dixie carter (1939-2010)
It’s hard to say the effect that the sassy, commanding, talented, and lovely Dixie Carter has had on my taste in women in comedy. But it’s safe to say that Carter, who died yesterday at the age of 70 due to complications with cancer, has given me more than a few memorable moments during post-school Lifetime Channel back-to-back goodness of Julia Sugarbaker in her element. Say what you will of Designing Women, a sitcom that had its faults but was ultimately a hilarious and entertaining piece of television history, but there’s no denying that Carter was an uber-talent of the 1980s. (When one thinks of Designing Women, isn’t the first thing that comes to mind a classic Julia Sugarbaker tirade on some sexist oaf who stupidly crossed her?) Needless to say, Ms. Carter is no stranger to my television, and I was crushed to hear that she’d passed.
Now let’s think back – this may be lost on some of you readers because of its complete obscurity and critical drubbing – but I must admit my devotion to Dixie went so far as to lead me to the short-lived late-1990s legal drama Family Law, in which Carter played Randi King, the smart-as-a-whip divorce attorney pal to Kathleen Quinlan’s lead attorney. Let’s be honest folks – Dixie made “cougaring” look good ages before it became heavily popularized in recent years. Carter’s character seemed more poised to belong to the over-sexed cast of Ally McBeal than anything with “family” in the title. Regardless, she was a brilliant force for a show that needed her every actorly talent. And it was nice to see a little tinge of Sugarbaker still in her.