×

Lynda Carter: Wonder Woman Then and Now

Icons | 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 ideal, 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 Oyl,” 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? The cousins were musically inclined -- Carter as a singer and Burghoff on drums, despite a deformity that affected three fingers on his left hand.

Ladies And Gentlemen, Welcome To The Stage... The Relatives

After a brief stint in a musical act called Just Us, Carter joined Burghoff and another cousin in a group dubbed The Relatives. They played some gigs in Las Vegas and were actually pretty entertaining. Carter attended Arizona State for a time, but the lure of an entertainment career persisted. She dropped out and in 1970 joined a group called The Garfin Gathering, playing casinos around the state of Nevada. By 1972, she had decided to change course again, and went home to Arizona with plans of moving into acting.

Carter Was A Beauty Queen. No, Really, She Was

Back in Arizona, Carter entered and won a beauty contest. Pageants were a good fit for her; in fact, she represented Arizona in the Miss World USA pageant in 1972 -- and won. In the Miss World pageant, she finished in the final 15. 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

Carter Didn't Get Wonder Woman On Her First Try

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. A TV movie that aired on November 7, 1975, served as the show's pilot episode, and the first season began in earnest in April 1976.

Wonder Woman Was Carter's Big Break, And Vice Versa

Wonder Woman wasn't just the character that made Carter's career; it was also a character that seemed to give her life meaning. Put aside Carter's physical beauty, the costumes, the action and intrigue -- in a way, the character of Wonder Woman hit the jackpot when it found Lynda Carter. She explained this perfect marriage of actor and role to blackfilm.com:

When I got 'Wonder Woman' I made a couple of decisions. The first one was that I wanted to discover who she was, not what her powers were, not what the storyline was or whether it was a Nazi or whatever kind of bad guy there was, but really who she is. And in reading all the research and how they came up with the character way back in the '40's, it was to give girls their own hero. ... She came from an island where all the woman could do the same things, and she had to compete against her sisters, her fellow Amazonians and so it was her will in going against her mother which we can all identify with when you're a teenager or whatever, not wanting to do what your mom wants you to do necessarily. So it gave me the idea that she was a real force and that she had her own ideas about things, and she didn't think that she was all that. She just really saw a need like so many women do and I've discovered that the archetype of Wonder Woman really lives in all of us. She had the goddess within. It's who we really are.

She'll Always Be Wonder Woman

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

Like it? Share with your friends!

Share On Facebook

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.