder Woman years. She's excelled in both comedy and drama, film and TV, culminating in a phenomenal turn as the President of the United States on---wait for it---DC Comics's Supergirl. She's married, divorced, and married again; she's overcome addiction and become an outspoken advocate for sobriety; she's raised two children, become a political activist, and done it all with that classic Wonder Woman charm. She is and has always been a class act, boasting talent, beauty and brains; the whole package. She is as beautiful now, inside and out, as she was the first time she wowed us in her role as the epic crime fighter, Wonder Woman.  

Tags: Celebrities When They Were Young | Lynda Carter | The 1970s | Then And Now | Wonder Woman

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.