A Wondrous Debut

By Eric Henrickson

Originally published on Advocate.com June 11 2009 12:00 AM ET

More than 30 years after Lynda Carter first twirled into our hearts on TV's Wonder Woman, she's putting her focus on a long-standing passion -- music. She's had a long and varied career since, but the former beauty queen (Miss World USA 1972) is best known to Gen Xers for that iconic star-spangled costume. Recently, though, the political spitfire has been hitting concert venues such as Lincoln Center and Kennedy Center, along with a London stint of the musical Chicago . Her debut CD, At Last , a mix of pop standards and a couple of nice surprises, is available now. (For more information on tour dates, visit www.lyndacartersings.com.) Carter talks to Advocate.com about music, Muppets, and her many political "high horses."

Advocate.com:Everyone thinks of you as Wonder Woman, but you've got quite a musical background, even from before the show. Tell us about that.Lynda Carter: I think I knew what I wanted to do all my life. As I'm sure you've seen, especially on American Idol, or really just anybody's career, they usually start singing at a very young age. My first paycheck was at 14, and I went on the road and sang all the way through high school at various places, everything from school dances to the pizza parlor and over by Arizona State University [her alma mater]. Then I went with a band on the road for three years. … So I moved to Los Angeles and struggled there for a while, and they decided to take a shot at putting a woman in the lead of a television show. There really weren't very many of those out there -- it was mainly men. And Wonder Woman came along. And that really helped me take myself musically much further.

You got to sing on the show, do variety shows, The Muppet Show…The Muppet Show was a blast. I really thought that was great. Just because they're so great, you know? It was so much fun to do. It's a great memory. And I thought it turned out really well.

Why return now to music?My children were going off to college and I wanted to sing again. It's a lot of work to put a show together. Basically, finding out I had a lot of time again -- I never wanted to take my children on the road. They're authoring their own lives, so I've got time, and I love music, so that's what I'm doing.

While I was listening to this CD I could picture you in a slinky dress in front of a band shell with one of those giant microphones. Was that the mood you were going for?I don't know if I was going for any mood anymore than I go for any genre. If you look at any person's iPod you'll find a vast variety of music, depending on the mood they're in. If I were going to say I had a genre, the genre would be "shuffle." Because I really love so many kinds of music and my influences were pretty varied. I grew up in Arizona. There was a lot of country, but there was a lot of blues at my house. Plus I had my own music. So I'm not about trying to pick a fast song or a slow song. There usually has to be -- it's a story I want to tell, I love the lyric, it's something that comes from my life in some way. I'm picking the things I like to sing and I want to sing.

LYNDA CARTER AT LAST xLRG (PUBLICITY) | ADVOCATE.COM

I was really glad I liked the CD, because I didn't know how I was going to respond if I didn't and you asked what I thought. I can't lie to Wonder Woman. She'd kick my butt.I've heard that people have been skeptical. I don't blame you or anybody. And it's probably one of the reasons I took as long as I did to do this CD. I didn't want to put something out that I wasn't super happy with.

One thing that's been interesting about this journey is people have said, "It seems like you just decided to do something and you did it." It's like, "Poof, there you are." It really has taken four years to pull this all back together. Everything takes attention, and you do get out what you put into it.

I don't know if you had a chance to listen to Obama's [commencement] speech from Arizona State University. He was brilliant. He talked about the journey and he talked about public service and he talked about putting the effort in. It's not about the money. It's not about the title. It's the effort that you put into it and the desire to find your passion. The secret to a happy life, I think, is giving of yourself to other people. In fact, it makes you feel so good that it's kind of addictive.

I live in Washington. I'm tired of all the fear and hate. I just can't imagine what it must feel like to live in the body of these hate shows -- Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity. I can't imagine what it must feel like because you're always in a rage and cynical and sarcastic and hateful. I don't get it.

Particularly the gay issue. The science is in. It is what it is. Why does it threaten you? It has nothing to do with you and it's none of your business anyway. I once had this conversation with this very sort of right-wing woman who was sitting there with a holier-than-thou expression: "Well, I just think it's disgusting." And I said, "Well, why did you get married?" No matter what she said, I would have said, "That's the same reason they want to get married."

I'm glad you brought that up. Former Miss California, Carrie Prejean, has been in the news for her remarks. As a beauty queen yourself, what's your take?What can I say? She's just misinformed. She's young and she believes what she grew up with. They don't speak for my God. I guess they don't really think very much of God, to tell the truth. I don't see how they can put the two together because it's completely judgmental. Who are they? They're the religious police. And they want our country to be run by religious police.

I will say something about "don't ask, don't tell." I think it's important to remember -- as much as I want to see it change, and I do, and I think we have to immediately -- when it was enacted, it was the first year of Clinton's administration, and he got holy hell for doing it. But he could get it passed. Before, any suspicion -- you just wanted to get someone out of the military -- you could get them out. At the time, there was so much homophobia. It was going to demoralize the troops, blah blah blah blah blah. In context of the time, it was a huge step forward. It wasn't a race. It was just some steps forward, and unfortunately we had eight years where there was going to be no forward movement for that.

And now we are in a place where we can move it forward again. And that's what we need to do. I think we can fix it. I like this president. I'm hoping it all works out. It's not going to be perfect, but there's hope that we can fix it.

I have a lot of high horses. I ride them all.

One of my favorite buttons says "If you don't support gay marriage, don't get one."I like that. That's great. And you know, when you are married it does change things. You can ask anyone who kind of put it off and then they get married. For whatever reason it feels differently. Maybe because it's in front of your friends and you've made a pledge that is legally binding as well as emotionally binding.

I don't want to demonize. I really think most people, if they're given reasonable facts instead of these scare tactics, they will come to understand that the rules are for all of us. The freedoms are for all of us. They can't pick and choose. Take care of your own side of the street. Take care of your own life. Be accountable for your own stuff.

Back to Wonder Woman for a moment: You're so indelibly linked to her, how does that feel?I really do try to use it as a way to connect to people. People will come up to me and tell me their stories. And I like that. You see their faces light up. It's their way of making a connection. And that's great. We all need to do that. I made up my mind a long time ago that it was never going to go away. And I can either be miserable or embrace it, and it's worked out really well. I talk about it in my show. It meant a lot to a lot of people.