She Was like Krystle - but is Learning to Be More Independent.
The Dynasty star feels she's now recovering from the hurt of childhood problems and two brokem marriages.
The crew of ABC'd Dynasty is testy, the director has a cold, and there is one last scene to shoot on the set everyone hates - the cramped, depressing "attic" where Krystle was held prisoner. Then Linda Evans arrives, wearing a wide-shouldered red dress and coat by Valentino and the smile that made crow's-feet a glamour symbol. She is a vision of elegant, mature, loveliness. Almost. Darting around in 4-inch heels, she is surprisingly coltish, just a little gawky, a faint echo of what co-star John Forsythe called "a knobby-kneed teen-agree" when he cast her in Bachelor Father nearly three decades ago.
The doldrums give way to a hum of activity. A costume fusses over her earrings. The hairdresser fluffs out that fan of silver-blonde hair. Designer Nolan Miller comes to talk to her about gowns for a photo session. "You can have any of the things I've made for you," he offers.
"That's a sweet dress she's wearing," someone else murmurs. "it's nice to see her in red." There is something fond and protective in the way they treat her, and it is hard to tell whether they are responding to the sophisticated, mature star of the little girl in her first high heels. They are both there, and that is Evans' own off-screen drama.
On the set, the little girl vanishes into the somber mood of Krystal, who, in this scene, returns to her attic prison to exorcise it from her memory. Husband Blake (Forsythe) finds her there and embraces her. They leave together. She and Forsythe go through the scheme several times. The sticking point is that both of them can't get through the narrow door together, especially since Krystle is earring shoulder pads in both her dress and coat. Each time they bump, Evans laughs and then goes back to concentrating on Krystle's fears. Forsythe solves the problem, maneuvers her gallantly through the door, and adds a nice bit of business by shutting it behind him.
It is done, and Evans is bubbly. "I have a two=week break coming up! I'm going to cook and go Christmas shopping. I'm going to get a facial and a manicure. See how bad my hands are? I haven't been to a manicurist in two months."
Even better, she will be leaving Krystle and the attic behind. "I've had at least two or three scenes every show of torture, terror, drama, crying - which I loathe. I'm a happy person. I like to be up. But for weeks, I had to come to work and be miserable, depressed, upset, angry. I had to cry." It is an odd attitude for an actress, but Evans has never pretended to be an artist. She is just a good, workaday professional who does a wonderful job of being Linda Evans - who has a special relationship to Krystle Carrington.
"She represents the woman I was 10 or 15 years ago," says Evans. "She's a woman whose whole life was centered around a man, a woman who lived to love and be loved, a woman who wanted a child more than anything. Like me, she was forced to get stronger, grow up, speak for herself and find out who she was. These are all things I've done. And there are so many women in America who are going through that same agony. They find themselves having to make adjustments in a world they weren't geared for. When you're young, you just go right along. When you're older, you think, 'They've switched the rules on me.' Krystle and Linda get mixed up. it's both our lives."
But Krystle gets to live the fantasy of the dependent little girl, doted on my a powerful man. It's the fantasy that Evans- 43, with two failed marriages - is now struggling to give up
"It's strange, but having a career - which I always thought would take me away from happiness - is bringing me closer to it than I've ever been. it's made me the woman I need to be to have the man that I need."
As she says this, the famous Evans glow deepens, like a three-way bulb being switched up. She thinks she has found the man. "His name is Richard Cohen," she says and actually sighs. "He's a businessman," is all the description she will offer. "I don't want this to be an article about him. I've known him for years. We were good friends when I was married before.' Is a wedding in the offing? "Wouldn't that be wonderful?" she coos.
For Evans now, the "right guy" wouldn't necessarily have to pass a screen test or make the Fortune 500. "I don't care about tall, short, light, dark, fat or thin. What attracts me now is inward. I like someone with a sense of humor. And it's nice if the person is successful in whatever he does so he's not uncomfortable with what goes on in my life. I certainly have enough money for anybody. He would just have to feel good about his job."
This assured, self-sufficient woman is someone Evans has become in the last few years. But her story isn't just about women changing. It is also about the pain of a childhood that ended abruptly, long before she was ready to give it up.
She grew up in North Hollywood, the second of three daughters. her parents had been professional dancers who changed shoes when they started a family. Dad became house painter and decorator, and mom a cheerful homemaker who took in stray friends and servicemen far from home. There was never much money. Linda was shy, socially slow.
"I played with dolls until I was 15. My mother encouraged it because my older sister got married when she was 15, so Mom thought that the longer I stayed with dolls, the better." As a teenager, she dated only two boys. "One of them married another girl and broke my heart." But there were graver problems in those years.
"My mom and dad were both sick in the hospital at the same time. I thought my mom was going to die but my father ended up having a more serious illness." Her father had cancer, and spent nine months dying at home. When he was gone, the family lived on Social Security.
Evans helped out by working as an usherette at the Paramount Theatre while she attended Hollywood High School - where she took Drama classes but was never chosen for any of the plays. A friend of hers did commercials, and Evans sometimes went along to keep her company at auditions. At one of them, the director drafted her right out of the waiting room. "It was a TV commercial for Canada Dry. I did quite a few commercials after that, and then John Forsythe gave me my first speaking part in Bachelor Father. it was really nice to be discovered because I made money. I made so much they cut our Social Security back." She was 15. The shy girl who played with dolls was suddenly the family provider.
Her father's long illness left other residue. "I didn't want to deal with the fact that he was dying, so I pretended he wasn't. When he died, I felt guilty because I hadn't been there for him. I made an agreement with myself then that I would never let anybody else down ever. So I stayed in relationships that weren't right too long. I've since understood that, but I'm still very loyal."
After high school, she decided to stick with acting "till they find out I don't know what I'm doing." Several years later, in 1964, she was cast in The Big Valley. But being a star was a dream that belonged to other girls. Evan's dreamed about a husband and family, security and protection. She married John Derek, her childhood pinup, 16 years her senior, and she ignored her career because "he was happiest when I was around" - at least until he left her for the "perfect 10"Mary Cathleen Collins (A.K.A Bo Derek)
But that, as she puts it,"has been written to death." What matters to her is how she dealt with betrayal - which she now regards as a "gift." "Next to my mom and dad dying, it was the hardest time, I realized that no matter how much you love somebody or how right you do things, you can't make anybody stay with you when they want to go. Experiencing hat helped me to grow up. it showed me I could survive on my own."
Sensibly, she went back to work afterward. She didn't get great parts, but she didn't really want a career as an actress. Two and a half years later, she married realtor Stan Herman. "I loved Stan. I still adore Stan. But Stan shouldn't be married. he'd been a bachelor most of his life, and it was very difficult. He's since been married and divorced again."
The failure of her second marriage hit hard. "I had to ask, 'Is it me? Is it them? What part do I play in not having my dream? If I'm a person who's going to marry forever and have kids, why am I now a person divorced twice, without children? "I reexamined myself: 'Who are you?' Find out what you don't want to know about yourself, what you're afraid of." Her personal self-examination included conventional therapy and an eclectic assortment of spiritual philosophies.
"I realized that my marriages didn't work because I wanted men to take care of me. I needed the people in my life to be everything I needed to make me happy. If they had their own thoughts about how they wanted to live and what they wanted to do, it didn't fit."
She has since become good friends with both of her ex-husbands. She and Derek talk; she is close to his children. And she has bought two rental houses from Herman. Relentlessly positive, she says she loved her married years.
Evans still feels that a relationship is more important than a career, but it is pretty much a moot question. "At this point in my life,, I would never marry a man who said, 'If you l love me, give up work'." And even when there was no man in her life, she was happily single. "They had this whole drama in the rag sheets about how I was the loneliest woman in Hollywood. Actually, I was very content. I went out with the Forsythes and other friends. And I was so busy that loneliness would have been a luxury. I don't have a hard time being alone. When I'm on location, I'm not uncomfortable having dinner by myself in a restaurant."
Still, the little girl in her lingers - at least on the Dynasty set. "When I was a kid, I used to design clothes for my dolls and cut them out and put them on. here, I have people bringing me all the finest clothes, anything I can think of - chiffon's, plumes, sequins. And I'm the doll and the clothes go on me."
She also has the husband of her little girl dreams on Dynasty. "These last few years, even pretending to have a marriage with John has been heaven. It's so wonderful to be able to come in and express that part of myself and act it out. To be involved in marriage forever."
But the little girls' view of the world may stunt the grown-up woman's professional growth. "It's hard for Linda to do stuff that is evil," - says Forsythe. "She's not at all at home in violent, emotional scenes where she has to shout at somebody or rail at them. "I'm one for challenges, and I have a long tried to get her to do things that stretch her as an actress - just the way she is doing things that stretch her as human being off the set."
But Evans, like a lot of women now, is struggling with change, and the process is uneven. All things considered, she is not doing a bad job of it.
She has one last scene to do today, and it is on one of her favorite sets, the beruffled Carrington nursery. The babies aren't here today because they are sick, so the crew shoots around the empty crib. Evans doesn't mind; when they are on the set, she is distracted by them, by the thought of a baby of her own. "A whole family would be absurd now. But one child would be wonderful."
She would almost certainly be a working mother. "There are ways to incorporate a pregnancy or ignore it, depending on the storyline. I would just say, "Everybody, work it out. Whatever you do will be fine with me."
Meanwhile, Krystle has to deal with a reporter who has intruded in the nursery. She cried out for Blake, who rushes in, and summons the guard. The intruder is taken out. Blake puts his arms around Krystle and comforts her. It's a pretty picture, but one that Linda Evans knows she has to leave behind on the set.
TV Guide, March 1986