Lynda Carter and I are bonding over the phone.
I tell her that for my 11th birthday, my parents took me to the Sahara Reno (no longer there) for a big show. The maitre d’, knowing it was a big day, took us to a table right next to the stage, and we settled in for the headliner: Wonder Woman herself, Lynda Carter.
Though she wore glittery gowns with nary a tiara or red-white-and-blue bustier in sight, I was dazzled, all the more so when the gorgeous brunette leaned down and shook my hand, which I tried not to wash ever again (which lasted about two days).
“Wow. It never ceases to amaze me — the smallest, kindest gesture can end up being a moment in another person’s life that is not even momentous, just a lifting kind of think,” Carter says from her home in Washington, D.C. “That so strengthens my feeling and belief — I know this is trite — that what goes around comes around. It’s also about how we affect each other. I’m sure that evening seeing your sweet little face did something for me. It never just goes one way. It always goes both ways.”
We’re having this conversation because Carter, 54, is about to make her Bay Area debut as a cabaret singer. Actually, it’s more than that. Though she started out as a singer, she’s only just getting back to singing after nearly two decades of dedicating most of her time to her husband, a D.C. lawyer, and her two kids.
“I didn’t really stop singing,” she says. “I just stopped singing publicly. I still worked on music myself.”
We’ll all get to hear Carter Tuesday when she opens her new act at San Francisco’s Empire Plush Room.
Back in her early days Carter, born Linda Jean Cordova Carter (part Irish, part Mexican), performed in a string of bands. First, there was Just Us, then the Relatives and then The Garfin Gathering with Lynda Carter. That last group made its debut at a new Holiday Inn in San Francisco.
“That was the first big city I ever played in,” Carter says.
But that was before her success on “Wonder Woman,” which ran from 1975 to 1979 and firmly etched images of the beautifully built Carter into the pop psyche.
Though she has popped up in a “Law and Order” here or a contact lens commercial there, Carter has kept a fairly low profile.
The offer to create a cabaret act in San Francisco hit her just at the right time. She says the spark to sing was relit when she played Matron “Mama” Morton in the London production of Chicago.
“It’s an exciting time for me to contemplate singing again,” she says. “It was such a big part of my career before I had children. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to get back to it now.”
In selecting songs to sing, she’s been going back through her variety specials from the late’70s and early’80s, as well as her Reno and Vegas nightclub acts.
“I’ll probably do ‘Cry Me a River,’ ‘Blues in the Night’ and a song called ‘Cloudburst’ from one of my specials,” she says. “I may also do ‘Put the Blame on Mame,’ which I sang when I played Rita Hayworth in a TV movie. I’ll bring that out of the mothballs.”
She probably won’t sing her big Chicago number, “When You’re Good to Mama,” nor will she sing the theme song from “Wonder Woman” (though, when challenged, she does indeed know the lyrics).
Obviously, her audiences will want her to address Wonder Woman in some way, but Carter hasn’t quite figured out how she’ll do that.
“I’ll most likely mention her throughout,” Carter says. “I’d like to talk about her in an intimate way, like what I thought of her. I’d like to offer a part of myself I don’t normally give, and that will involve insights into what she was like and how I might relate that to something I’m singing.”
Though she wouldn’t balk at another TV show, Carter says her biggest goal is to be a good parent and “pass as little baggage to my children as possible. They’ll create their own.”
And she’s trying to keep a flexible, tolerant, open-minded, forgiving view of the world and herself.
“I can’t make any plans past right now,” she says. “I love this song by James Taylor, ‘Secret o’ Life,’ and like he says, I’m going to try and keep doing what I’m doing now, enjoying the ride.”
For ticket information visit www.empireplushroom.com.