Lynda Carter

The pop-culture icon on her return to the Las Vegas stage, being an activist and the evils of Catwoman

More than three decades ago, and for just three seasons, Lynda Carter played the world’s most popular female superhero on television, the Amazonian princess in the iconic, star-spangled costume, standing hands on hips, ready to kick World War II Nazi ass.

It’s the kind of role that can eclipse the career of a beauty queen-turned-actress. Not so for Carter. Her acting career has remained steady with TV movies and recurring roles on shows such as Law & Order. She also camped it up as Principal Powers in the teen superhero movie Sky High, and she’s the voice of Nord and orc women on The Elder Scrolls video-game series.

But Wonder Woman can also belt out a song. Carter, who turns 61 on July 24, regularly performs at the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center, and she’s released two albums in the last three years, with At Last hitting the Billboard Top 10 for jazz. You can catch her with her 10-piece band at the Suncoast Showroom on July 14-15—alas, minus the short-shorts, kicky red boots and bullet-deflecting bracelets.

Welcome back to town. Do you remember your first experience in Las Vegas?

The first time I played in Las Vegas I was just 17, and when I think back on it, I think about my daughter, who is now 21. I don’t know how my mother let me go off with a bunch of guys in a band and hang out at the Sahara Hotel. The last time I played Las Vegas was 1987. I quit the road when I got pregnant with my son. I missed it, but the road just doesn’t work with kids. I’m hoping that this time will be the start of a very good relationship again.

What kind of music will you be singing?

It’s really just a playlist of songs we all like. We start off with Adele’s “Rumour Has It” and do some Billie Holiday. There’s a Mr. Mister song thrown in there. But we take a different approach. Like, The Supremes’ “Stop! In the Name of Love.” [Carter sings a few lines with the familiar melody, then repeats it with her version.] Listen to the lyrics. It’s a tear-jerker. I turn it into a groovy little ballad.

I don’t see a reason to limit myself to one type of music. I get bored.

You’ve lived near Washington, D.C., for quite awhile now. Has living in such a political environment made you an activist?

I’ve always been an activist, mainly because I could never understand what the big deal was. I don’t get prejudice, and I really don’t understand how religion can lead to that. That kind of religion—judgmental ones—can be so destructive. Why would God give you free choice but then burn you in hell if you make that choice? Why test you like that?

Last year you marshaled the Gay Pride Parade in New York and in your hometown of Phoenix. Why?

I don’t see why gay couples should have different rights than me and my husband. To me, it’s just bullying by people with a political platform. And again, sometimes religion is used as a weapon. If being gay is wrong, and God is omnipotent, then why would he make so many mistakes? There are gay people all over the world. That would be a lot of mistakes.

Scholars have written about Wonder Woman as a feminist icon. Did you think of her that way?

I don’t think I recognized it then, but now I can see why she’s become that for so many people. She was a woman first, and she was empowering to girls. Today, these crappy reality shows on TV are hurting feminism. They’re all about being a sexpot and [making] money. It’s sleazy stuff.

What does your daughter think of Wonder Woman’s pop-culture influence?

She’s just beginning to study some of these issues. I don’t think her generation really gets all that [my generation] used to not be able to do. Unfortunately, all the stuff we fought for—like equal pay and rights over our own bodies—we’re losing ground on. But I think it will come back. When it really starts affecting women again, they’ll start fighting again.

Besides Wonder Woman, what comic-book character would you want to be?

Ooooh, I’m so partial—I don’t know that I can answer that. I can say it would not be Catwoman. She’s a bad guy. No, I’ll stick with Wonder Woman. She’s pretty amazing.