01 March 2008

Lynda Carter

In street clothes and in person, she’s actually better-looking than this.
Which is, in a way, alarming.

By common consent, attending the 1988 Democratic Convention in Atlanta was for the younger of us CBSers “just like summer camp!” In near-shrieking excitation, we were far from home, we poured on and off of buses to get where we were going, we ate every meal together, and we spent much of every day in a tiny cabin.

That was the anchor booth, a flimsy construction that jutted out from a skybox high over the arena. It was dark there and very cold, air-conditioned to sub-Arctic degrees to counter the heat of our lights and cameras. I’d sit in the back, next to the Teleprompter operator, because my job, so far as I understood it, entailed making sure he had the right copy on his screen. This was pure boondoggle, and four years later, the network wouldn’t countenance the inclusion of extraneous personnel: we’d had budget cuts, and we were leaner and meaner. Mostly meaner. (By then, I had a more exalted title, and my presence at both parties’ conventions wasn’t questioned. But in 1988, I was a mere production assistant, and the trip was a reward for services already delivered, not a necessity to the coverage at hand.) To make me look more useful, Dan Rather used to ask for coffee even when he didn’t want any.

There were all kinds of celebrities in Atlanta that week, and some of them deigned to visit the anchor booth. The great Eric Sevareid was part of our team, offering analysis but not commentary; the Rev. Jesse Jackson came by for an interview, wrapping my hand in his and calling me “friend” for the first time. (It’s a measure of his charm that, even though you know he says that mostly to avoid having to learn your name, you really do think it would be nice to be his friend.) And then one day, Lynda Carter walked in.

A decade after the demise of her television show, Wonder Woman, she was still jaw-droppingly gorgeous, her astonishing smile beaming effortlessly as she “toured” the booth. I wasn’t a huge fan of Wonder Woman, but she acquitted herself well, and it’s a shame she hasn’t found more acting work since: she had potential. She remains a hero to plenty of women I know — including several of my colleagues in the booth that day. Yet everyone kept whispering, “What’s she doing here? What’s she doing at the Convention?”

The real answer was that her husband, attorney Robert Altman, was being groomed as a potential successor to party nabobs such as Clark Clifford, his mentor. But I saw another solution.

“Isn’t it obvious?” I said. “She’s a super delegate.”