DIXIE CARTER 1939-2010
You know that question about who you would invite to a dinner party if you could invite anyone? Can you imagine having dinner with Dixie Carter and Hal Holbrook? Unfortunately, that’s no longer a possibility. Dixie Carter, best known as Julia Sugarbaker on Designing Women, has died at the age of 70. I trust the cabaret bar in Heaven is the place to be tonight. She had a long, versatile career, but to most people my age she is simply “the really cool chick” from Designing Women. Lately, I’ve been kicking around the idea of profiling female role models. The good ones. The ones that like being women, but still possess a fearless independence. I can’t think of a better place to start with than the beautiful, poised, wise and graceful Dixie Carter.
Carter didn’t really make it until she was over 40, possibly because she took 8 years off to raise her daughters when they were small, even though she knew her career would pay the price. She was married 3 times. The third being the charm. How could it not be with Hal Holbrook?
I was in junior high during Designing Women. The only thing about me that was remotely secure at that age were the braces glued to my teeth. You could always tell when Julia Sugarbaker was getting fired up. She would then deliver these brilliant monologues on everything from AIDS to chastising non-southerners for keeping their crazy people in the attic. The fact that these diatribes were written for Carter, by a very liberal friend of the Clintons was lost on me. At an age where most girls just wanted to be pretty I just wanted to be able to tell someone off like Julia Sugarbaker. Pure confidence and wit. Words are so powerful, and at that time I thought they could never be taken away from us. I really thought that if I was just spunky enough I would be able to verbally obliterate anyone and everyone I was displeased with, and I would be met with spontaneous, thunderous applause. (Excuse me, I’m having a moment. I just found something I have in common with President Obama.) It didn’t happen, but I still enjoy the dream.
As I got older I realized that the logic behind many of those monologues was incredibly flawed. Julia Sugarbaker was still cool, but she was wrong. I was happy to hear a few years ago that Carter was actually a registered Republican and considered herself a libertarian. My hero was validated. Rumor has it she and Linda Bloodworth had a deal that for every one of those addresses she delivered she got to sing a song on the show. For viewers, it was a win-win.
Regardless of her political stripes, Dixie Carter was a class act, and in spite of Julia Sugarbaker’s misguided beliefs, Carter’s delivery still showed that a woman can have a sharp mind, a silver tongue and still be a lady.