Wonder Woman, Season 1, Episode 3
Title: "Beauty on Parade"
IN THIS EPISODE:
A deadly connection to The Sopranos
Steve complements Diana's ankles
The Make Me Laugh host fires a rocket propelled grenade
Jurassic Park, Forbidden Planet and Clonus Horror connections
and The Hanging Chandelier of Doom!
So, what are you waiting for?
Yeoman Prince and Major Steve Trevor are sent to Fort Russell, Maryland on security detail. There's a concern that the enemy may be plotting to steal or destroy our top secret radar system. The base commander, Colonel Flint (played by William Lanteau, best known as Chester on Newhart) assures them that Fort Russell is safe and secure. At that very moment, Steve and Diana see a loud mob approaching...
It's radio comedian, Jack Wood (Dick Van Patten) and he's hosting a beauty contest to bolster the moral of the troops. Van Patten, obviously best known as the dad on Eight is Enough, was one of those ubiquitous celebrities of the seventies, appearing absolutely everywhere from The Love Boat to CPO Sharkey.
Colonel Flint claims there's no risk having Jack Wood free roaming on a high security army base. After all, he's an "institution like Bob Hope". What could go wrong?
Diana shyly suggests to Steve that maybe she could enter the beauty contest. That way they would have someone on the inside to be sure there's no foul play. His reply:
"Thanks, Diana. I know you'd do a really wonderful job. But I'm afraid this calls for a really gorgeous girl. Someone who looks great in a bathing suit."
What an idiot.
|Rita (Christa Helm), Lola (Anne Francis), Monty (Bobby Van) and Jack Wood (Dick Van Patten)|
Cut to the rehearsal for the Miss G.I.Dreamgirl of 1942 contest. The stage director is Lola, played by Anne Francis. I primarily know her as the miniskirted Altaira in the film Forbidden Planet. She was, of course, also in a million other things before becoming a devotee of the International New Thought Alliance.
The pianist is Monty, played by Bobby Van. Van was a staple of the MGM musical scene - your textbook "song and dance man" who eventually moved on to the game show circuit during the seventies (even hosting a couple).
During the rehearsal, Mitzie (Paulette Breen) screws up and Rita (Christa Helm) quickly establishes herself as the queen bitch.
|Paulette Breen in Parts: The Clonus Horror|
Much more interesting is the story of Christa Helm (the one in the black hotpants) and her mysterious murder...
A good summary can be found at: 10 Entertainment Careers Cut Short By Unsolved Mysteries
At the age of 17, Christa Helm left her Milwaukee home to pursue a career in modeling and acting in New York City. After garnering a lead role in a low-budget movie called “Let’s Go For Broke”, Helm traveled to Hollywood to further her career and earned a few bit parts on television. She became a prominent figure in the gossip columns because of her rumored escapades with noted Hollywood celebrities.
On February 12, 1977, the 27-year old Helm was stabbed 22 times before being bludgeoned to death outside her agent’s home in West Hollywood.Helm was rumored to have kept a secret diary and recordings of her sexual escapades with her celebrity boyfriends. Since the diary and the recordings mysteriously vanished after her death, some people speculated that they may have been the reason for her murder.
It was also theorized that Helm was killed by Lionel Ray Williams, who had murdered Sal Mineo in a similar fashion in the same neighborhood exactly one year before Helm’s murder. However, there has always been a debate about whether Williams was in jail on the night Helm was killed. 30 years later, a DNA sample found under one of Helm’s preserved fingernails was determined to be from a female, and Helm was rumored to have been sexually involved with a female singer shortly before her death. In spite of all these leads, the identity of Christa Helm’s murderer is still unknown.
As a Sopranos fan, the fact that Paulie is somehow mixed up in this makes matters even more intriguing. A good resource for more information is the blog Going For Broke by our own Retrospace reader, Booksteve.
Also note that Anne-Marie Martin is one of the contestants. You may know her as David Rasche's partner in the 1980s comedy series Sledgehammer!; however, she is perhaps best known as being Michael Crichton's wife (until 2002) to whom he dedicated Jurassic Park.
Anyway, back tot he story...
In walks Diana Prince incognito as Diana "Paradise". She knocks their socks off with her beauty and her skills - Jack Wood is enamored and immediately wants her as part of the pageant. Susan, of course, isn't thrilled.
Jack Wood: "Can you sing, dance, or play an instrument"It's interesting to note that Diana Paradise chooses to do a dance number (rather awkwardly, I might add) instead of singing. Lynda Carter is an accomplished singer. This would've been the perfect forum to demonstrate her talent.
Diana: "Sure. "What would you like me to do first?"
Jack Wood: [comedic pause]
Monty (Bobby Van) is hesitant to let Diana Paradise into the troupe. SPOILER: This will be important later on. Take note of the brunette on the far right - that's Linda Carpenter. She was Playmate of the Month in August 1976. Also, she played a USO Playmate in Apocalypse Now.
I've never been a fan of the MGM musicals, so I'm not familiar with Van's work during that period. However, I feel like I have to mention that he was the host of Make Me Laugh, one of my absolute favorite shows back in the day.
You have to remember that stand-up comedy wasn't as easy to find as it is today. Now you see and hear it on Comedy Central, HBO specials, satellite radio, YouTube, etc. Back then, unless you were lucky enough to be of age and live near a comedy club, you were limited to records. I had a Bill Cosby and Steve Martin record, and my dad had a George Carlin and Lenny Bruce. Thus, Make Me Laugh was a blast of fresh air - a glimpse into the stand up comedy world.
Of course, sometimes the comedy consisted of dressing up in a bear suit; but Make Me Laugh remains a cherished TV memory nonetheless.
You know we've got to have at least one Steve rescue scene per episode to meet the quota. This time, Steve is involved in a car chase with a couple of hired thugs. WW is there to save his sorry ass once again. Her Lasso of Truth reveals they were hired anonymously to take Steve out of commission - perhaps whoever-it-is maybe getting worried that our man Steve is sticking his nose where it doesn't belong.
Watching WW push his stuck car back onto the road, Steve wonders aloud, "Can she cook too?" (groan)
Scenes between Steve and WW are generally rather awkward. There's not so much a romantic tension, as there is a confused and stilted discomfort. It's obvious WW has feelings for Steve (especially when she's posing as Yeoman Prince), but Steve seems utterly oblivious.
In the scene pictured above, WW begs Steve to be careful. His response: "I'd like to be, there just isn't time." In other words: I'll just keep throwing caution to the wind because I know you'll be there to save my sorry butt.
In the very next scene, Steve finds Diana in her beauty pageant disguise (wig and polka-dot sundress). She informs him that she's going undercover. He praises her initiative and then comments on her appearance....
Steve: It's funny, but seeing you in that dress makes me realize you look like somebody.What a jack ass.
Steve: Joan Crawford.
Diana: Well, I'm very flattered, sir.
Steve: Around the ankles.
Diana: [no longer flattered] Thanks.
That evening, Diana "Paradise" has to sneak out of the pageant barracks in order to save Steve a second time this episode. If you keeping score, that's seven times this season and we're only midway through episode three.
Rita discovers Diana is missing and happily reports it to Lola, hoping this will disqualify her. On cue, Diana emerges from the shower (wrapped in a towel, unfortunately) and the issue is put to rest. Somehow, WW snuck back in and into the showers without anyone noticing.
But these backstage beauty pageant shenanigans are to be expected. There are much more serious things afoot...
Monty and Lola are up to no good. The whole radar scanner thing is just a red herring. What they really want is to ..... (dramatic drum roll please)..... assassinate Dwight D. Eisenhower!
The famous general is visiting For Russell to check out the top secret radar scanner, and Monty the pianist plans to put a cap in his ass using this pageant as the perfect venue.
Meanwhile, Rita is absolutely disgusted that Diana Paradise is Jack Wood's new favorite. The role of magician's assistant was supposed to be hers. Now it was going to the new girl, miss goody two-shoes.
Lynda Carter in an outfit like this is a good thing any way you slice it. Unfortunately, this is the last you'll see her wearing it. (Things come up - read on)
Monty is getting more and more paranoid about their mysterious new contestant. When the War Department tries to ring Diana and warn her about the Eisenhower plot, Monty terminates the call. In addition to waxing Ike, Monty also has plans for Diana. He'll drop the stage lights on her during the magic number.
Fans of vintage television can attest to the fact that the falling light is a pretty common form of death on the boob tube. Indeed, I'd say if you happen to be on a stage of any kind in a 1970s drama, there's a very high risk of death by stage lights. I'd even go as far as to say the stage light crush is more common than the Hanging Chandelier of Doom.
In a twist of fate, Rita steals Diana's costume and serves as Jack Wood's assistant instead. Lola tries to stop Monty, but gets locked in a box. Monty cuts the ropes, the lights fall, but WW is there to catch them before they can squash Rita.
A few miles away at "Point Lobo", Steve and General Blankenship have intercepted Eisenhower's car. Monty's men have them surrounded, but WW is quick to come to their aid.
Steve: "Gee, Wonder Woman. If they gave out merit badges for being fantastic, you'd be an Eagle Scout."
What a dork. Although, I do have to compliment him on beeping Morse Code on his car horn to direct Eisenhower's driver to pull over. Unfortunately, the evil Monty has arrived and is blasting them with an RPG!
In a supreme moment of badassery, WW actually catches the explosive warhead and throws it back! Let's see the Dark Knight do that!
In the end, Monty is in custody, Eisenhower is safe, and WW is selected as Miss G.I. Dreamgirl 1942. It would be the perfect ending if it weren't for Steve's lousy remarks. When Etta Candy asks what happened to Diana - why wasn't still in the contest? His reply:
Well, it's simple, Etta. When she found she'd have to share the stage with Wonder Woman, poor kid probably threw in the sponge.
|FAVORITE SCREEN GRAB: Diana Prince practices for the beauty contest|
FANTASY MUPPET FILM ADAPTATION
- Miss Piggy as Wonder Woman
- Kermit as Steve Trevor
- Fozzie as Jack Wood
- Gonzo as Colonel Flint
- Janice as Rita
- Scooter as Etta Candy
- Sam the Eagle as Eisenhower
- Uncle Deadly as Monty.... I just can't picture Rowlf being bad.
- I don't know who'd play Lola. Perhaps that could be a human "guest star" like Stella Stevens or Joey Heatherton. Charles Grodin could play General Blankenship.
LANDMARK: First episode where Diana changes into woman via an explosion. Episodes 1 and 2 used a slow motion spin effect.
|This was Christa Helms' last role|