In the brave bassackward new world of Norman Lear’s latest syndicated TV satire, All That Glitters, manizing female executives are on top, and the behinds that get pinched belong to male secretaries (one of whom is said to have “the cutest bottom in the whole damn company”). The women cheat like crazy on their househusbands, though they also constantly get roosterpecked. The series will have as seismic an effect on sexism, maintains the Washington Post, as Roots did on racism.
Once again producer Lear (All in the Family, Sanford and Son, Mary Hart-man) is on the cutting edge of the American consciousness, but Glitters is the first series in which his corporation’s first female executive, Virginia Carter, VP for creative affairs, was present at the creation. Carter, 40, is Norman’s staff “feminist adviser” and the veritable Hamilton Jordan-cum-Midge Costanza of his Hollywood countergovernment. As Lear’s liaison with consultant shrinks, she ensured that Mary Hartman’s schizophrenia didn’t go beyond the pale of medical probability. And when Lear finally prescribed euthanasia for the series, Carter was a key decision-maker in launching Fernwood Tonight, the MH, MH spin-off spoof of the Carson show.
Virginia came to Lear at the behest of his wife, Frances, who runs a high-powered executive placement firm for women and minorities. Carter was at the time a physicist, frustratingly underpaid ($18,000) compared with her male counterparts at Aerospace Corp. “I couldn’t even find a ladder to climb,” she groused. “When Norman first asked me, I had a fleeting moment of hesitation. I had spent a lot of my life’s blood sweating over Schrödinger’s equation and quantum mechanics. I had to look up the word ‘chauvinism.’ ” Now she’s discovered that there’s no other business than show business. “We do ‘shake tests and stress tests’ here, except now they’re called ‘auditions.’ ” Of Glitter she says, “I would love it if the show changes people. My own consciousness has gone way up, even though six months ago I thought I was already there.” Indeed, she had served two years as president of the L.A. chapter of the National Organization for Women.
Raised in Arvida, a Quebec mining town approaching the Arctic Circle, Carter’s own past is a Lear-like “reversal.” Daughter of an engineer, she was a reserve officer with the Royal Canadian Air Force while attending Montreal’s McGill University. After graduation she moved to L.A., picked up an M.S. in physics at USC and signed with Aerospace.
She now resides with two Siamese cats in Palos Verdes, tearing to work in a Peugeot. (“If I bought a Mercedes I would lose my footing in the scientific world.”) She works out daily on a stationary bike, having recovered from a mastectomy, and is addicted to fishing. Parents, siblings, nieces and nephews live nearby. “I love them all dearly, and it’s reciprocated,” Carter says. “I’ve never been married, but I’ve certainly been in love,” which, she maintains, is “easy. It’s being out of love that’s hard, and I’ve had a lot of practice with that.” Marriage would only be considered “if I could trade help. Too many marriages are structured so that the wife provides the help, but I need help.” Lest the world, however, think some malcontent is running All That Glitters, Virginia Carter adds, “Please note, I’m happy.”