RIP: Dixie Carter, 1939-2010
Very sad news to those of us that grew up on a steady diet of television in the mid-80s. Dixie Carter passed away last night at the treasured age of 70.
Actress Dixie Carter, 70, who most memorably portrayed Southern interior designer Julia Sugarbaker on the sitcom Designing Women from 1986 to 1993, died Saturday morning. “This has been a terrible blow to our family,” Carter’s husband, actor Hal Holbrook, told Entertainment Tonight. “We would appreciate everyone understanding that this is a private family tragedy.”
Unlike most gay men, I am not able to repeat and often even recognize lines from Steel Magnolias because that is not the south I grew up in. I grew up in Atlanta and my experience was always more Designing Women, if it had to be associated with a female-led media product at all. I was always a Julia, and expect that I always shall be. When Dixie Carter moved into forming her career outside of the show, it was weird–especially her exercise videos–but I grew up just as she grew out of the show. Unfortunately her other roles and efforts will always be eclipsed by the show, and even I hesitate to remember her that way knowing that her personal beliefs and politics were in sharp contrast to those of the character she played. But no one–especially no gay man–can deny that as Julia Sugarbaker, she gave some of the best moments on television, including the following clip which may rank as some of the best televised 2½ minutes of the 1980s (and beyond):
The above clip is still played in many gay bars and often recited word for word, though that is likely just as due to its repetition as it is its fandom. Someone mentioned that her passing may cause there to be a revival of Designing Women episodes on television to match the frequency of those of The Golden Girls. And that would be a very fine thing, indeed. If there are any Desperate Housewives fans out there, please let me know which episodes I should pick up to see her last TV role.