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Lynda Carter, Just Your Average Superheroine

Carter's family -- Altman and their two teenagers -- is just back with her from a whirlwind trip to Hollywood for the premieres of "Sky High," in which she plays a principal at a superhero school, and "The Dukes of Hazzard," which she says was supposed to feature her as Boss Hogg and Uncle Jesse's love interest. In the final cut, she's just a family friend who helps the Duke boys escape the Boss.

At one point during the interview, 14-year-old Jessica walks into the room in a groggy haze.

"Hi, honey," Carter greets her daughter with a chipper tone.

"Hi," replies Jessica. "I'm still on California time. I just woke up at 2 o'clock."

"We're pooped," says Carter before sending Jessica away with an admonishment to make a phone call about school sports, a matter she has been putting off. (If the concept of Wonder Woman as a soccer mom is troubling, take heart: "I have people helping me do soccer-mom stuff," she says.)

"As my children get older and these things come my way, it's exciting," says Carter. "And I've been able to share it with my family. The first time around, I wasn't able to share it with them -- I didn't have them." She says that "having them go to these premieres with me and tell me that they are proud of me is pretty cool."

The Arizona native's rise to stardom began with her victory in the 1972 Miss World USA pageant, followed by her debut as Wonder Woman in a 1975 TV special. The series began on ABC the following year and ran for one season before moving to CBS until cancellation in 1979.

Carter's first marriage to her former manager, Ron Samuels, ended in divorce in 1982. She started dating Altman later that same year after business travel brought them together in Memphis, where Maybelline cosmetics had its headquarters at the time. (Carter was a longtime company pitchwoman; Altman was doing legal work for Maybelline's corporate parent.) Carter settled in Washington after the pair wed in 1984.

The choice to give up her L.A. lifestyle came easily to Carter. "It never really felt like I had a lot of substance in my life," she says. "I had broken up with my former husband and I kind of looked around. I didn't have a lot of friends. I had become isolated by fame. . . . I longed for a family and some substantive relationships. Fame is a vapor. You can't grab hold of it."

Carter pursued a singing career, primarily as a casino headliner, until the birth of son Jamie in 1988. She also maintained a small-screen presence after "Wonder Woman" with variety show specials, two short-lived series (1984's "Partners in Crime" with Loni Anderson and 1994's syndicated "Hawkeye"), and more than a dozen made-for-TV movies in the '80s and '90s.

Carter's most challenging roles, though, came in the real world. In 1992, Altman and Democratic presidential adviser Clark M. Clifford -- law partners who also ran First American Bankshares -- were indicted on charges of fraud and lying to banking regulators about First American's illegal ownership by the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, or BCCI, a shadowy global institution. Altman endured a five-month trial in 1993, with Carter supporting him in the courtroom throughout, before being acquitted of all criminal charges. (Charges against Clifford, who died in 1998, were dropped because of his age and ill health.)

"Nothing can trump that trial," Carter says. ". . . It was hard on me, hard on the family -- very difficult for all of us. But we weathered the storm, and we are closer and better and have a keener sense of what is valuable in life."

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