What does a vulnerable, thirtyish woman do when she's dumped by a husband she loves for a sensational chic half her age, especially when the rejection becomes a seemingly endless lip-smacking delight for the tabloids of the world If you are Linda Evans, you go through the hurt and mad stages and then set out to become a sexy, feminine, wise woman, who will be more that immensely more interesting to men that any 20-year-old.
Linda, the tall, blonde costar of ABC's Dynasty, is more than a little tired of recounting her reactions to losing husband John Derek to a tike named Mary Cathleen Collins, whom he hyped into the celebrated Bo Derek. But Linda and her friends have also come to feel that the way she looks today, the attention she is getting and the new zip in her career are the best revenge.For starters, shes confident that at 38 she is far more attractive than ever before, and the men she knows agree- at least the kind of men who would interest me. And Linda wouldnt mind a bit if women her age who have also felt the rain would take a look at her and say, hey, if she can do it, so can I.John Forsythe, who plays her husband on Dynasty and is a best friend in real life, insists, Linda is the most gloriously lovely lady on TV today. Forsythe, who picked her for a bachelor Father role when she was 15, her first acting job, recalls, She was a budding beauty then. Now she has blossomed.Linda herself thinks theres something more important in her story than one womans rebound from rejection. Whats at issue is whether women should believe that when were 20 were irresistible and when were 30 its over and weve got a lot of trouble for the rest of our lives.Since we are going to live to be 80, anyway, why get in a rut The truth is we get more interesting when we get older. Its a realistic goal to think when we are 40, 50 or even 60, we can be incredible. Were all going to be over 30 longer than under, so why not enjoy itThe best thing about getting older is you get smarter and wiser. If someone would say to me now, Linda, you can be 22 again, I wouldnt trade for anything in the world. It would mean I would be giving up who I am, what Ive become.Linda admits all this cheery, spunky independence is new. For the most of my life I was dominated by men and saw myself the way they saw me, It began with her father, a painter and interior decorator, whom she adored. He was much older than my mother, loving and strong, He died when she was 15, and in time along came Derek, who was not only 16 years her senior but accustomed to command. At the time of their marriage, her career was in orbit after four years on The Big Valley, but she docilely gave it up because Derek wanted to live in Europe.Jay Bernstein, the manager who takes credit for unleashing Farrah Fawcett upon the world, claims Farrah was only a second thought. I came to Linda and told her she could be the woman of the 70s. She was my first choice. She said thanks, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I just want to go home to John. Bernstein, who has recently become Lindas manager takes it all in stride. Farrah was the woman of the 70s. She made being 30 seem the perfect age. Linda, he continues unabashedly, will be the woman of the 80s. The perfect age for a woman in this decade will be about 40, and Linda will be the perfect 40. Linda, asked about this, reveals a perfect grin.The extended Derek household sounds like something invented be Noel Coward at his most sophisticated, with all the wives and children supposedly loving one another and Derek, while Derek himself is busily taking nude pictures of three different wives for Playboy, and wife no. 2 (Ursula Andress) is coming to live with wife No. 3, Linda, while Ursulas house is being remodeled. Still, Linda makes it clear she believes a lot of rot has been written about all of us. For a while they said I just smiled and accepted gracefully when John told me about Bo. Then they got tired of that story and I said I threw tantrums My reaction was simply human. I was sad and hurt but I knew life has to go on.Linda returned to Los Angeles and took up with an old friend, Realtor Stan Herman, a playboy who loved the Hollywood party scene. He was seven years older, another father figure. and they were married, had a lot of fun and are now divorced.Herman will be the last of the father figures. I recognize that fixation and Im done with it. Its behind me. In proof, her current interest, whom she insists on describing by the old-fashioned term boyfriend, is restaurant owner George Santo Pietro, three years her junior.Lately theres been a run of actresses marrying unknown men far younger than they, and Linda thinks its about time. More people are going beyond age and just dealing with each other according to their needs to communicate with someone. You might find a 20-year-old who can be more communicative that a 60-year-old. A visitor observes that some of these young men seem perfectly happy merely to be the consort of a famous older partner. She agrees and adds, I have a suspicion you are sitting next to a woman who will be in that position someday.It seems a key part of Lindas battle plan to present an almost aggressively cheerful face to the world. On the set and in the commissary, there are constant warm hellos and embraces and a continuing effort to be absolutely nice to everyone. Al Corely, who plays her 23-year-old stepson on Dynasty, believes its for real. Shes not only beautiful but one of the nicest ladies Ive ever met. She cares about people.Forsythe digs deeper. Actors have a persona they put on. With Linda, its appearing immensely cheerful and happy. Its a kind of bravado. It comes from rejection. I have a terrible feeling that deep inside her theres a sense she is not what everybody thinks she is, that shes not as happy with herself as shed like to be, as both an actress and a woman. I think shed like to like herself a hell of a lot more than she does.Esther Shapiro, who with husband Richard created Dynasty, sees her star a bit differently. People get the idea she is so nice and laid-back, but she is also strong-minded. She is completely in charge of herself. I get so tired of hearing people say John Derek dumped her for Bo and all that. To me, Linda is more beautiful than anyone else in the business. She is also everything we dreamed of for Krystle, even though we considered every actress that age.Shapiro believes Linda may fit the Krystle character because of parallels with Lindas own life. Krystle comes from a middle-class background. She marries a right, older man. She has to run a mansion, deal with servants. There are stepchildren almost her age who resent her. The peril in her new family are fluent in foreign languages, at home with art. She has to decide whether to have a child while theres still time . . . One day Linda came to me and said [of her role in Dynasty] This is out of my own life.Dynasty is filmed almost entirely at Fox as part of TVs new trend to do it at home. The centerpiece of the set is a $500,000 representation of the Carrington mansion- which the producers claim in the most expensive single backdrop ever created for a TV show. It may be an indication of affairs in Southern California that it cost half a million just to build a make-believe house.One day, a slender, dark-haired young woman slips quietly onto the set and takes a seat by Bunky Young, Lindas long-time friend and secretary, while Linda finishes a scene. She is Sean Derek, the 27-year-old daughter of Derek and his first wife, the former Patti Behrs, come to say good-bye to Linda before leaving foe Spain and her first movie role.Sean is eager to strike a blow against the wicked-stepmother legend. Ive known Linda for 13 years and shes been nothing but good to me, probably the nicest person Ive ever met. Sean admits there were some initial tensions, but they ended the minute my brother [Russell] and I got to know her.All the famed Derek family harmony, however, may be in for a jolt. Sean is finishing a book on her father and his wives and children, and everything will be in it. Will Linda like it I hope so. Im going to show it to her before its published. At least I think shell agree, its completely honest. Sean is told her book seems a natural for the films. Sean smiles.As Linda works flawlessly through a long complicated courtroom scene, its clear shes a poised, workmanlike actress and, as Forsythe says, one of the best in the profession. He fondly recalls their first meeting:I always took an active part in casting Bachelor Father. One day this little first came in, Linda Evanstad. A tall bundle of angular knobs and bumps; a budding, nubile lady. Very sweet, very shy. her eyes were so expressive. She was hired and she was a delight.Lindas own recollection is that it was frightening. I was unbelievably shy. My mother came with me and mostly we just held hands. We didnt know anything. Once they told me to go to Stage 12 for some looping [adding a sound track]. We didnt know what it meant; I thought maybe I was supposed to do cartwheels.In the years since, Linda Evans (She shortened her name for The Big Valley) has usually had all the work she wants, even if the quality hasnt always been ideal. For a time I was just the nice, sweet girl, and then I was the nice, sweet first who did rotten things like kill people but no one would suspect me. Great.Being 5-feet-8 was an occasional drawback. Once I did an entire episode standing in a trench in the sand. I wanted to do a R. Novack so badly but they said I was too tall for him Franciscus. Finally I got to do an episode with him in some pilot as some hooker. As nice a girl I was too tall for him, but as a hooker, I was fine.She insists, I never intended this to be a career. I always believed someone would come to me and say, You dont know what youre doing; get out. But its the greatest. An actress gets to really act out all those things shes fantasized. As a kid I dreamed of being a spy. So one day they tell me Im going to be a spy and they build sets and bring clothes and tell me these are the bad guys, and they even pay me. You can be rude, kill, go to hail, fall in love, be unfaithful, and no one says youre bad. Everyone should do it at least once.Bunky Young has known Linda for 17 years. I was a young mother with four kids, and Linda would come over and watch me run the house. She loved the kids and they loved her and still do. I taught her to cook, and she got so interested she went on to study for five years with professionals.But Linda hasnt had much chance to flaunt her cooking talents. John was so picky he didnt like anything. I just cooked for myself. Stan was fine, he was a pleasure to feed. But my new boy friend does all the cooking for us.Linda lives the life of an elegant, if hard-working, bachelor girl in her million-dollar Beverly Hills home. I get up so early I have to go to bed before the neighborhood kids. She tools round in a classic 1971 Mercedes convertible she bought years ago from Sonny Bono in one of the less brilliant moves of his life. Every time I see Sonny he says, Give me back my car.Arriving on the set on a recent morning, Linda was asked how she felt. Im tempted to say I feel pregnant, but it would be a lie. She admits friend Ursulas having a beautiful baby at 44 has given her ideas. Of course Id like to have a child. And its not impossible. But I do need a man. All this is said with lots of laughter and probably lots of seriousness.Anyway, now that Linda is so firmly established in her profession, so highly regarded by her peers, would she ever again toss it all away to go off with a man Are you kidding Of course I would. If the right man came along, hed just have to snap his fingers and Id be gone in a minute.Stay tuned. _____________________________________
TV Guide June 27-July 3, 1981