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People Top 5
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- December 17, 1984
- Vol. 22
- No. 25
Bringing Up Baby
For Dynasty's Linda Evans, Playing Mom Is the Next Best Thing to Being One
Judging from Dynasty, F. Scott Fitzgerald was right: The rich are different. They have more maternity troubles. Although Dynasty espouses family pride over fashion, good manners and great sex, motherhood is more complicated than moguling for its characters. As the noble wife of petroleum patriarch Blake Carrington, Krystle has suffered one miscarriage, spent the obligatory several seasons pining for another child and will fret for five more weeks before bringing her daughter home from the hospital in January.
For the producers, Krystina's arrival means mollifying Dynasty addicts as well as Krystle. "I cannot tell you how many letters of commiseration we got when she lost her other child," says supervising producer Elaine Rich. For the parents of Cassidy Lewis, who was cast as Krystina, the birth means a part-time job for their 2½-month-old daughter. For Linda Evans, however, the new addition has sparked the resurgence of old feelings. "I would love to have a baby," she says. "I think a child—my child—would just be the most delightful, wonderful experience in the world."
Unlike Krystle, Evans has neither a devoted husband nor a dynasty of her own. Twice divorced, she recently revived her 3½-year, on-again, off-again romance with L.A. restaurateur George Santo Pietro, whom she first encountered at a stoplight. Although he accompanied her on a Dynasty promotional trip to New York last month (see page 69), the relationship is already off. Again. "George and I have no commitments to each other," insists Evans. But the resurrected romance also revived tabloid tales of the blond beauty trying to beat the biological time clock. "It's sort of sad to have these stories saying that I'm desperate to have a child," says Evans. "It's more like this is something that would absolutely be the dream of my life were it to happen in the right way—to fall in love, to get married and to have a child. That's how I would like it to be."
In a sense, Evans and her TV alter ego are compatriots. "Similarly to me, Krystle is learning to find her identity in later life," observes Linda, and Dynasty writers have occasionally capitalized on that reasonable fascimile—particularly when it comes to children. The character's frustrated maternal instinct was familiar to Evans. "Her desire and her pain were easy for me to play because there was a thought in my mind that maybe I wouldn't, maybe I couldn't have a child," says Linda.
Motherhood eluded Evans in her two marriages for quite different reasons. At 20, she met and later married matinee idol John Derek, who was 16 years her senior and already a father. "He had two children and they lived with us," says Evans. "There was so much time, there was no hurry. It just seemed like we had forever to have our own baby." But in 1973, when Derek flew to Greece to make a film with a 16-year-old actress named Mary Cathleen Collins(and later renamed Bo Derek), divorce, not motherhood, followed. Says Evans, "I have a life that is quite extraordinary; it might never have happened if the marriage had lasted." At the time, its dissolution left Linda depressed, until she met real estate tycoon Stan Herman at a dinner party. They married in 1976. "Stan had been single and a man about town most of his life," she says. "I wanted to be certain that a married life was the life he really wanted to have before we had a child." When that marriage broke up, she got the answer she wasn't looking for. Ever optimistic, Evans finds solace in that 1979 split. "I know that had I had a child with Stan, I never would have done a TV series," she says. "Somebody knew better than me where I should be and what I should be doing."
Unlike some of her colleagues, Evans considers having a husband a prerequisite for having a baby. "I could easily adopt a child on my own right now, but I think it is real important for the child to have a father as well as a mother," she says. The notion of autumn parentage doesn't daunt her. In fact, she has enjoyed eyewitness evidence of its pleasures. After close friend Ursula Andress gave birth to a son at age 44, she moved into Evans' Coldwater Canyon home until her own was ready. "Everyone says you don't have the patience you need," says Evans of older moms, "but I learned about myself. I think that I would be a better mother now than if I'd had a child when I was younger." She doesn't harbor great expectations, though. "I think one child would be realistic," she says.
For the production team at Dynasty, finding one Carrington child threatened to cause double trouble: Because of time demands and working conditions, twins are usually chosen to play one part in TV dramas. (Twin boys, for instance, alternated as Steven Carrington's son, Danny—until the panic-stricken producers discovered the family had moved to Alaska during a break in shooting.) For Krystina, the producers insisted on an infant who looked as if she could indeed be Evans' baby. "I was unable to find twins, or any other babies for that matter, with pale skin and light, or almost no, hair," says Elaine Rich. "Most of the babies I saw had dark hair and that wouldn't work at all."
So the Carringtons owe the presence of Krystina to construction worker Doug Lewis, 28, of Simi Valley, Calif. At work one day, Doug met a fellow whose kids worked in commercials, and he suggested that Doug present his 6-year-old daughter Wendy to the Screen Children's Agency in Studio City. Doug's wife, Debra, 26, was seven months pregnant when she brought Wendy into the agency last summer. "They said, 'Wow, you're pregnant!' " recalls Debra. "So a week or so after I had my baby, I called the agent and told her I had a beautiful baby girl with blue eyes and auburn hair." Two weeks later, a Dynasty photographer arrived at their three-bedroom house to shoot Cassidy Claire Lewis, born September 28. "Cassidy was chosen more for her spirit than her looks," says Dynasty co-creator Esther Shapiro. "She has Linda's spirit."
She doesn't have Linda's income, however. While her TV mom makes an estimated $40,000 an episode, Cassidy gets $87-$140 a day, depending on how long she works. If you think a TV set is no place for a baby, the California law agrees. A nurse and a welfare worker are present whenever Cassidy is. She can only work 30 seconds at a time, and the welfare worker keeps a stopwatch in hand. "I've never acted worse in my life, because I'm so concerned for her," says Evans. Cassidy's maximum stretch on the set is two hours (she works one or two days), and she and her mother are taken to and from the set by studio car.
Like a lot of performers on soaps, Cassidy, whose mother named her after Cassie Burns, a favorite character on Days of Our Lives, may soon outgrow her role. Although the producers hope to use her for several months, time could complicate life—in the Carrington tradition. "It depends on how fast she grows," says Rich. Until then, Cassidy's earnings are much appreciated by her now two-paycheck family. "I'm putting a little bit into an account for her," says Debra, "and the rest is being used to help out my family. My washing machine broke down, and Cassidy has to have diapers washed." While the baby's good nature won her the role, Debra knows the source of her daughter's temperament. "Breast feeding, entirely," she says.
As usual on Dynasty, the future may hold peril for Krystle—if not Krystina. "A lot of things will happen," promises Shapiro. "It's a good thing to see what emotional repercussions there are when an older woman has a child. In a sense, Krystle will begin to perceive herself quite differently because she will be a role model for the child."
Although Krystle has achieved the maternal happiness that has eluded Evans, the actress doesn't despair. An optimism clause must be written into her contract. "I will be in the right place at the right time to have this work out for me," she says. "I think life works it all out." Our story continues.
In Dynasty's new production, selling well is the best revenge
On the morning of her 42nd birthday last month, Evans sat regally behind a table overlooking the main foyer of Bloomingdale's department store in New York. Below, behind stanchions, security men and some front-row shriekers, there crowded more enthusiastic onlookers than Alexis has enemies. "We have not had such excitement since the Queen of England visited the store in 1976," said store chairman Marvin Traub. While Evans was treated like royalty, her loyal subjects were treated to the Dynasty merchandise that she and her colleagues were promoting. Among the items that have grossed $400 million retail so far are such Carrington necessities as tuxedos ($300-$500), ballgowns (up to $800) and the top-selling Forever Krystle perfume ($150 an ounce). If you can't live like a Carrington, at least you can smell like one.
Since Dynasty is being heralded as the first TV show to inspire spin-offs for upscale adults, the marketing has focused on artifacts of conspicuous consumption, ranging from $3 panty hose to a $200,000 chinchilla coat. In effect, the idea for tie-ins came from those fanatical fans. "The mail that comes in is often directed to a dress as much as it is to a star," says Chuck Ashman, president of the merchandising division of 20th Century Fox, which is orchestrating the effort. When asked why they watched Dynasty, "as many people mentioned the clothes as the characters," says Ashman. The show used to send out sketches—as many as 200 a week—to viewers who asked. Now the styles are available via the McCall Pattern Co.
Even before series regular Pamela Bellwood encountered a Philippine businessman who had duplicated the Carrington nursery and sent it home, Dynasty co-creator Esther Shapiro realized that "people want to be part of it all, so it just seemed logical that we extend to merchandising."
As the project boss, Shapiro has overseen all products and insisted on mostly U.S. manufacturers. She also, of course, enlisted the efforts of the various cast members. Charles of the Ritz presented Shapiro and Linda Evans with a hundred possibilities for Forever Krystle. "They brought a board with all the scents on it and let us smell them," recalls Evans. "Esther and I got to choose." For their various efforts, "there will be no performer on this show who will not make at least five figures the first year for their licensing participation," predicts Ashman. Playing odd lady out offscreen as well as on, Joan Collins has not actively participated in the nationwide promotion. Instead, she elected to endorse Revlon's Scoundrel perfume and to introduce her own line of low-cost jewelry.
No one has figured a way to market such envied Dynasty staples as Linda Evans cheekbones or John James dimples, but Shapiro and Fox are releasing a slew of new products next year, although they passed by such incongruous items as Krystle Carrington peanut butter. Among the merchandise are desk accessories, floor coverings, wall coverings, china and flatware. For the poor little rich girl who has everything, there will be $10,000 handmade dolls of Alexis or Krystle (24 inches high) with original Nolan Miller clothes, sporting real fur and real jewelry.
Even the newest addition to the cast has not escaped the cash register. In addition to infant clothes inspired by Krystina, a Krystina doll will be available next year, but only after being initially rejected. Esther Shapiro found the first doll "Nazi-looking" and suggested that the makers consult some of Linda Evans' baby pictures. "We think it will be the next Cabbage Patch doll," enthuses Ashman. In any event, the Krystina doll, with a projected retail price of $19 to $40, may at last be the answer for the household that always wanted some Carrington stock.
- David Wallace.
August 29, 2015
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