Date and Issue: January 20-26, 1979. Pages: 4 pages.
Pictures: 1 color photo.
Article: Interview to Lyle Waggoner. Author: Al and Joanne Martinez. Country: USA.
Lyle Waggoner discovers thatWonder Woman's miraculous power somehow shrinks his role.
It isn't easy being a standout when you're next to a woman with starspangled cleavage and high-cut shorts who lifts trucks, leaps tall buildings, deflects bullets with her bracelets and still has energy left to boogie at the discos. But Lyle Waggoner, on-camera friend of Wonder Woman on the CBS series, does it. Which has got to prove, among other things, that he is not just another pretty face.
Waggoner, a one-time state high-school wrestling champ and Playgirl magazine centerfold model, is 6-feet-4, 200 pounds, professional, ambitious and one of the best-looking faces on television today. He plays the part of Steve Trevor Jr. on The New Adventures of Wonder Woman-a role that has diminished over the seasons, some say, because Waggoner is simply prettier than Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman) and she knows it.
That, however, must remain in the realm of speculation, since Miss Carter won't talk about anyone else on the show and Waggoner limits himself to a very slight smile and the comment, relative to' his vanishing role, that "I may have become the highest-paid actor per word on television."
For those-either mentally or chronologically over the age of 12-who do not watch The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor Jr. is a highranking official in the Inter-Agency Defense Command, a Washington-based intelligence agency.
Diana Prince (Wonder Woman's street disguise) is a member of that agency. On camera, at least, there is a hint of romance between Trevor and WW, although it can never come to fruition, don't you see, because WW would lose her immortality and her superstrength, which is a high price to pay for love.
Off camera, the relationship between Waggoner and the star-minded Miss Carter simply does not exist. And while they decline to discuss each other, outsiders are not so timid. A former associate on the show says Waggoner took the second-banana role because at least it offered what he felt was a costarring position.
"That may have been true at first," the ex-associate adds, "in the days when Lynda still said please and thank you. Then one day someone told her she was a star, and she simply didn't want anyone else in the same scene.
"She feels Lyle brings the show's energy level down. As for him-well, you can't say anything bad about Lyle because the only time he ever becomes angry is when he's ignored. Maybe he's angry now, I don't know. But at least he isn't the one who throws his hairbrush across the stage when he is."
Waggoner's publicist, Tom Masters, says that because his client's role has been reduced so drastically, "Lyle isn't on the set often enough to form a relationship with Lynda, good or bad. They're cordial and that's it."
Obviously unhappy with his diminishing part, Waggoner will still not snipe at the show's lead. "Just say," he suggests with a slight smile, "the spotlight is not willing to be shared."
Kansas-born Waggoner had been on The Carol Burnett Show for seven years when he decided that his role as an announcer/ regular was too limiting. "I was a convenience," he says, "and not an actor. I wanted to act." The fact that millions of viewers saw him each week was impressive, but even more compelling was a desire to move on and up, and so he left the show.
It was during this period that he posed for Playgirl's centerfold, which he'd rather not remember. "At least," he says, "it was during their early days when they didn't show everything. There was a certain modesty."
Then he met Stanley Ralph Ross. who happened to be writing the pilot movie for Wonder Woman. "I liked Lyle right away," Ross says. "He was a guy who could make fun of himself, who never took himself too seriouslyand on television, that's rare. He could play the part of Steven Trevor with a twinkle in his eyes."
Ross was so impressed that, as he was describing the part of Trevor in his script, he wrote that the character "was jut of jaw and strong of mien, a Lyle Waggoner type. (Better yet, get Lyle Waggoner)" They did, to Ross's amazement. It's the only actor he ever recommended who actually got the job.
"It's a fun role," says Waggoner. "There's no big message, no symbolism. Sure it's a cartoon, but everything on television is a cartoon, because it's escapism. Wonder Woman just happened to have been in the comics."
Waggoner plays his part tongue-incheek, somewhere between farce and reality. "I can't get too campy," he says, "because that's farce-and how realistic can you get with a gal who picks up 10-ton boulders? It's hard sometimes not cracking up, the situations get so bizarre."
He doesn't like the idea that he is once more a "convenience," and would rather have a bigger role on this show or, better yet, his own series that would combine humor and adventure. Waggoner considers Wonder Woman a steppingstone to something better.
"But then," he shrugs, "I don't knock what I'm doing. It's an on-the-air show and I'm a working actor. There aren't all that many around. When you take a role, you accept the territory."
That he is itching for something better is not a new condition in the life of the actor, who is over 40 and looks 32. He was on his way up at General Motors years ago when he decided desk work wasn't for him; he quit and began selling encyclopedias from door to door. "I wanted applause," he says, "and I wasn't getting it."
Selling at least provided an audience of one. Waggoner believes it helped him as an actor. He still tells aspiring young actors that if they want to act, they've got to learn to sell, because that's what acting is all about-selling a character.
As an encyclopedia salesman, he was told time and again he was just too handsome for that and he ought to be in movies. After a while he became convinced they might be right and left St. Louis, where he was living, for Los Angeles. Later he was joined by his wife, Sharon, a former beauty queen. They've been, married for 18 years and have two young sons. Waggoner pursued an acting career the way he pursues everything elsewith quiet determination. He corralled an agent, went to acting school, did commercials, acted in summer stock and finally landed the role- of announcer on The Carol Burnett Show. They were looking for the "Rock Hudson type," and the producer Who hired Waggoner took one look at him and, even before an audition, decided that if he could talk, he had the job.
Previously he had tried out for the role of Batman on the old series, a part won by Adam West. Sharon was just as glad that he didn't get it. "Can you imagine," she asks whimsically, "running around in that cape all the time?"
Even though he didn't get the part. Waggoner was noticed by Charles FitzSimons, who was associate producer on Batman. So impressed was FitzSimons with Waggoner that he recommended him to others, out of which sprang the part on The Carol Burnett Show. FitzSimons went on to become producer of The New Adventures of Wonder Woman and was instrumental in hiring Waggoner for the part of Steve Trevor.
"He's a marvelous, talented man," says FitzSimons, "who is always on time, does his work well and gets along with everyone. I see a great future for him in romantic comedy. Once he gets the right kind of break, he'll have a series of his own."
Waggoner isn't the type to sit and wait for breaks. He isn't even the kind to sit much. During the year and a half between Carol Burnett and Wonder Woman, he went on the road with theatrical groups and has played in "Teahouse of the August Moon," "Born Yesterday," "Boeing-Boeing" and other plays, and he has made guest appearances in a dozen television shows.
On the road he kept busy between performances by learning to play the guitar and the harmonica, by teaching himself tricks with the bullwhip and by learning to ride a unicycle. He has also created and is marketing his own line of sports shirts and has designed and built 35 pieces of furniture around the house.
The "house," by the way, is not one of your cozy, ordinary suburban residences. It is a massive, high-ceilinged, 7000-square-foot castlelike structure on a hill overlooking the San Fernando valley.
It is a measure of Waggoner's restless nature-the nature that drives him into the spotlight and keeps him busy even when he's resting-that he lives in the castle on the hill.
He was residing in the flatlands down the block when the big house was being built. " I watched it going up," he says. "and I loved it. 1 decided then and there I wanted it."
Even after he acquired it, he wasn't satisfied. Not too many months had passed when he was already adding another room.
Waggoner considers the $1-millionplus home an investment as well as a place to live. Investments are important to him. He and Sharon, who sells real estate as a sideline, have other property in Los Angeles and Phoenix. It was good money-management, he says, that allowed him to quit The Carol Burnett Show and wait for almost two years before he landed a new part.
His instinct for future potential isn't just limited to property, Waggoner adds with a smile. "I first saw Sharon when she was about 15 and I thought, gosh, what an investment."
She's happy, too. "I married a salesman," she says, "and it was the smartest thing I ever did." She helps Waggoner relax by playing backgammon with him, although she enjoys raising the stakes a bit. "For instance," she says puckishly, "I won't cook dinner until I win."
Waggoner is content to bide his time in a diminishing role. He welcomes the exposure he has received both as an announcer and as a secondfiddle agent to a superwoman. Still, he realizes the show is not considered "important" by industry standards, and he sees hirnself moving on and up.
"Meanwhile," he says, "I'll hang in there and do my best. They'll remember me someday for my professionalism." And, possibly, for a quiet determination to occupy a castle on the top of the hill.
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