Bil Browning

Goodbye Julia Sugarbaker: "She spoke the truth"

Filed By Bil Browning | April 11, 2010 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Augusta, Dixie Carter, gay idols, gay men, Julia Sugarbaker, obituary, Patti O' Furniture, Patti O'Furniture

Actress Dixie Carter has passed away at age 70. Dixie_Carter_LF.jpgShe was best known for portraying the spitfire southern lady Julia Sugarbaker on the TV show Designing Women. The show was a nationwide hit and was one of the first to feature an openly gay male character.

All of the women from the show were LGBT supporters in real life too. This clip from the 2006 Designing Women reunion at the Paley Center for Media highlights their gay fans and how the show would have tackled the issue of same-sex marriage.

After the jump is the Julia Sugarbaker "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" speech referenced in the video. Also included for your viewing pleasure is drag queen Patti O' Furniture performing the monologue at the Augusta, GA Pride Pageant last month.

Dixie Carter as Julia Sugarbaker

Patti O' Furniture at Augusta Pride 2010

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Peter Monn and Alex Paredes Peter Monn and Alex Paredes | April 11, 2010 5:52 PM

Such an icon. I think I've seen every episode and
with the likes of Auntie Mame and Atticus Finch
she rounded me as the person I wanted to be
someday. She will be dearly missed!!! One of the
first characters to ever address AIDS and gay issues
on national television.

Aww. She will be missed. Your links got me started watching clips from designing women. I'm not sure how to imbed a youtube video on this site but I ran into the New Orleans segment about the man in the lady's room --->

They spike the tap water !!

In real life though, both Delta Burke and Dixie Carter are/were republicans who (although were more progressive on gay issues) supported the 'mainstream' republican party. I think Dixie Carter was a good actress, but she was politically very different than her tv character was. :-(

Being republican when Designing Women was first televised was quite different than it is now. They had not yet taken the anti gay money machine mantle that proved so successful years later. The party still would not say the word "Gay" in those days This show was during the early introduction of evangelical religion into politics in America.

At one time she was a big Jimmy Carter supporter, that may have turned her Republican;-)

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 12, 2010 4:59 AM

Very Very True!

I was distressed to hear about the news about Dixie Carter. An excellent actress who although a Republican, was very much a feminist.

A couple of queer trivia items related to this post. Her husband, Hal Holbrook, has been a hero to me ever since he appeared in the very first made-for-TV-movie about gay people. "That Certain Summer" appeared on ABC circa 1972. He played Martin Sheen's lover (we didn't use the term partner then), and the story was about Sheen's teenage son coming to spend the summer with him, and how they dealt with their relationship. Sheen has also been a hero to me ever since, and they're both fantastic actors. A few years ago, Holbrook did a guest role on "The West Wing", and it was a little weird seeing them together again some 30 years later.

Even more obscure trivia is that I saw Jean Smart Off-Off-Off-Broadway in the lesbian tearjerk play, "Last Summer at Bluefish Cove" many years before she was in "Designing Women". The only reason I know that is that many years after I saw the play, I was going through a bunch of old papers, and found the program from the play and saw her name in it after I knew who she was.

So Dixie definitely kept very good company.

r o g n y c | April 12, 2010 3:35 PM

Thanks for the triv. Julia's STD rant is queer TV history too.

I loved Dixie carter as an actress, a singer, and for her general zest and verve. The only thing I didn't care for was her belief that the Confederate flag she flew proudly at her house was a symbol of regional pride and not one of racism. I'll never agree with her on that one. There are plenty of other ways to show Southern pride than by flying that hateful flag.