Monday, March 20, 2023

[Interview] Lynda Carter Talks The Blues, Beauty Pageants, Being A Gay Icon, And (Of Course) Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman is coming to Hampton this weekend.

No, not the movie, not the iconic television show, not the DC comic book, but the woman who created her in-the-flesh persona. Lynda Carter is bringing her rock and blues show to the American Theater in Hampton on Saturday night.

We spoke with her about her music, her commitment to the LGBTQ community, and her personal struggles as an underdog.

I understand music was your first love, and now you’ve come full circle.

I certainly have. It has been a really great ten-year journey, and a journey in many ways. This is how this story goes: I’m in Hampton, Virginia in 1972 at the Coliseum. I had stopped singing on the road and gone back to Arizona to regroup. I didn’t want be a singer in a group on the road, and I was going to go study acting. And then this Miss World contest fell in my lap. I’d never been in a beauty contest, but three weeks later, I was walking down the runway at the Hampton Coliseum. So at that time, I met this wonderful woman, Cynthia Greer. She was Miss Tennessee, and I was Miss Arizona. All these years later, we have stayed friends. And she is now about to marry my record producer.

Lynda Carter being crowned Miss World USA by Bob Hope at the Hampton Coliseum in 1972.

As a kid growing up in Phoenix, how did your interest in music come about?

I was born with it. I grew up singing. When I was four years old, I was on a local kids’ TV program, Lou King! And I a sang “Puff the Magic Dragon,” not knowing that it was about smoking dope. I moved to LA and did an album in 1978. I also did five specials for CBS where I met an immensely talented drummer, Paul Liem, and now all these years later, he’s my musical director. All the members of my band are professional Nashville musicians, Grammy winners, and guys that played with Elvis. When you’re working with a band like that, it makes the recording and performing process extremely fulfilling. They take what I bring them, and they open it up in ways only Nashville musicians can do.

Speaking of your new album (Red Rock N Blues), you can hear that meshing going on. And you have eight new original songs.

I wrote one song for my son when he left college. I worked with a Grammy-winning songwriter on the music. That just wrote itself. I also wrote one for my husband called “After All These Years,” which we wrote on the day we recorded it–much to his surprise because he had come into town just to watch the last day of recording. “Long Legged Woman” is an ode to women everywhere who are looking for love. And another one, “I’m On The Other Side of Trouble,” has a touch of me too in it. “I’m on the other side of trouble when I’m on the other side of you.”

You’ve dabbled in so many musical genres over the years. Is there any one you have yet to explore that you would like to?

Well, let’s put it this way: I don’t think I’m a rap or R&B singer.

I know you get asked this by every LGBTQ interviewer, but can you recount the story of how you found out you were a gay icon?

It was a female interviewer for Out Magazine in the early 1990s. She walked in, and I had my newborn daughter with me. She said, “You’re just such an icon!” And I said, ‘I am?” And she said, “You don’t know?” And I said, “Oh my God, that’s so great!” It’s kind of like, you like me. You really like me. Because the LGBTQ story is the story of everything I believe in. It is the odd duck. It’s the person that’s the tallest. It’s the person who’s different. Everyone thinks that I have it so easy, but that’s not true. I was singing in clubs at 14, and my girlfriends were going to high school dances. I was tall and had huge feet. I dealt with the mean girls and all that stuff.

So I never could figure out anti-gay sentiment. When I first heard about it, I remember thinking well, people are jealous. And of course you didn’t learn about it in school. One of the guys I hung out with in high school was so great. He treated me like gold, and he took me to the prom, but didn’t even try to kiss me good night. I was so grateful when I found out he was gay. I mean, I never dated too much, and it was so nice to just have a guy friend. Since then, I’ve been around thousands of gay people in my industry, and I never even think about it—except when someone has a problem. And now I just think, get over yourselves!

All this religious crap makes me so mad. I was with this woman a while back who was going on about gay marriage. I just looked at her and said, “So are you god? Why did you get married?” She finally answered and said, “So I wouldn’t be a fornicator!” And I said, “That’s the same reason they want to get married.” And she could have said any reason: because I love him, because we wanted to have kids–I would have said the same thing.

You’ve dealt with substance abuse and sexual abuse, issues that plague a large segment of the LGBTQ community. Tell us a little bit about how you overcame those challenges.

You know, it’s about how soon you get off the elevator. When you begin abusing and being abused, you are on an elevator going down. And the bottom is death. So it depends on when you decide to get off because that elevator keeps descending. I don’t know of a person in those situations that doesn’t pray to god that he or she could have their lives back, that they were not a slave to the abuse. Take that desire and turn it into a choice to get off the elevator.

What is it about Wonder Woman that gives her such appeal to the underdog?

It’s a two-fold thing. I think it is our secret desire to be seen, and that we know on some level that we are strong. Wonder Woman is not a victim. She gives, and when you give, that feeling is so fulfilling. It’s almost a guilty pleasure. She has this part of her that is very complex, but her main drive is that she is not going to stand for bullying or people taking advantage of others.

This is an age when civility has gone out the window. We have to get back to that, and the people that have enabled an out of control White House have to be taken to task. We all have to find our strength and our voice. Because silence is complicity.

Lynda Carter in Concert
American Theater, Hampton
Saturday October 27, 8:00 PM

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