What sparked your interest in design? Perhaps it wasn't a "what" but a "who". For me, I credit Dorothy Draper and her how-to guides. Who wouldn't want to become a decorator (or a design hanger-on) after reading those. There was also my parents' decorator. He was an old-school decorator who talked about his opera pumps and who reminisced about dancing with Wallis Warfield as a young man in Baltimore. But there was also a bit of popular culture that helped to stoke my fascination with interior design, and that would be my all-time favorite TV show "Designing Women". When I learned yesterday that Dixie Carter, a.k.a. Julia Sugarbaker, had died, well, I felt like I lost a mentor.
Oh sure, even back then I knew that Sugarbaker Design was not your typical design firm. First, and let's be honest here, their offices were really not well-decorated. Editing was, perhaps, not part of the Sugarbaker lexicon. It was a mish-mash of "stuff", but the offices really weren't about antiques, bolts of fabrics, and random accessories. It was about the cast of characters. Of course, Julia Sugarbaker was the character many of us wanted to emulate. She could cut people off at the knees with her biting words, all delivered with that honeyed Southern accent (thanks to Carter's upbringing in Memphis) and a smile. Remember how she made mincemeat of Ray Don Simpson? It was something to aspire to, but something I've never been able to do. I just can't think on my feet that quickly.
Then there was Suzanne, Delta Burke's man eating femme fatale. Oh yes, I wanted to be her too. In fact, to this day I still never leave the house without eyeliner on both the top and bottom lids. Suzanne taught me to do that; she had that dark hair and those bright blue eyes just like me, and that combination looks great with heavily (or in my case somewhat heavily) made up eyes. I mean, you just can't go out without your face on because if you do, you might miss your chance at meeting your own Dash Goff...or a really wealthy old man ready to kick the bucket.
Mary Jo was not one of my favorite characters. Yes, Annie Potts' character was cute as a button, but who wants to be that? There just wasn't a lot of glamour there, but perhaps that's because she always wore those really low-heeled pumps. She was a little nerdy, a little awkward...and that's something that when it comes down to it most of us can identify with.
And Charlene? Well, we all have our blonde moments no matter what color our hair is. She was brassy, just slightly rough around the edges, and had a heart of gold. I never quite got the whole Elvis fascination, but I share her nostalgia for the WWII era.
So in honor of the late Dixie Carter and Julia Sugarbaker, I'm including one of Julia's most famous speeches- The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia. Click the arrow above to see why we all admired her. And now I'm gonna go fluff up my hair, paint my nails red, put on a jewel toned silk blouse replete with shoulder pads, and go knock someone down to size.