When I found this clip of statuesque Lynda Carter, known to the world as Wonder Woman, performing a tribute to Bette Midler, Tina Turner, and KISS from her 1979 TV variety special I was sure that Christmas had come early. I would be a chump if I didn’t disseminate it posthaste. My commentary here could add little, as what makes Lynda Carter’s Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy essential is so immediately obvious I would never risk offending the sensibilities of Stargayzing readers. Well—okay, maybe just a few thoughts.
The number begins with Lynda pulling up in a dark soundstage in a fancy sports car singing Bad Company’s “Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy.” This musical device structures the entire number and is a terrible idea to begin with, though typical of TV variety shows of the period. I like it because we know we are in dangerous territory right out of the box, which is strangely relaxing. The idea of a middle-of-the-road vocalist like Lynda Carter singing about rock music to a bland pre-recorded track by a studio orchestra is risky business, but since the whole thing is ostensibly happening in her head, I should shut up.
On a fashion level, I really love Lynda’s fur jacket. Elisa and I called them “Pescows” back at Chelsea Girl Vintage after the amazing Donna Pescow, who wore a jacket quite similar to this in Saturday Night Fever. Now say what you want about Miss Carter, but she was a very agreeable performer who inarguably had about the best body in Hollywood (she remains today an impressive looking woman at 60), but her Tina Turner—the first fantasy—though sweet, lacks everything that made Tina Turner so great except, possibly, the legs. The costumes look like vintage Bob Mackie to me and they’re great.
The transitions between the fantasies are achieved with the blurry camerawork trope that has indicated we are going into a dream since time immemorial and, quite strangely, the high pitched repetition of the word “fantasy, fantasy, fantasy,” etc. Perhaps this is the audio equivalent of what the camera is doing at this moment. This is also very literal and a bad idea and I like it very much for that reason. Once safely transitioned into the KISS segment, Lynda makes a curious choice: since she wasn’t bold enough to actually be Gene Simmons or Paul Stanley, she opts instead to dance with four guys pretending to be them while decked out in an over-the-top Bob Mackie Vegas thing—replete with a showgirl headdress that looks like it weighed 60 pounds— that was exactly the kind of outfit Cher wore in Vegas in 1979. This doesn’t exactly work, but who am I to shit on Lynda’s fantasy, fantasy, fantasy? She comes down from the ceiling singing “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”—this is, after all, a rock ‘n roll fantasy, does a few shenay turns, and that’s that. The whole thing is very Kiss of the Spider Woman and it’s over much too fast.
After another clunky transition, it’s time for Bette Midler. One would think this would work better, but Lynda’s Bette is worse. She sings “Friends” in a banana outfit, even down to a banana mic, backed up by a bunch of gorillas. This seems fair enough, but Lynda portrays Bette as a frump, something the Divine Miss M was not (certainly not in her The Rose glory year, 1979, which is the same year as this special). In fact, Lynda’s Bette is less like Bette and more like Cher’s character Laverne from the laundromat, and this is very confusing to a gay person.
Luckily this fantasy is as brief as the others and before we know it we’re back in the car with Lynda in her “Pescow” and coming out of her reverie. The button on the number is she looks down and she’s holding the banana mic from the Bette sequence! Get it? Watching this really makes me appreciate the 1970s, an era when all you needed was a bad a idea, a few pas de bourrees and a camera.
So tell me Stargayzers, which of Lynda’s fantasies do you like best?
More 1970s variety show zaniness: