Monday, August 8, 2016

Designer Double-Dip: "Wonder"-ful Recycling

As you may be aware, we try to cover a wide berth of topics here in The Underworld. Sometimes we stumble on a costume conundrum (as we did here) and share it with readers who find such things fascinating. Thus, today we're taking a look at another instance in the double-dipping of duds. In 1974, the world was treated to a TV-movie called Wonder Woman. Former tennis pro Cathy Lee Crosby was cast as the famed super-heroine, who first made her debut in a 1942 issue of Sensation Comics.

The character (who everyone is aware of unless he or she has been under a rock for seventy years) had undergone a trans- formation in the comics in 1968, temporarily losing her powers and giving up her trademark costume. Instead, she wore a succession of mod outfits (later all-white) and utilized martial arts (with a mentor called I-Ching) in order to beat the bad guys.

Even though the character's powers and costume were restored by 1973, the television pilot Wonder Woman stayed rather grounded in the previous realm, its only concession being that the character's clothing featured red, white & blue (and gold) instead of all-white. More jarring than anything, however, was that Crosby was blonde and nothing, via dye or a wig, was done to alter that! The broadcast brought in mediocre ratings.

I can recall rejecting this outright at the time as I was only familiar with the traditional Wonder Woman and, as a matter of fact, was enamored of, if not obsessed with, the rendition that came soon after in 1975 called The New Original Wonder Woman (new and original at once??) and starring Lynda Carter. THIS was a far more authentic presentation and was an instant hit, resulting in a series that ran for three seasons. To this day I have trouble accepting anyone other than Carter as the character.

But I digress. The Crosby version of the super-heroine did include several aspects that were traditional including being depicted in Amazon-wear on Paradise Island as well as in contemporary garb for her secret identity disguise of Diana Prince. Her crime-fighting gear, however, consisted primarily of a belted, zip-up jacket (almost like a skirted tracksuit top) paired with navy blue tights and dark boots. It wasn't a particularly becoming ensemble.

In 1980, a serio-comic TV show aired, hoping to claim some of the success of M*A*S*H. It concerned a news broadcast presented by the Armed Forces Vietnam Network (AFVN.) While audiences were ready to laugh (and occasionally cry) at the Korean War setting of M*A*S*H, they were far less eager to do so with the Vietnam War locale of Six O' Clock Follies! The highly-polarizing war had only been brought to a devastatingly late-in-coming conclusion only five years before. The series was cancelled within six episodes and has scarcely been seen again.

Starring in the show were A.C. Weary, a bit part actor suddenly elevated to lead, and Larry Fishburne, a daytime soap actor who would later make a mark in movies as Laurence Fishburne! Weary proceeded to work on the 1982 series Q.E.D. (an Edwardian detective show that was also cancelled after six episodes) and is also known as the wife of Guiding Light actress Kim Zimmer. Fishburne, of course, went on to great success in What's Love Got to Do With It (1993), The Matrix (1999), Mystic River (2003) and many other movies. (For What's Love, he even landed an Oscar nomination, but it went to Tom Hanks for Philadelphia.)

Also co-starring in Six O' Clock Follies as the weather girl was Aarika Wells. It ought to be readily apparent why I am pointing her out! The costumer for this sitcom grabbed the All-American jacket used by Ms. Crosby in Wonder Woman, slapped a U.S. flag across the front in order to cover the gold eagle, and - Presto! - the armed forces weather girl now has a sexy get-up!

In this (I'm sorry, blurry) shot, you can see that Wells opted out of wearing tights, dark boots, the belt and the golden wristbands that marked the outfit when Crosby sported it and now chooses only some white boots and little else to round out the look.

Wells even strikes a Wonder Womanly pose here. If you aren't familiar with her, she was a sort of series "bad luck charm" in the late-'70s. First came the expensive, disastrous failure Supertrain in 1979, which featured her as a aerobics instructor for the first five (of only nine) episodes, then this. She proceeded to play a variety of bimbos and hookers until landing the role of a judge (!) on a few eps of Knots Landing before drifting away around 1990.

We "wonder" if this was the last appearance that this distinctive jacket-dress ever made on TV. If you ever see it again, you'll have to alert me! Till next time, Poseidon.


VanceMan said...

Usually I — more or less — have an active memory for what you're covering in your posts, but this one dug up stuff I had absolutely forgotten, including "Which Wonder Woman do you prefer?" discussions. I'm not sure I needed to remember, but it made me smile all the same!

Roberta Steve said...

Comic book films and TV shows have never held any attraction for me (I'm suffering through the glut of these movies at the box office now) but I do remember both 70s TV Wonder Women. I wanted to look like Lynda Carter (was her waist really that small?) But kinda dug Cathy Lee Crosby's more realistic look and sort of lispy voice. Man, she really sportedsome major cheekbones. I didn't know she was a tennis player - but I seem to recall her being on Battle of the Network Stars so she must have had, ahem, athletic talent in addition to her, ahem, acting talent.

Either way, I basically had forgotten either actress existed! Thanks for a fun throwback, Poseidon.

Oh, and Happy Birthday!!! Waking up to see a new Depths entry was a gift for me today!

Gingerguy said...

Fun stuff Poseidon!I am still blown away (REALLY BLOWN AWAY)by your eagle eye spotting costumes from "Valley Of The Dolls" on, I think it was, "Starsky and Hutch" this is pretty impressive too. I got a copy of the Cathy Lee Crosby version a few years ago and was disappointed on all levels, something a little dreary about it and her look was really off. Now that I know it was an evolution of the costume from the late 60's it makes a little sense. The imperiled male lead couldn't hold a candle to the gorgeous bimbo Lyle Wagoner. In the reboot Lynda Carter was just stunning and looked physically strong as well. Who didn't love the theme song? I may have twirled to it myself a few times if I was alone. I remember my friends' Dad would watch it with us sometimes and I think it was because of the bustier. That poor actress Aarika was on "Supertrain"? lol, the kiss of death indeed. That show must be one of the oddest from that period. I think I have seen 6 of the 9 episodes and don't remember her, so will have to go back and take a look.

petercox97 said...

i gotta be honest. even though i was a huge wonder woman fan and voraciously bought her comic books as kid, i loved cathy lee crosby's version of wonder woman. the only thing i hated was that the movie was only 90 minutes long. i got it on dvd a few years ago from the warner brothers archive and i couldn't have been happier. the cathy lee crosby version of wonder woman is a breath of fresh air considering how they are ruining the character now. don't get me wrong, i also loved the lynda carter version of wonder woman and for me she is the definitive version of the character. however, since lynda played the role with such grace and authenticity, the character has now been reduced to a straight fanboy masturbatory fantasy. they even ruined her origin story by trying to eliminate her magical creation and the fact that wonder woman is practically a goddess. another thing i liked about cathy lee crosby's wonder woman was that paradise island is diverse. it irked me a little that when lynda carter's wonder woman went to the 70s that the character of nubia was never introduced. they skirted around the issue by having gorgeous jayne kennedy portray an amazonian type character who was trying to change the world via dubious means. jayne turned out to be a hit on wonder woman and according to lyle waggoner the producers wanted to bring jayne back, but lynda was not crazy about the idea. i get it, lynda was the franchise and she didn't want any competition. by the show's end, even lyle waggoner was rarely seen. still, every superhero needs a good foil and jayne kennedy would have been great on future episodes of wonder woman. but back to cathy lee crosby's version, ironically, this is the only role i ever liked crosby in. her wonder woman was somewhat like james bond in the fact that she did not have a dual identity and that her wonder woman was more of a code name. last but not least, one of the greatest things about crosby's wonder woman is the fact that the devastatingly handsome ricardo montalban was her nemesis. who could ever grouse about any movie that featured the charming and debonair ricardo montalban>

Scooter said...

I have very vague memories of Crosby's Wonder Woman - something about a snake crawling out from under a hotel room sofa. I'm going to take a look at YouTube for a refresher. Carter is still the quintessential WW to me. Thanks for the great post!

Poseidon3 said...

VanceMan, I'm glad you liked this. Thanks for taking a moment to comment. I know superheroes are running amok now, but back in the day we were starved! Remember Nicholas Hammond in The Amazing Spider-Man? Reb Brown as Captain America in two movies? Even lesser known, Peter Hooten as Dr. Strange (going up against Jessica Walter as Morgan LeFay!) in a failed TV pilot.

Roberta, ahem, Steve... LOL Hilarious!!! Somehow I always thought of Crosby most as a reality TV host, as in "That's Incredible" and it would often surprise me to see her acting. One movie she made that was fun in a tawdry way is 1978's Coach, in which she seduces high school student Michael Biehn! (This could be what caused him to then stalk Lauren Bacall in 1981's The Fan. Ha!)

Gingerguy, I actually have never seen Crosby's Wonder Woman to this day, though I do think I'd be more open to it now than I was as a VERY discerning tyke. If something didn't fit the way I believed it ought to, it was OUT. LOL The aforementioned Spider-Man's eyes were sort of silver instead of white and that always bothered me as a kid, too. And on Legends of the Superheroes, Black Canary had a mask on, which she'd never done before, and I got all in a snit about that. Growing up I found more important things to worry about such as food, clothing and shelter. All I know about Aarika is that she worked on the first five eps of "Supertrain" and, I believe, was a fitness instructor.

Petercox, you make me want to try CLC's Wonder Woman out! I also get a kick out of Anitra Ford, who is in it as an Amazon. As a child, I worshiped Jayne Kennedy! She was on "Speak Up, America" and I thought she was dazzling. I recall a doll coming out of Nubia when Lynda's was released, but never got where she fit into things! As for Montalban, I always thought he was wonderful. John Cassavetes once put him down, saying he couldn't improvise. Um, so fucking what! What he brought to the table was so good he didn't need to! He was very intense, suave, polished, sometimes petrifying. Could be so steely and also so gentlemanly. Underrated in my book.

Hi Scooter! I wasn't able to find the CLC Wonder Woman on youtube in its entirety. I still cannot understand why a cable channel isn't devoted to vintage TV-movies and miniseries. I'd never leave my house!

F. Nomen said...

I don't know if the costume ever re-appeared on TV but CLC WW is part of DC continuity. During one of its many "Crisis" company-wide events she appeared as the Wonder Woman of "Earth-462".