Designing Women S4 E2 Extra Sugar - Dixie Carter
Updated: Feb 4
We’ve done segments about the lives and careers of LBT, Meschach Taylor, Delta Burke, and Jean Smart, but we still owe you a Dixie Carter deep-dive. Today’s the day we pay up. We’re finally talking about Ms. Julia Sugarbaker herself, THE Dixie Carter.
You can learn more by reading:
Abbey Restaurant Atlanta (An amazing news clip from the late 70s right here in Atlanta)
Come on, let’s get into it!
[0:00:21] Salina: Hey, Nikki. Hey. This is not the main episode.
Nikki: I forgot to say bye at the end of the last episode.
Salina: Well, that's actually what I was going to queue you up for.
Nikki: Oh, right.
Salina: So they know that I didn't like I don't want anybody think I hurt you. There was no exit for you.
Nikki: Bye. Bye.
Salina: All right, well, welcome to this week's edition of an extra classy, extra sugar. Why extra classy, you may ask? Well, because today we're dedicating our time to the one and the only dixie Carter. And this certainly isn't our first time taking a closer look at cast members over the seasons. As a reminder, we spot lit a bit of Delta Burke's pageant history way back in season one, episode two, hot Dogs in a pageant.
[0:01:17] Salina: Then we covered her and Gerald McRaney's love story. And season Two episode six the King of Southern Softcore These are the renamed episodes.
Nikki: The Hot dogs in a pageant. I was like, what? That wasn't the name of that. Oh, it was our name. Right, got it.
Salina: Then we chatted about Jean Smart's Jeanneassance in season one, episode 14 the Princess of Whoopi. So we've also, in full disclosure, explored Dixie and Hal holbrook's relationship back in season one, episode eight, love and Annulment. But this time, this time it's different. That's a lot of dramatic build up. We're giving our full attention to the Queen B and I thought we'd start with...
Nikki: What'd you call her the queen C? The Queen D?
Salina: Sure. Dixie.
[0:02:08] Salina: Yeah, I get it. Fine. Sounds like you're over there cursing. Alright, so I thought we'd start with some details about her personal life and then we'll move on to her career and then we'll cap it off with some trivia that I stole borrowed from Internet movie database. As always, Nikki,
Nikki: primary research.
Salina: Nikki? Yes. Please be standing for the audience.
Nikki: Got it.
Salina: Let me know what questions you have. I will maybe answer them. We'll see.
Nikki: Will you be referring to her as queen D for the rest of the segment?
Salina: I really don't want to, but I think that you should and I support you. Can do.
[0:02:51] Salina: Will do. Okay. Got it guys. So let's start with the personal life. Dixie Carter was born on May 25, 1939 in Macklemoresville, Tennessee. A small town roughly halfway between Memphis and Nashville. Also really hard for me to pronounce. I feel like every time I go to say...
Nikki: Halfway between Nashville and what?
Nikki: Oh, you said Tennessee. Yeah. I thought you said Virginia.
Salina: Let's start over.
Nikki: I'm doing a great job for the audience.
Salina: It's good.
[0:03:26] Salina: They probably thought I said Virginia too.
Nikki: Probably not.
Salina: Gosh. So as a reminder, since we covered this point long ago, hers, Annie Potts' and Delta Burke's are all real southern accents. Only Jean Smart didn't have a southern accent. But I think hers is really good.
Nikki: She does real good.
Salina: It's so good. Anyways, so Dixie's dad, Queen D, as Nikki has asked me to call her.
Nikki: Would that make him king D?
Salina: I really hope not. So she's having a good time all by herself.
Nikki: Too much lunch. They don't even need me.
Salina: So her dad was Halbert Leroy Carter, a grocery and department store owner, and her mom's name was Virginia.
[0:04:13] Salina: That's all they said about her.
Nikki: Her dad's name was Halbrook. Halbert? Isn't her husband's name Hal?
Salina: Hal Holbrook.
Salina: That is kind of strange. Yeah. Dixie had two siblings and she attended I didn't come out and say English because I'm laughing so much. Dixie dang it all right. So Dixie had two siblings. She attended the University of Tennessee and Southwestern at Memphis, and she graduated from Memphis State. Thank you, New York Times. She was married three times. We've also talked about that before, but in 1967, she married Arthur L.
[0:04:52] Salina: Carter. He is the father of her two daughters, Jenna and Mary Dixie. He was a New York investment banker and later became owner and publisher of the New York Observer. And they divorced ten years later in 1977. That same year, she married actor George Hearn, but their union only lasted two years. And then she married the great love of her life, Hal Holbrook, in 1984. And as we've discussed, they were together until she passed in 2010 from ovarian cancer. So the two did have a house together in California, but they also kept a home in Maclasmoreville. It was a hometown of Tennessee. And in 1999, she told the Palm Beach Post that she treasured the courtesy and kindness she found in Tennessee, a welcome contrast to the backstabbing and sniping of Hollywood. She was a big fan, bet her neighbors love to read that.
Nikki: Well, you know, it just kind of makes you I don't know. Damn it, Dixie, I brought you cookies. And never again.
Salina: So let's talk about her career.
[0:05:59] Salina: Like so many of us born in small towns, her dream was to move to New York City. And her particular dream was to sing opera. And she made that move in 1963, three years after making her professional debut in Memphis as Julie Jordan in Carousel. And by that move, I mean the move to New York City, not the move to opera. Just want to make sure I'm being clear there. Dixie bounced around between plays, musicals and nightclubs of all stripes until she landed on Broadway in 1974, a place she returned multiple times. And her last performance was in 2004. Motherhood led to an eight year hiatus, and when she returned to entertainment, she sought TV roles. And it was her role on the short lived Filthy Rich in 1982 that really paved the way to Designing Women, because LBT created Filthy Rich. And that's where she came across, I think, her and also Delta Burke. And in fact, it's just a reminder of something we talked about a long time ago when she came to when she pitched Designing Women. She had all four of these women in mind, including Dixie Carter. But it was Cabaret. That was Dixie's really big passion, and she began doing that in the then she did that for the rest of her life. She only received one Emmy nomination.
[0:07:17] Salina: Any guesses? No guesses. For which she earned it for yeah. What? She got her Emmy nomination for Designing Women?
Nikki: No, Cabaret.
Salina: The old Cabaret Emmy nomination. So it's really weird. She got it much later in her career, in 2007 for her portrayal as one of the main characters mother in laws on Desperate Housewives. Interesting. Did you watch Desperate Housewives? I was very resistant to that show.
Nikki: And you really liked it?
Salina: Really get you. Really get you.
[0:07:57] Nikki: I got enough shows that really get me.
Salina: Yeah. So the last thing I want to do is cover some trivia again, I want to give full credit to IMDb. Here are all the people who randomly put some trivia there. So is it real? I don't know. Sorry. Primary, right, as the Ringer podcast would call it. This is what you would call half ass internet research.
Nikki: Did you just lift from another podcast?
Salina: I sure did. That's a double lift. Anyways, so I learned this, and I guess I never really ran across this, but she really was a Carter. Like, she was born Dixie Carter, and then her first husband's last name was Carter. No relation.
[0:08:46] Salina: They just also happened to have the same last name. But I thought that was kind of weird.
Nikki: What did you say? Oh, I guess her dad's name was Halbert. But you didn't say his last name carter. Oh, yeah, I just flew right over my head because I was distracted by another Hal in her life.
Salina: Nikki, right now you're on a podcast. It's very poorly constructed. I just can't keep up at all. She also shares the same exact birthday with sir ian McKellen and then the birth date of may 25 with mike myers, Cilliam Murphy, and octavia spencer. She was valedictorian of her high school class, and we've talked about this as well, but she was very open about having plastic surgery at a time when this was still quite taboo. Dixie was in the Delta delta delta sorority.
Nikki: Tri Delta.
Salina: Thank you and God bless. Why couldn't this have been Delta Burke's?
[0:09:47] Nikki: That would have been amazing. She would have been a quad delta - I have a sound over here.
Salina: Okay. I didn't know what you were just saying to me, to be honest. We're a clean podcast, Nikki. We're a clean podcast. Okay. So she wrote a book in 1996 called Trying to Get to Heaven opinions of a Tennessee Talker. I just need you to know that I'm super upset because I found this out. I bought it right away. Amazon lost it, and so I never got it because I was going to read it. The last copy ever printed, maybe. I don't know.
Salina: Did you get your money back.
[0:10:30] Salina: I did.
Nikki: Okay, good.
Salina: I did. But then they like, jack the price up. I don't know.
Nikki: Check the library.
Salina: I didn't check the library right on top of that. Check your library right on top of that. It sounded mean, but I know you go to the library. Check your library. You do it. Check it out. Publishers Weekly also gave it a nasty little review, so that was kind of mean.
[0:10:51] Salina: Anyways,
Nikki: they gave it a what?
Salina: A nasty little review? Like a bad review. Oh, okay. Not like Janet if you're nasty.
Salina: Okay. All right. So even though Dixie was proud of her Southern roots and became famous for playing a Southerner on Designing Women, when it came to picking husbands, only one of her three husbands was a Southerner. That was George Hern. And that turned out to be your shortest marriage.
Nikki: So Hal wasn't southern.
Salina: Never been very southern. Well, I mean, he also does Mark Twain, so I guess he's just really a good actor.
Nikki: Must be.
[0:11:35] Salina: Speaking of Hal, let's get this back on track.
Salina: You're supposed to be a stand in for the audience. You do. Leave Linda, Ohio. She was smitten with Hal when they first met because he was the first person to not make fun of her first name. And then I mentioned her. One Emmy nomination was for Desperate Housewives. That show's creator was Mark Cherry. I think I've mentioned this before, but a funny little twist. He got his start in Hollywood as her assistant on the set of Designing Women. I see. That's so interesting. The Dixie Carter Performing Arts and Enrichment Center in Huntington, Tennessee is affectionately referred to as the Dixie, and it is named for her. Her and Hal Holbrook were both extremely instrumental in its development and design.
[0:12:24] Salina: And they both held performances to help fund the center. And there's even a museum on the grounds honoring their cultural contributions. That's nice. The theater is about to debut its 17th season. So I will leave you with a little quote from Dixie. She once remarked, of course, in the south, we talked about people too, she said, but if you end your comments with bless her heart, you're off the hook. Well, bless your hearts, everyone. And that's this week's Extra Sugar.