April truly is the time of showers. Last April it was Bea Arthur. And now it’s Dixie Carter. All my icons are dying. Donna Summer and Mary Tyler Moore, take care of yourselves, see your doctors just as a precaution.
By the mid-’80s, I was on my own and no one could control my channel choices. Bea and I got reacquainted when “The Golden Girls” debuted in 1985. “Designing Women” came along a year later. Both shows were must-see programming for me. When I moved to
I bounced around in trying to decide which of the four original “Designing Women” characters I loved the most. Suzanne Sugarbaker was a younger Blanche right down to the Southern accent, Charlene was Rose and Mary Jo and Dixie Carter’s Julia split the Dorothy duties, with a few traces of Sophia thrown in. (Later, Alice Ghostley’s Bernice added another beloved Rose-like voice.) Much of the credit to the strong characters has to be given to writer Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, but Dixie Carter brought Julia to life. Julia regularly got on her pulpit, spouting off lengthy rants about justice and decorum. Her character inspired and empowered me. I daresay Julia Sugarbaker even contributed to my going to law school. (Not that I shared that with any of my fellow students! No, I went with the standard answer, citing “L.A. Law”. Everything is a little different in
I wrote a spec script for “Designing Women”, but I never dared to show it to anyone other than a jealous partner of mine who had recently given up his dream of becoming a television writer. His feedback was muffled. He did redeem himself by calling David Steinberg (a frequent director on the show and for whom he’d previously worked as a personal assistant) and getting us tickets to a taping of the show. By then, Jan Hooks and Judith Ivey were part of the revolving cast, but Dixie Carter was still there. I sat in a prime seat in the studio audience right beside her husband, Hal Holbrook. I did not dare speak to him, but it was obvious he enjoyed watching her perform as much as I did.
In later years, I did check out “Family Law”, strictly because Dixie Carter was in the cast and I was thrilled to see her surface as the wicked Gloria Hodge on “Desperate Housewives”. But
Gone too soon.