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Beaches, Bitches, and Legends

How does Linda Evans balance stardom with reality?

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Who could ever forget the episode of Dynasty where Linda Evans' Krystle overheard Joan Collins' bitchy Alexis talking smack about her in the beauty parlor and angrily doused her with a great big bowl of facial mud? Now that was good television. Eighteen years after TV's most celebrated nighttime soap took its final bow, Evans (pictured, right) and Collins (pictured, left) are hoping to recapture some of their famous "anti-chemistry" by co-starring in James Kirkwood's comedy Legends!, a play about two fading divas putting on a play. Evans, who rose to stardom as Audra, a beautiful danger-prone cowgirl in The Big Valley, and who wiggled alongside Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello in Beach Blanket Bingo, spoke with the Flyer to fill us in on all the sordid details.

Flyer: Which of these two shows was more like a soap opera backstage: Dynasty or Beach Blanket Bingo?

Linda Evans: Oh, Dynasty. Definitely Dynasty. There were no dramas on the set of Beach Blanket Bingo. With those [beach] movies, it was all about putting on your bathing suit, lining up, and getting sprayed down with water. And they always filmed those things in the wintertime, so the water was freezing. I was so tall they had to dig a trench in the sand for me to walk in so I wouldn't be taller than everybody else.

After Dynasty went off the air you disappeared for a while. Why quit at the top of your game?

I wanted a real life; to get back to reality. It's such an unreal thing, that world. And I love the Pacific Northwest, so I got a house on a lake. There was also a spiritual school there that I was interested in.

So, how famous were you?

One time I landed in a private jet deep in the Australian outback. As soon as I got out of the plane I started hearing people calling out, "Krystle, Krystle," and I thought, How in the world does anybody here know who I am? And that's when I noticed the antennas mounted on all of the little huts. When you're [in a hit show], it's very unreal what you're going through.

Once you've reached that level, can you ever really reclaim "reality"?

I did. That's why I'm able to go in and out of show business. You have to understand, show business was never a priority. I was "discovered" when I was 15. I always thought that after high school I would go to college. But every time I would enroll, another [role] would come along. Eventually, I thought to myself, What job am I ever going to get where I can make this kind of money? And then I'd fall in love and get married, and when I was married, I'd stop working. Then I'd start working again when the marriage ended. Like so many women of my generation, I thought having a family was the answer to everything, and it never entered my mind to have a career. Then, after my second marriage ended, I thought, Who am I? Elizabeth Taylor? I was 38 when I called my agent and said I was ready to go to work. He said, "So now you want a career!" And when I got Dynasty, it couldn't have been more of a prayer answered.

And now you're in a truly infamous show. The first production of Legends! tanked because its stars, Carol Channing and Mary Martin, fought backstage like Alexis and Krystle.

I know. I bought the book [Diary of a Mad Playwright], and when I started to read about Legends!, I said to myself, This is not going to be my experience. Someone who had seen the original production told me that Mary was having trouble with her lines. So she wore an earpiece, and they fed her her lines. During one performance, she started picking up signals from the airport. How terrible is that?

You've never really been on stage before, have you?

I had no idea about the beauty of theater acting. It's so different from acting for a camera. In the beginning, I almost had a nervous breakdown. [Legends! director] John Bowab told me not to worry. He said it would be no problem since he'd taken Lana Turner and Jane Russell from the screen to the stage. And then I'm working with Joan [Collins] who has been acting onstage since she was 12.

Are you now an accomplished stage veteran?

I don't think I would say "accomplished."

And what's happening backstage? Are you and Joan duking it out?

When you do a play like this, you're on the road for eight or nine months. So it's like a family, and like any family there are difficult times and there are good times.

I'm trying to build a cliffhanger here. I need to know how things are going between you and Joan to give people some extra incentive to see the show.

You know, there is so much stress in the world these days, and this is such a fun show. It has some catfights, and there's a strip. People just leave the theater with the best feeling.

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