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Those Eyes : Six Years Ago Linda Evans Was Considered Too Old to Cast. Today, She's Made Maturity a Sexy Commodity

October 20, 1985|BETTIJANE LEVINE | Bettijane Levine is The Times fashion editor.

Is there anyone who doesn't like Linda Evans? Probably. But people who know about such things can't think of who that might be. Gossip columnists, producers, paparazzi, extras on the "Dynasty" set, for mer stepchildren, costume designers and just plain folks who have seen her around all claim she's "the nicest gal in town."

Then you get to Evans, on the "Dynasty" set, her eyes twinkling the same shade of blue as the sequins on her Nolan Miller gown. And even she admits she's "good." That's partly because Hollywood's hottest television blonde has learned "never to focus on negatives." Positives are her thing. What's most positive is that, each week, 100 million people in 90 countries watch Evans play the beautiful, virtuous wife of Blake Carrington and wish they could either marry her, look like her, dress like her or at least help her find a real-life Mr. Right--someone to deliver the saintly star from her well-publicized childless, husbandless plight.

Failing that, they can at least vote her "the best-looking woman in America" (People magazine, April, 1985) or one of "America's 10 most beautiful women" (Harper's Bazaar, September, 1985) or "the new blonde image of the 1980s" (an independent research poll for Clairol). They can buy magazines with her face on the cover (Harper's Bazaar, Saturday Evening Post, McCall's, Ladies' Home Journal) and purchase the products she represents (Forever Krystle perfume, the Dynasty line of clothes, Crystal Light soft drinks, Ultress hair color).

What female Evans fans want to do most, it seems, is help. "They phone and write, offering to fix her up on dates," an Evans associate says, adding that Evans is probably the female TV star "best liked by women."

Evans admits that hundreds of females write her, offering to "lend their husbands or boyfriends if I need an escort. They know I'm single and they trust me with their men." Evans, however, doesn't act like she needs help.

Sure, she's nice. And kind. In fact, on her way to be interviewed, she offers to help an elderly delivery man carry his heavy carton up the steps. (He declines.) And she's strong. Between takes she's often on the telephone, instructing heaven-knows-whom about buying and selling heaven-knows-what.

"I'm into everything," Evans says, declining to explain what "everything" is.

Her personal goal right now, she says, is "freedom." It's obvious that life as a superstar and pitchwoman doesn't allow her much of that. And in case anyone is about to whip off yet another post card offering Evans yet another date, it should be noted that the actress is "very much involved" with L.A. businessman Richard Cohen but denies rumors that they'll marry.

Women may feel trust, but men feel lust. "Dynasty" co-creator and co-executive producer Esther Shapiro remembers the time "a bunch of us sat around watching dailies, and Linda came in wearing this extraordinary flimsy blue lounging thing. When we saw her, there was an audible gasp--an involuntary thing that physically happened to the men present. It was a moment I'll never be able to forget."

Evans' brand of sex appeal apparently sizzles right through the small screen into some very upscale living rooms. Shapiro explains: "There are men in high political places, tycoons and men of power--I can't reveal their names--who watch the show and send her flowers or call and ask to meet her. These are power people, men who are into owning things, and she's obviously something they'd like to own. Knowing Linda, that's the one thing to which she wouldn't respond."

Evans modestly asserts that she can't remember any of the high-and-mighty types to whom Shapiro refers. The reason she can't remember, she explains, is that "it doesn't really matter. They don't want me; they want Krystle." And Evans understands too well the difference between a TV character and that person in real life.

On Nov. 18 she will be 43 years old. For most of those years she was neither rich, well known nor on the A list for parties. In fact, an industry insider confides that as recently as six years ago, Evans was turned down for parts, including one in "Dallas," because people thought she was too old.

Her parents were dancers. And her not-so-well-off family was even less so after her father died of cancer, while Evans was at North Hollywood High. She entered show business via commercials and struggled along until her stint as Barbara Stanwyck's daughter on "The Big Valley," from 1965 to 1969.

When Evans married her childhood idol, John Derek (16 years her senior), she all but disappeared from view. She has since told interviewers that he didn't want her to work, except with him. She has also repeatedly, and incongruously, praised that marriage in interviews, once confiding to a reporter from Orange Coast magazine:

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