Saturday, April 16, 2011

Reel Thoughts Interview: Carter Country

Lynda Carter may live outside of our nation’s capitol, but Arizona is never far from her heart. The Arcadia High School alum grew up in Globe and Phoenix, and started her career as a singer. Touring the state in a band before she was fifteen, the statuesque beauty gained national attention when she was crowned Miss World USA in 1972. Just four years later, she beat out scores of other actress in Hollywood to become TV’s Wonder Woman, the role that made her a household name and inspired many a schoolboy (and schoolgirl) crush. Carter was honored to be asked to be the Celebrity Grand Marshall of the 2011 Phoenix Pride parade, and she will be signing CDs and autographs in a VIP booth at the festival, which takes place today.

Not even a power outage in her Potomac, Maryland home could keep Carter from giving me an exclusive interview about her music and her strong views about equality. When asked if a lot of gay men (like myself) tell her she was a boyhood crush, she laughed. “I don’t actually. I hear a lot of “I wanted to be you.” But not so much that they had a crush on me. That’s unusual and extra special. Maybe you didn’t know why you (really) had a crush on me,” she laughed.

Before talking about her music, Carter was thrilled to discuss the news that President Obama had directed the Justice Department not to defend DOMA. “Okay, enough already,” she said, voicing Obama’s thought process. “Let me figure out how I can do this without having to go through all the crap of the legal fights, the Congressional fights... I’ll just work my way around this and it’ll be done. Don’t fight it. It will be done.”

She is also happy to see DADT relegated to history. “At the time it was enacted by Clinton in his first week in office, there was such savagery, it was so homophobic, there was no restraint,” she recalled. “Just getting used to the idea of (the issue being about) human beings, it took people a long time. The generation that came after had much more understanding, or if not understanding, at least it was 'What do I care?' People in their twenties think it’s outrageous that it’s a law.”

“It’s kind of like Women’s Rights. When I did Wonder Woman, there was not a single person on the set in any capacity that was a female. There wasn’t a single woman on television who had her own show except Carol Burnett, or other comedy or music shows. Sometimes the process you have to go through (for equality), unfair as it is, takes steps to occur. Under the Constitution, women still don’t have equal rights. The Equal Rights Amendment was never ratified by the states.”

She is hopeful about the future, however. “As children grow up and they have the internet with so much more exposure to information,” she said, the issues of inequality will diminish. “I just think that a lot of people think their acting as God, and everyone else is demonized. You can’t argue with them because they aren’t interested in what you have to say. It isn’t about strong faith; I have mine. But I have never had a single person ask me what I believe in, because they don’t want to hear you. They want to tell you. That’s what bigotry and homophobia is about. I get mad at injustice.”

“I love Gay Pride,” Carter exclaimed, noting that it is great to be invited back to where she grew up. “I’m there all the time, I just don’t do it publicly.” Her parents, siblings, nieces and nephews still live here, so she tries to get back at least a few times a year. “I’m an Arizona girl through and through.”

“I think it is about the archetype of the secret self and the hero inside you,” Carter responded, when asked why she thinks her Wonder Woman persona struck such a chord with GLBT audiences. “The good person with this hidden ability to fight those injustices that you see. I’ve never understood why people stand by, why teachers stood by for so many years for bullying, whenever someone is different. It’s hard enough being a teenager and coming to grips with all these impulses.”

Carter was so eloquent about her beliefs about equality, it was almost difficult to get her to talk about her love of music. In addition to her popular cabaret show, Carter played the intimidating Mama Morton in the London production of Chicago in 2005. She definitely prefers her cabaret work. “I want to sing all the songs in my own show,” she laughed. She is very grateful for her GLBT fans, and is thrilled that her popularity extends to men and women in the community. “I’m a crossover icon,” she joked. “I am like an iPod Shuffle,” Carter said, explaining that her musical tastes run across most genres except, surprisingly, Broadway show tunes. “I sing what I want to sing, I don’t want to sing all one genre.” She is excited for her fans to hear her upcoming CD, Crazy Little Things, which will have her “iPod Shuffle” of eclectic song choices. She admits that about half of her audiences are GLBT and considers them a key to her post-Wonder Woman success.

I asked Carter how she became such a passionate supporter of GLBT rights. She responded that the Religious Right needs to open their pea brains and accept that civil rights belong to everyone. “If you believe in God, then you have to believe that he intended to make people the way that they are. It’s not just about gay people. This is about all of us. Worry about our behavior and worry about our own marriages. Work on what we need to do. It’s about equality. It’s about simple, simple rights. Period.”

Interview by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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