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Lynda Carter’s stunt double in ‘Wonder Woman’ got start at Circus Circus

Kim Renee’s living room is a museum — a shrine, even — devoted to Princess Diana of Themyscira.

Doesn’t ring a bell? How about Diana Prince?

Still nothing? OK, let’s just call her by the name generations of comic readers know her by: Wonder Woman.

Renee has Wonder Woman dolls, a Wonder Woman Barbie, Wonder Woman stationery, Wonder Woman toys, a Wonder Woman USB drive — and that Wonder Woman top she’s wearing looks pretty sharp, too.

But the most intriguing bits of Wonder Woman memorabilia Renee has are photos that show her on the set of the 1975-79 TV series starring Lynda Carter. Renee was an aerial stunt double on the series during its second and third seasons.

According to Renee, when you see Wonder Woman leaping or jumping or diving from high spans, you’re probably watching her.

Renee spent much of her childhood living with her grandmother in New York, and, she says, “I’ve wanted to be an actor since I was a little kid.”

“I always thought I was going to have an Oscar,” Renee says. She laughs.

“I still think I’m going to have an Oscar. I really do believe I’m going to be like that woman from ‘Titanic’ (Gloria Stuart). She was (87) and got her nomination for an Oscar. I’m hoping I don’t wait that long.”

At age 12, Renee moved back to Las Vegas to live with her mother and took every drama or theater class Clark and Valley high schools could offer. After graduating from Valley, she was all set to move with her mother to Pasadena, Calif., to pursue acting.

Then, a friend of the family got her a job at Circus Circus where, she says, “I fell in love with the trapeze act. I told my mother I’m going to join the circus.”

Mom wasn’t pleased, but Renee did learn to fly on the trapeze, pursuing a circus career that took her all over Europe and the United States.

“I loved flying on the trapeze,” Renee says. “It’s the most uplifting, exciting thing. I felt like I was an angel flying.”

After marrying and moving back to Las Vegas, Renee was working the trapeze at Circus Circus when she says she received a call from a Hollywood stuntman named Bobby Yerkes. “He said, ‘Would you like to be Wonder Woman?’ I said, ‘What’s Wonder Woman?’ I didn’t watch TV.

“He said, ‘It’s a TV show. I need your teeterboard experience and your flying experience, and you’ll make good money,” Renee says, and that’s all it took.

During seasons two and three of what began as “Wonder Woman” on ABC and “The New Adventures of Wonder Woman” on CBS, Renee says she was called to the set whenever jumping, leaping or aerial stunts were needed.

See Wonder Woman jumping off the boat in the opening credits? “That’s me,” Renee says. Wonder Woman jumping over the railing? That’s her, too. Jumping out of that three-story window in downtown L.A.? Yep, she says.

At the same time, Renee continued to working as a cocktail waitress at Circus Circus on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, heading to California whenever called.

Carter, by the way, was “awesome” to work with, Renee says. Once, after injuring herself doing a high fall out of a five-story window — the only time she was injured doing a stunt — Renee was taken to the hospital with a collapsed lung.

“She called. She said, ‘Tell her I’m concerned. Let me know what’s wrong.’ She was very caring. Then, at Christmas, she gave us all these silver lame jackets that had red stars and said ‘Wonder Crew’ on them. I wore that thing until it fell apart.”

Renee says she also has worked on shows including “Vega$” and movies such as “Rush Hour 2,” “Con-Air” and, most recently, an episode of “Modern Family.”

Renee now works as a dealer at Mandalay Bay and was surprised to see that the Lynda Carter iteration of Wonder Woman is the subject of a slot machine that, she says, features video footage of her, too.

“I called SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and they got me a nice check,” she says. “I got paid 35 years later because of SAG.” (Renee currently is vice president of the Nevada local of SAG-AFTRA — the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.)

Renee is writing a memoir called “Wonder Woman 702,” seeking to continue her acting career and — no surprise — is looking forward to catching the new “Wonder Woman” movie that opens Friday.

“The trailers are great,” she says, and star Gal Gadot brings “a very European, very worldly” take to Wonder Woman.

So what’s behind the enduring appeal of Wonder Woman? “She gives girls a feeling of empowerment,” Renee says. “And look at the shows. She helps save people. She’s a humanitarian.”

Contact John Przybys at reviewjournal.com. or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

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