Linda Evans might as well have died and gone to heaven. Having hung up the padded shoulders that she wore to play gorgeous, good-hearted Krystle Carrington, the former Dynasty star has left Los Angeles for a turn-of-the-century villa on five acres in Twin Peaks country, outside Tacoma, Wash. Here she can sit on her patio, gaze upon the private shores of her lake and contemplate a life without ripples. "I longed just to be, and this place gave me the perfect opportunity," says Evans, who turned 48 on Nov. 18. "I had so much responsibility for so many years, I longed to be irresponsible. I wanted to stay up late at night and eat too much and not put any makeup on and sunbathe and not care."
So here she is—just being. She indicates the second floor of her home: "When the sun rises, it comes up in this window, and it sets in that window over there. So if I never even leave my bedroom, I'm thrilled." And the lake offers its own thrills, of a sort. Evans leaps to her feel: "Oh, look! Look at the duck and all her babies! They go under and all you see are their tails, a big tail and 10 little tails! I'll watch 'em grow up and get big."
Ah, yes, heaven. And now Evans's angel steps onto the patio: lithe, darkly handsome and mustachioed, he could be the gypsy king of Moldavia. This is Yanni, the Greek-born pop composer—and the man who strums Linda's heartstrings like a zither. He hands her a tiny Siamese cat. "I brought you a little present," he says, and disappears back into the house. As Evans watches him go, she lapses into a sort of radiant daze. At the very least, she takes even more pleasure in watching him than in counting ducklings.
Evans, who in her nine seasons on Dynasty became television's most reassuringly glamorous woman over 40, is enjoying, if not an Indian summer of love, then a post-prime-time blossoming of the heart. "It's a miraculous time of life, outrageously wonderful and exciting," says Evans, who returns to ABC this coming week in a TV movie with the glowingly apt title I'll Take Romance. Her own romance, she says, "makes life all sparkly."
Yanni, who is 12 years younger, floats closer to the ground. "This is not a situation where love is blind and we're walking around on cloud nine," he says, laughing. "It's that we are on cloud nine and we allow ourselves to be there and love it." At the beginning, love was blind, and stereophonic: Evans first fell for Yanni's albums, and even now his music—a synthesized mix of pop, jazz and soft rock that might be labeled new age but which Yanni calls adult-contemporary—can be heard constantly in the background, a sound track for a living video montage of kissing, hand holding and meaningful stares.
"Maybe a regular person would just throw up, but I play his music all the time," says Evans, who handpicked the songs for Yanni's latest album, a most-romantic-hits compilation called Reflections of Passion. Reflecting on her own passion, Evans recalls the time she and a group of women friends "were all sitting around listening to him and saying this is the best music ever, and we said, 'Let's call him and tell him so.' They said, 'Why don't you call him, Linda? At least he'll return your call—he doesn't know who we are.' "
The initial conversation lasted an hour and a half. "I kept saying to her, 'Well, I really enjoyed talking to you,' " says Yanni, who's based in Los Angeles. "I was sort of embarrassed for keeping talking because I didn't know whether she really wanted to talk this much or was being polite." Nowadays, Evans says, their phone conversations can last "six, seven, eight hours."
Evans has kept her home in Beverly Hills, and it was there that she invited Yanni to meet her in July of 1989. The meeting had to be brief. Evans was scheduled to fly to Washington that afternoon. As Evans remembers it, Yanni knocked, she answered—and experienced takeoff. "I looked at him and—I had no idea. No idea. No idea! If I had known what he had looked like, I never would have had the nerve to call him Ever. Ever! I looked at him, and I tell you, in my life I have never, ever had this happen to me."
Yanni must have had some idea, some idea, some idea what Evans looked like, but even he was stunned. "I went to her house and...oh, boy," he says, shaking his head."It was great, really great. We just sat and talked for two or three hours."
When Bunky Young, a friend of Evans's, came by to take the actress to the airport, she found the couple in a rhapsody. "If eyeballs could lock—those two! They were just transfixed," she says. "I didn't want to break it up, but I finally said, 'I'm afraid, Yanni, you're going to have to go.' Then, on the plane, Linda got the funniest little grin, and I could tell her mind was just clicking like a computer."
Click click click, not thump thump thump—Evans may still lose her heart, but after two husbands and several boyfriends and years of struggling to find her footing, she no longer loses her head.
"Being safe and having someone take care of me was so important most of my life," says Evans, who grew up—emotionally unsure and financially insecure—in Hollywood, the daughter of former professional dancers. Her father, who had little success painting and decorating, died when she was 15 (her mom, a housewife, died 14 years later).
By then, Evans—born Evenstad—already was playing Barbara Stanwyck's daughter on the TV Western The Big Valley. But she left the show in 1969, happy to devote herself to her new husband, actor John Derek. She'd had a distant crush on him when she was in school, but ultimately she was the one who was crushed. When Derek left her in 1973 for a 16-year-old—whom he subsequently launched on the world as a cornrow-braided blond named Bo—Evans was unable even to grocery shop for herself. "To be standing there in the market and burst into tears because I didn't have a clue what I wanted—it was horrible," she says. "I just went home and cried. 'How do I live without him? He's gone!' " She soon found another man to feel safe with, marrying real estate magnate Stan Herman in 1976. But three years later he was another one gone. The marriage ended in divorce.
"Nobody has tried relationships more than I have," Evans admits. "I have a degree in relationships." But she at last came to a realization. "All my life I wanted the man to be the answer," she says. "And I had seen that in order for that to work, my whole life became him, and if it didn't work, then everything didn't work in my life. So after my divorce, I wanted to find me, and I wanted to be independent."
The star-making role of Krystle—the nice Carrington—proved to be the main road to independence. Dynasty, she says, "was like an answer to a prayer. And then every year I'd think, 'Stay on the air! So I can pay off my house and pay off my car, and then I'll have a home and never have to worry about being thrown out of somewhere.' " But Evans—for whom "taking charge of my life is as fascinating a journey as becoming a star"—was also treading other paths, exploring the misty nether regions of Linda Land. "I have done everything," Evans says. "I've gone to psychologists. I've studied Eastern religions, meditation. I've read books on psychology and philosophy-everything except est. For some reason I missed that." In 1985, when new age was still new, Evans read about Ramtha, the 35,000-year-old spirit and friend of Shirley MacLaine, and became fascinated with his teachings—in fact J.Z. Knight, the channeler through whom Ramtha purportedly speaks, lives 30 minutes from Evans's Washington State home.
The one thing that angers Evans, frosting over her natural warmth, is the tabloids' suggestion that she has come under the spell—the control—of a guru. As for reports that she moved to be near Knight, she responds: "Look at this place. I mean, do I need an excuse to move into this house? This is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen in my entire life." Ramtha, she says, "is a teaching about self, and that interests me—anything that helps me understand myself interests me."
Yanni, too, seems to have helped Evans understand herself, in ways that a 35,000-year-old spirit probably can't. With their love, she says, "there are things that I've never felt before in my body, emotions I never knew existed." Yanni's love is unconditional, she says. "It's great to experience that kind of freedom in love, that kind of trust." Compared with her Derek years, she says, "it's completely at the opposite end of the spectrum!"
"In my family," Yanni says, "I've never had anybody threaten me with taking their love from me. You could fight, you have any trouble you wanted, but love was never an issue—so I learned to trust it." He began life with the surname Hrisomallis in Kalamala, Greece—where Linda's favorite olives come from—and grew up in a comfortable home headed by a banker father and housewife mother. Both could have helped Evans with her life lessons. "My father always says you've got to taste life like a fruit," Yanni says. "My mother, she has the secret of life. She is the only person I know of who is just always happy. She thinks there are no bad people in this world, and if you are bad, it's because you're having a bad day. She can be happy sleeping on the street, or in a chair, it doesn't matter."
Yanni's two boyhood enthusiasms were music and psychology. Intrigued by analysis, he claims he read all of Freud's works by the time he was 16. Drawn to music, he'd sit at a piano and try to re-create melodies he'd heard over the radio or at the movies; in the process he developed his own system of musical notation, which he still uses.
Up to a point, Freud had the upper hand. Yanni left Greece to study psychology at the University of Minnesota but, two years away from a graduate degree, decided that "to have a Ph.D. at 24 and go into practice and have children and do the same thing over and over again—it would drive me crazy." Instead he joined a rock band, Chameleon, going solo soon after with an album titled Optimystique.
Although Yanni spends two weeks out of the month with Evans—and she sometimes joins him on tour—occasionally the composer has to converse with his musical muse, which can't be done by long-distance in eight-hour stretches. "When I go away and create my music," he says, "Linda has to allow me to go far away from her, and maybe not call, and some people can't handle that. When I'm in a creative mood, I'm distant, and it takes a few days to come out of it."
Evans doesn't mind. "I don't have to be with him to have this loving feeling," she says. "I've got it. It's mine." Besides, "I didn't want to make a man the No. 1 quest in my life. I wanted to make me the No. 1 quest in my life." For now, that's enough. Asked about marriage, Evans responds in words that Yanni could easily set to music: "Can we be in love for a little while before we make that decision?" "Why do we have to wreck a good thing right now when we're just living it out?" "It'll happen if it's going to happen, but it's a great time right now."
The great time right now includes boating on the lake (they spent their very first week together, Owl and Pussycat-like, afloat—"We used to stay out there until 4, 5 in the morning," Evans says. "We hardly slept, but one morning we woke up to rain on our faces"). And they cook: Evans has even learned to make kasseri, a Greek cheese flambé dish. "We eat for hours and hours," Evans says. They don't watch much television. They've skipped those sinister gossiping pines of Twin Peaks, and none of the projects Evans was offered piqued her interest. "They've been sending me scripts for a long time," she says, "but I didn't want to work right away. And most of them were dramas and miniseries—really heavy duty. I just said nope." But Romance, a light comedy about a TV weather reporter befogged by love, made her say yup. The plot, as explained by Evans, sounds vaguely autobiographical. "This woman had a romance, it didn't work out, and she was going to be practical and sensible," says Evans. "Her whole life is controlled and ordered—and of course everything just gets changed around, and she has to deal with her fears of romance and love."
And what about her own fears of romance and love? Evans, thinking about her future with Yanni, appears as serene as her lake. "I hope that we can continue being as interested and excited at all the levels we see in each other," she says. "Things have to change. Nothing stays exactly the same. You grow and things happen, but I hope we can continue to enjoy each other. Because we will always be friends, I know that—we're too much alike. But whether this other part continues to grow, we'll find out."
—Tom Gliatto, Robin Micheli in Tacoma
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