When I was growing up, there were very few female action heroes, which is why Lynda Carter’s portrayal of Wonder Woman in 1975 made her such an iconic figure.
During childhood, many girls, including myself, looked up to her as a hero. We would wear makeshift tiaras and capes, using tea towels, pretending to be Wonder Woman in the 1970s.
Lynda Carter was not only admired for her acting skills but also for her exceptional beauty. In my opinion, she continues to exude beauty even today. Whenever I hear the name Lynda Carter, I immediately think of her remarkable performance as Wonder Woman. The television series, launched during the peak of the women’s liberation movement in the ’70s, was one of the rare Hollywood productions with a female lead.
In numerous ways, Lynda was the perfect fit for the role. She possessed talent, stunning looks, and elegance, complemented by her great sense of humor.
However, before landing the role and achieving stardom, Lynda had to overcome several obstacles. She faced challenges as a relatively inexperienced actress and had conflicts with the producers.
Lynda Carter, born in 1951 in Phoenix, Arizona, made her first appearance on Lew King’s Talent Show at the tender age of five. But her interest in music took precedence as she grew up. In high school, she joined a band and started performing at a local pizza parlor, earning $25 per weekend at the age of fifteen.
During her youth, Lynda faced difficulties, including her parents’ divorce and the comments she received about her height, which left her with an early sense of inferiority. Despite this, she managed to turn things around and combat those negative feelings.
“These emotions have lingered since my childhood. I mean, I was tall! People would say, ‘Oh, you’re tall!’ And I would laugh and reply, ‘Yeah, I’m tall!’ I became a clown. Inside, however, I felt like crumbling jelly,” Lynda candidly shared with reporters in 1979.
Overall, Lynda spoke highly of her upbringing. She attended church every Sunday, enjoyed picnics, shared jokes with her sister, and had a mother who feared her “going Hollywood.”
Although Lynda briefly attended Arizona State University, she decided to quit after being voted “Most Talented.” Her intention was to focus entirely on pursuing a career in music. However, her plans changed when she won a local beauty contest in Arizona in 1972. This victory led her to represent her state and country in the Miss USA and Miss World pageants, respectively, where she achieved success.
Reflecting on her beauty queen days, Lynda downplayed the experience, stating that she didn’t receive any substantial prizes and considered beauty contests to be inherently cruel.
In the early 1970s, Lynda took acting classes at various schools in New York. She was determined to succeed in show business and managed to secure minor roles in popular TV series like Starsky and Hutch and Cos. However, the competition in Hollywood was fierce, and she found herself running out of money while pursuing her dreams in Los Angeles.
Just when she was on the verge of returning to Arizona and finding a regular job, her life took a dramatic turn. She received a call from her manager informing her that Joanna Cassidy had been turned down for the role, and Lynda had been chosen to play Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, with her crime-fighting alter ego.
That fateful decision changed the course of Lynda Carter’s life and established her as an unforgettable Wonder Woman.
Lynda Carter, standing at an impressive 6 feet tall and with only $25 in her bank account when she landed the role, was absolutely thrilled. The Wonder Woman TV series was based on the beloved superheroine character created by DC Comics in 1941. Wonder Woman was one of the earliest female superheroes, and the series became a massive hit among readers.
The creators of Wonder Woman, writer William Moulton Marston and artist Harry G. Peter, strongly believed that girls needed a hero of their own. In the first episode of the TV series, there was a powerful statement of female empowerment, aligning perfectly with the spirit of the time.
A few years before the series aired, a significant event took place in New York City when 50,000 feminists marched down Fifth Avenue in the Women’s Strike for Equality March.
In one of the early episodes, Wonder Woman conveyed a profound message: “Any civilization that does not recognize the female is doomed to destruction. Women are the wave of the future, and sisterhood is stronger than anything.” However, as the series progressed, the feminist message was toned down, much to Lynda Carter’s disappointment.
According to Carter, the network feared that Wonder Woman’s feminist dialogue would alienate viewers, considering it “dangerous,” as she revealed in an interview with PBS.
Unfortunately, there were other indications that Hollywood hadn’t progressed much. For instance, the producers wanted to use a male stunt double with a muscular, hairy-chested physique for risky action scenes. The idea of employing a female stunt double was unthinkable, which greatly frustrated Lynda.
“I can’t accept that,” she asserted.
In one particular episode, Wonder Woman was supposed to hang from a flying helicopter, and Lynda bravely performed the dangerous scene herself. After witnessing her determination, the producers agreed to hire a female stunt double.
The iconic Wonder Woman series aired for three seasons, from 1975 to 1979. Lynda Carter brought the character to life, captivating audiences with her performance. Her on-screen portrayal of a female superhero inspired countless female writers, viewers, and producers. While her beauty charmed men from every corner, some viewers found her costume overly revealing.
Carter protested, saying, “I wore less on the beach! It was more than a bikini – it was the American flag in a one-piece suit.” Despite being chosen for her appearance, Lynda refused to play into stereotypes. Some producers even warned her that women would be envious of her.
“Well,” she responded, “not a chance. They won’t be envious because I’m not portraying her in that way. I want women to either want to be me or be my best friend! There’s something about the character that, in your creative mind during that time in your life when you pretended to be her, or whatever the situation was, made you feel like you could fly,” Lynda explained.
Nevertheless, whether she liked it or not, the stunning Lynda Carter became the object of desire for many men. In 1978, she was voted “The Most Beautiful Woman in the World,” and a captivating portrait of her in a tied-up crop top became the top-selling poster of the year. However, the attention she received because of her looks was not always positive.
“I never imagined a picture of my body would be displayed in men’s bathrooms. I dislike the idea of men looking at me and thinking inappropriate thoughts. And I know what they think because they write and tell me,” she expressed.
In 1981, Lynda opened up about her dissatisfaction with the famous poster during an interview for the NBC television special Women Who Rate a 10.
After earning a substantial sum of $1 million for 26 episodes of Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter was living a luxurious life. She resided in an exquisite French-styled house valued at $1,200,000, located atop Benedict Canyon in Los Angeles. The mansion was safeguarded by a pack of loyal German Shepherds. Additionally, she indulged in owning several Bentleys.
Following her remarkable stint as Wonder Woman, Lynda took on a significant role portraying Carole Stanwyck in the crime drama TV series Partners in Crime. In this endeavor, she acted alongside another talented and beautiful actress, Loni Anderson.
During the 1990s, Lynda ventured into entrepreneurship by founding her own production company, Potomac Productions. She also made numerous appearances in TV movies and kept herself busy with voice-over work. As the new millennium arrived, she continued to expand her filmography, with younger audiences recognizing her portrayal of Pauline in the big-screen remake of The Dukes of Hazzard (2005). Concurrently, she explored the realm of theater and secured a role in the West End production of Chicago, staged in London.
Despite her diverse accomplishments, Lynda will forever be associated with her career-defining role in the 1970s. She maintained a close connection to the superhero world, as evidenced by DC Comics naming her as one of their honorees. When preparations for the 2017 Wonder Woman feature film began, director Patty Jenkins approached Lynda with a cameo offer. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts at that point in her life, she had to decline. However, she expressed her willingness to consider a decent role if offered in the future.
In 2016, Lynda played a part in the United Nations’ celebration of the 75th anniversary of Wonder Woman’s first appearance. During the event, the UN declared the female superhero as its “Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls.” Lynda expressed her gratitude for the honor and acknowledged the impact of playing Wonder Woman, highlighting the character’s ability to inspire women and garner support for equality among men.
Turning to her personal life, before her iconic role as Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter was romantically involved with French singer-songwriter Michel Polnareff. In May 1977, she married talent agent and promoter Ron Samuels, whom she had met at an ABC affiliates party the previous year. At the time, Samuels was a prominent figure in show business, working with actresses such as Jennifer O’Neill, Joyce DeWitt, Jaclyn Smith, and Barbara Carreras.
Lynda and Ron’s relationship initially began as a professional discussion, but it quickly evolved into dating as they spent time together in meetings, dinners, and tennis matches. Ron’s handsome appearance and successful business career impressed Lynda, while Ron was captivated by her stunning beauty and genuine character.
During their wedding, with Lynda aged 25 and Ron aged 35, she donned a Victorian-style gown designed by Don Feld, the same designer responsible for the iconic Wonder Woman outfit. For a few years, they were one of Hollywood’s most famous and attractive couples, enjoying their youth, wealth, and popularity.
However, behind the glamorous facade, cracks began to appear. In retrospect, Lynda admitted to feeling unhappy during the marriage, which lasted from 1977 to 1982. In an interview with the New York Times, she referred to it as “an unfortunate chapter” in her life. Even during the middle of their union, interviews with the couple hinted at underlying issues. They had disagreements regarding starting a family, with Lynda desiring to become a mother while Ron preferred to delay parenthood. When the two-year mark arrived, Ron requested an additional two-year delay.
Lynda and Robert’s paths first crossed at a business dinner in Memphis, Tennessee, and it was a case of love at first sight. The event was organized by Maybelline, the cosmetic brand for which Lynda was a spokesperson, and Robert was convinced by a friend to attend the dinner by mentioning the presence of the renowned Wonder Woman actress.
“I knew she was a beautiful actress who modeled for Maybelline, but I couldn’t quite place her,” Robert recalled.
Initially, Robert had planned to return to his hotel and watch a football game, believing that the last thing he wanted was to attend a dinner and get involved with a Hollywood actress. However, fortunately, he had a change of heart.
Seated next to Lynda, the couple instantly connected. Their attraction was palpable and intense, almost to the point of overshadowing the rest of the table. Coming from a difficult previous marriage, Lynda was overjoyed when she met Robert, and she couldn’t conceal her feelings.
“This is Robert’s first marriage, my second. But for me, it’s my first… Robert is my best friend. I’ve heard that phrase, that your spouse is supposed to be your best friend. But I never experienced it before. He’s for me, and I’m for him. A friend doesn’t try to control you,” Lynda candidly expressed to Newsday in 1985.
Lynda and Robert exchanged vows at the Bel-Air Bay Club in Pacific Palisades, California, with notable guests including Ed McMahon, Barbara Mandrell, and Lynda’s acting colleague, Loni Anderson. Following their wedding, they decided to settle down in Potomac, Maryland. With the man she had always longed for, Lynda made the choice to step away from Hollywood and the spotlight.
After moving into their expansive 20,000-square-foot Georgian-style mansion in Potomac, Lynda dedicated herself to raising their two children: James Altman, born in January 1988, and Jessica Carter Altman, born on October 7, 1990. Motherhood became Lynda’s greatest adventure, and she cherished every moment, as she expressed in a heartfelt Mother’s Day post on Instagram, accompanied by a photo with her kids.
At 71 years old, Lynda Carter remains active in the entertainment industry. However, the past few years have been challenging for her. In February 2021, she had to bid farewell to her beloved husband. Sadly, Robert succumbed to an uncommon form of leukemia at the age of 73 in a Baltimore hospital.
Robert’s passing has taken a significant toll on Lynda, and she struggled to put her grief into words when she shared a photo of them together a year after his passing.
“Today would have been your 75th birthday. To me, you cannot be gone because the love you freely gave endures. It lives on in me, our children, and the many people whose lives you touched. You gave so much of yourself while you were here, and today we honor your love, your life, and your legacy. If I were on a mountaintop today, I would sing to you through the canyons. Instead, I woke to the dawn, over the ocean, and sang my heart and love to you.”
In recent years, Lynda has also opened up about her struggle with alcoholism. She shared that she turned to drinking due to unhappiness in her first marriage. However, she has now celebrated over 20 years of sobriety. During her recovery journey, Robert played a crucial role as her “knight in shining armor,” providing unwavering support.
“I’ve been in recovery for 23 years. I didn’t start drinking until my mid-20s.