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Lynda Jean Carter (born July 24, 1951) is an American actress and singer, best known for being Miss World USA 1972 and as the star of the 1970s television series The New Original Wonder Woman (1975–77) and The New Adventures of Wonder Woman (1977–79).
Carter was born Linda Jean Córdova Carter in Phoenix, Arizona. Her father, Colby Carter, is an art dealer of Irish English descent and her mother, Juana Córdova, is of Mexican descent. Ms. Carter has stated that her mother has her Mexican roots in Chihuahua, Mexico and previously worked in the telephone industry. Lynda speaks fluent Spanish. Carter grew up an avid reader of the Wonder Woman comic books. She went to Arcadia High School in Phoenix and Kachina Elementary School in Scottsdale, Arizona.
During high school, Carter performed in a band called Just Us, consisting of a marimba, a conga drum, an acoustic guitar, and a stand-up bass played by another girl. When she was 17 in 1968, Lynda joined two of her cousins in another band called The Relatives. Actor Gary Burghoff was the drummer. The group opened at the Sahara Hotel and Casino lounge in Las Vegas, Nevada, for three months; and, because Lynda was under 21, she had to enter through the kitchen. She attended Arizona State University. After being voted Most Talented, she dropped out to pursue a career in music. In 1970, Carter sang with The Garfin Gathering with Lynda Carter. Their first performance was in a San Francisco hotel so new that it had no sidewalk entrance. Consequently, they played mostly to the janitors and hotel guests who parked their cars in the underground garage. She returned to Arizona in 1972.
In 1972, Carter entered a local Arizona beauty contest and gained national attention in the United States by winning Miss World USA, representing Arizona; in the international 1972 Miss World pageant, representing the U.S., she reached the semi-finals. After taking acting classes at several New York acting schools, she began making appearances on such TV shows as Starsky and Hutch, Cos, and Nakia and in B-movies, her only nude appearance to make it to film was in Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (1976).
Carter’s acting career took off when she landed the starring role in The New Adventures of Wonder Woman as Wonder Woman and her alter ego Diana Prince. The savings her parents had set aside for her to pursue acting in Los Angeles were almost depleted, and Carter was close to returning to Arizona when her manager informed her that she had won the part. Her earnest performance endeared her to fans and critics, and the series lasted three seasons. As she is the physical embodiment of the character so much so that thirty years after first taking on the role, Carter continues to be closely identified with Wonder Woman.
As the program was winding down, Carter told US magazine:
I never meant to be a sexual object for anyone but my husband. I never thought a picture of my body would be tacked up in men’s bathrooms. I hate men looking at me and thinking what they think. And I know what they think. They write and tell me.
She was referring to the feedback she had received for her posters.
Carter was also upset with some of the marketing of her image. Warner Bros. worked out a deal with the toy company Mego to create a Wonder Woman doll while the series was still on the air. In 1987, on The Late Show with Joan Rivers, Carter commented:
I think that you’re probably familiar with a problem in Hollywood, and that is that they market you, and they use you. They did a mask of my face and put it on the doll, and they put my name on for the first run of it. And then they took my name off and said they didn’t have to pay me anymore. So it’s the kind of thing that you can be used so much in this industry. I make nothing. I don’t even make anything from the reruns. Don’t ever settle for net profits. It’s called creative accounting.
In 1985, DC Comics named Carter as one of the honorees in the company’s 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great for her work on the Wonder Woman series. In 2007, toy company DC Direct released a 13" full-figure statue of Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman, limited to 5,000 pieces; it was re-released in 2010. Also in 2010, DC Direct began selling a 5½-inch bust of Carter’s rendition of Wonder Woman to celebrate the DC Comics’ 75th anniversary.
At age 5, Lynda made her public television debut on the Lew King’s Talent Show.
During the late 1970s, Carter recorded an album, Portrait. Carter is credited as a co-writer on several songs, and she made numerous guest appearances on variety television programs at the time in a musical capacity. She also sang two of her songs in the 1979 Wonder Woman episode, Amazon Hot Wax
In 1977, Carter released a promotional poster through Pro Arts Inc. at the suggestion of her then-husband and manager, Ron Samuels. The poster was very successful despite Carter’s dissatisfaction with it. In 1981, during an interview on the NBC television special Women Who Rate a 10, she said:
It’s uncomfortable because I just simply took a photograph. That’s all my participation was in my poster that sold over a million copies was that I took a photograph that I thought was a dumb photograph. My husband said, ‘Oh, try this thing tied up here, it’ll look beautiful’. And the photographer said ‘the back-lighting is really terrific’. So dealing with someone having that picture up in their… bedroom or their… living room or whatever I think would be hard for anyone to deal with.
In 1978, Ms.Lynda Jean Carter was voted The Most Beautiful Woman in the World by The International Academy of Beauty and The British Press Organization.
In 1979’s Apocalypse Now Lynda Carter was originally cast in the role of Playboy Playmate Bunny but the filming of her scenes was interrupted by the famous storm that wrecked the theatre set, prompting nearly two month’s delay for rebuilding. By the time Coppola was ready to shoot again, Carter’s contractual obligations to Wonder Woman forced her back to the states, and her scenes were re-shot with Colleen Camp. The only evidence remaining of Carter’s involvement are the Playboy Centerfold that were specially shot by the magazine as movie props. At one point in the Redux version of Apocalypse Now, a glimpse of Carter’s pinup is visible, as the only nude work ascribed to the actress outside of Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw.
In the early 1980s, Carter performed on the Las Vegas Strip and in Atlantic City, highlighting her musical talent.
Carter’s other credits include the title role in a biopic of actress Rita Hayworth, titled Rita Hayworth, Love Goddess (1983) and a variety of her own TV specials: Lynda Carter’s Special (1980), Encore! (1980), Celebration (1981), Street Life (1982), and Body And Soul (1984). She starred in a few short-lived TV series, including Partners in Crime (1984) with Loni Anderson and Hawkeye (1994–95) with Lee Horsley. During this time, she also became a celebrity promotional model for Maybelline cosmetics commercials.
Carter performing in Mohegan Sun Casino, Connecticut, on Dec. 10, 2011
Throughout the 1990s, Carter appeared in a string of tv movies that resulted in a resurgence in television appearances. Also, because of the re-syndication of Wonder Woman on such cable networks as FX and SyFy, Carter even participated in two scheduled on-line chat sessions with fans. It was around this time that Carter created her own production company, Potomac Productions. Throughout the 1990s, she has also appeared in commercials for Lens Express (now 1-800 Contacts). In 1993 Lynda expanded her performance resume to include voiceover work as the narrator for the Sandra Brown book Where There’s Smoke.
In 2001, Carter was cast in the independent comedy feature Super Troopers as Vermont Governor Jessman. The writers and stars of the film, the comedy troupe Broken Lizard, with Jay Chandrasekhar directing, had specifically sought Carter for the role. Inspired by the character detour from her usual roles, she agreed to play a washed-up former beauty queen in The Creature of the Sunny Side Up Trailer Park (2004), directed by Christopher Coppola. Carter made her first appearance in a major feature film in a number of years in the big-screen remake of The Dukes of Hazzard (2005), also directed by Chandrasekhar. She also appeared in the comedy Sky High (2005) as Principal Powers, the head of a school for superheroes. The script allowed Carter to poke fun at her most famous character when she states: I can’t do anything more to help you. I’m not Wonder Woman, y’know. In 2006, she guest-starred in the made-for-cable vampire film Slayer. The following year, Carter returned to the DC Comics’ television world in the Smallville episode Progeny (2007) playing Chloe Sullivan’s Kryptonite-empowered mother.
Carter expanded her voiceover work to include video games, performing voices for the nord and orsimer (orc) females in three computer games of The Elder Scrolls series, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. These games were developed by Bethesda Softworks; her husband, businessman Robert A. Altman, is Chairman and CEO of Bethesda’s parent company, ZeniMax Media.
From September to November 2005, Carter played Mama Morton in the West End London production of Chicago. In 2006, her rendition of When You’re Good to Mama was officially released on the Chicago: 10th Anniversary Edition CD box set. In May 2007, Carter began touring the U.S. with her one-woman musical cabaret show, An Evening with Lynda Carter. She has played engagements at such venues as Feinstein’s At Loews Regency in New York, Jazz at Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the Plush Room in San Francisco, and The Catalina Jazz Club in Los Angeles. In June 2009, her second album, At Last was released and reached #10 on Billboard’s Jazz Albums Chart.
In June 2011, Carter released her third album, ;Crazy Little Things, which she describes as a delightful mix of standards, country, and pop tunes.
Carter has been married twice. Her first marriage was to her former talent agent Ron Samuels from 1977 to 1982. In January 1984, Carter married Washington, D.C., attorney Robert A. Altman, law partner of Clark Clifford (and now CEO of ZeniMax Media). Carter and her husband have two children, James (born 1988) and Jessica (born 1990), and live in Potomac, Maryland.
In 1992, after a lengthy and highly publicized jury trial stemming from his involvement with the BCCI, Carter’s husband was acquitted. Carter was seen on the TV news with her arm around him, shouting, Not guilty! Not guilty! to the gathered reporters.
In 2003, Carter revealed that her mother had suffered from IBS for over 30 years, resulting in Carter touring the country as an advocate and spokesperson. Lynda is also a staunch advocate and supporter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Pro-Choice rights for women, and legal equality for LGBT people. She was the Grand Marshal for both the 2011 Phoenix Pride 2011 New York Pride Parades.
In early June 2008, while rowing out of the Potomac Boat Club, Carter spotted a body floating in the Potomac River. She called out to some fishermen and waited for the police to arrive. Carter stated that she did what anyone would have done.
Later in June 2008, Carter admitted in an interview to People magazine that she had entered a rehabilitation clinic for treatment of alcoholism and had been sober for 10 years. In a statement when asked what the recovery process had taught her, Carter explained that the best measure of a human being is how we treat the people who love us, and the people that we love.
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