“Hello, it’s Lynda Carter.”
An explosion booms to life followed by the sounds of trumpets as the Wonder Woman theme song blares in the back of my head. I envision a montage of the actress’ greatest moments as the superheroine of the 1970s television series; it remains the only successful live-action portrayal of the almost 70-year-old comic book character. There’s Lynda/Wonder Woman deflecting bullets with her bracelets, lifting cars with one hand and doing that great choreographed spin change that a generation got vertigo trying to emulate.
“I guess I called a little early.”
Lynda Carter is probably really used to people “trekking out” (i.e. acting like a Trekkie meeting Shatner in your level of enthusiasm) over her iconic comic book role, but she has both a sense of humor and an appreciation of her fandom. In addition to the role that made her a household name, Carter is also known for post Wonder Woman roles in made-for-television films (her Rita Hayworth biopic is staggeringly glitzy) and a second career as a nightclub chanteuse, which is what brings her to San Francisco this week. Wednesday and Thursday evening, Carter will be singing some of her favorites at Yoshi’s San Francisco, backed by her “All Star Band” and of course, telling stories from her Wonder Woman days and beyond. We recently spoke to Carter about her favorite music, what makes San Francisco audiences so receptive and just what it’s like to see a 6’5″ black man impersonating you.
KQED Pop: Where are you currently living as a singer? I feel like you’re very hard to define as an artist, you draw from many genres.
Lynda Carter: People who come see me year after year say the same thing: they always get a different show. I never know where I’m living musically either. Half of every show is entirely new material. I don’t like to limit myself with themes; songs for me are about storytelling, which then influences the arrangement. I’m lucky to have my All-Star Band — there’s very low turnover, sweetheart. They’re all Hall of Fame musicians, Grammy winners. They’re the musicians from the documentary that just won the Oscar: 20 Feet From Stardom. Those are my girls! I’m also introducing a song I wrote for my son since last time; I wrote a song for my daughter. My husband, I’m sure, is next.
What are you listening to that might surprise us?
LC: Pharrell! I love him, I’m so glad for all his success. And Sara Bareilles. She’s a stylist with wildly amazing range. I listen to whatever is on my kids’ iPods too. I’m really a blues and jazz fan. There’s a lot of that in the show. I’ve always had a country flair to my voice too since I grew up in Arizona. My mother was a huge blues fan and that’s really important to me, but there’s also what the band brings.
You’ve come to San Francisco quite a few times over the last decade. Is there anything special about San Francisco audiences?
LC: I love them. They feel great, they swing along, they are very happy. I’m absolutely in love with these crowds. Living in San Francisco is like dating a supermodel. This is the city where gay people first knew freedom. All these mixes of ethnicities and this pioneering spirit really makes an audience special.
Have you ever had a female impersonator dressed as you in an audience here?
LC: Daaaarrrrrling…. All the time.
I felt like that might be a “duh” question. I asked Carol Channing and Robin Williams that too and got the same response.
LC: (Laughing) What a group! The best was in San Francisco: a beautiful, big, buff 6’5″ black man dressed as me. He looked great. In New York, there was a very chubby, very hairy man who was memorable, although it was not a close resemblance. I also loved this large blond who did Madonna cones out several feet in her costume. Hysterical. Great fun.
I’m curious to know if you’ve ever met any of your fellow superhero actors. Can I throw some names at you?
LC: Yes, darling.
The Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno
LC: Oh yes. I’ve seen him a lot over the years. He’s a great guy.
Onetime Batman Val Kilmer
LC: I’ve…met him. I don’t know him.
Catwoman Michelle Pfeiffer
LC: I’ve met her and she’s very sweet, very nice.
How about new Batman Ben Affleck?
LC: I did a movie with Ben! I love him. We did a little film called Daddy, where Ben played Dallas star Patrick Duffy’s son. We had a great time together and I adore him. I’m excited to see his Batman. I also knew the Superman, Chris Reeves. Very, very smart man. He was a truly great guy.
How do you feel about the continued iconography of your portrayal of Wonder Woman? Did you ever expect you would be so much a part of the cultural lexicon?
LC: I’m always blown away by younger people who recognize me as Wonder Woman. I feel like it’s a lot of parents sharing the character, which feels great. I love how it’s been embraced. Women get that the character is so much about the internal pieces. The actions she does happen to be natural outpourings of what she feels. She’s a character upset over inequality, over bullying, over basic good and evil. She’s very internally motivated always as a woman. It’s this idea of women for women but not against men.