Dynasty Fans, Hide Your Eyes: Here, by Her Own Admission, Is the Real Linda Evans
Nursing her cold with tissues and a basket full of Mounds bars, Linda Evans snuggles into her seat for a private screening of her four-hour miniseries, The Last Frontier, which airs this week on CBS. Evans beams as the first scene unreels, while a companion fights off shock: The Evans on view is a sight. There is no rouge to accent those famed cheekbones. The blond hair, sprayed into typhoon-proof stiffness each week for her role as the glamorous Krystle on Dynasty, flies in every direction. She wears a beat-up denim jacket that Dynasty designer Nolan Miller wouldn't put on a maid.
As Kate Hannon, a hash-slinging, divorced mother of two who finds love (with Jack Thompson of Breaker Morant fame) and her fortune in the dusty Australian outback, Evans has seized on a role to shatter her image. In one scene, she climbs up a mountainside, her sunburned face dripping sweat while the flies buzz hungrily. From her seat, Linda laughs at the jolt this will give her fans. "We're not dealing with Krystle here," she says.
Cut to Sound Stage 7 at the Warner/ Hollywood studios where Dynasty is filmed. Evans, still sniffling, is resplendent in a black-and-white business suit set off with circular diamond earrings. Seated in an oversize director's chair, Linda is pure Krystle except for the old pair of beige slippers she wears for comfort on the set. "These slippers are the real me," she says—and so, she insists, is the character she plays in Frontier. "I'm a regular human being," she says. "I get up, put on my blue jeans, and I don't wear makeup. I'm strong, stubborn and tenacious."
Of course, outsiders have yet to see this side of Linda. Except for Gambler II, a TV Western she did with Kenny Rogers in 1983, Evans hasn't appeared without flattering lighting since Dynasty debuted more than five years ago. But following the lead of Farrah Fawcett in The Burning Bed, Evans, now 43, yearned for a chance to show her dramatic talents in a role that hit closer to home. And so it was that last May found Evans in Alice Springs, Australia, on a grueling 10-week location shoot for The Last Frontier that would force her to put her ideas about herself to the test. Evans did her own stunts, including a footrace up a mountainside in 100-degree heat that left her gasping for breath. "I almost killed myself," she says. "That's what I get for playing athlete for a day."
The all-day filming both exhausted and exhilarated Linda, as did the challenge of acting with such veterans as Jason Robards and Jack Thompson. Best of all was being able to forget about what kind of appearance she was making. "It didn't make any difference what I looked like," she says. "I got used to just hanging out."
Returning to Dynasty was an adjustment. "When I came home and had to put this stuff on, this jewelry and everything, I felt so strange," she says. "This is all make-believe. To get caught up in it...and then, when it goes, you can kill yourself. You become a tragic figure."
Evans, who split from director John Derek in 1973 and real estate tycoon Stan Herman in 1979, says, "I truly loved being a housewife. I remember mornings. I'd get up, clean my house and make it pretty. It was just a joy. I'd put on music as the sun was coming through." Cooking is another treat. "I love it," she says, "from reading a recipe to buying the food to creating the dinner to watching people eat."
Evans wishes her fans knew just how unglamorous her life as a working woman is. "Everyone longs for what they don't have," she says. "People on the outside don't think about getting up at 5 in the morning and going to bed at 9:30 at night." In her rustic Cold-water Canyon home, Linda lives alone, except for her three cats. There's no new man as yet, and she insists the rumors of her affair with co-star Thompson are just that—rumors. Looking around the Dynasty set, she says, "You have to experience something like this to find out that it's not the greatest thing that life has to offer."
If TV's popular blonde won't trash her simpy alter ego (and at an estimated $65,000 an episode, who can blame her?), neither will she guarantee her return to Dynasty when her contract runs out next year. A guarantee would, of course, be a negotiating blunder, but she's also deeply moved at the moment by Kate's downward mobility. As her hairdresser gives her a last-minute spray before shooting a scene, Evans says, "A part of me wants to do what Kate's done—to have a child and husband and work the land, to be a part of nature and to understand it." Asked if she could ever leave Hollywood and be happy in a tomato patch, Evans thinks her answer over carefully, then replies with conviction: "Easily."
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