I was at a (the) lesbian bar in Seattle listening to a show when I found out. I was in the restroom, checking twitter, like I do, when I saw a few folks saying goodbye to you. And. my. heart. broke. When I went back out Violet leaned in and said, “What’s wrong, JJ? You look sad.”
Dixie Carter has always been a favorite of mine, for many reasons, but namely her character on Designing Women (of which I’ve seen every episode and realize that this does not surprise any of you but thought I’d put that out there.) Julia Sugarbaker was important to me. She was one of the first influences where my little jesse-self consciously and intentionally decided that I wanted and needed to be more like her. I idolized her. Watching her allowed me to realize that being well spoken trumps anything else (a hint of southern charm and dramatic flare only help). There is no brawn, no brain, no intimidation, laws, politics, bigotry, hate, or injustice that could outdo what it was that Julia Sugarbaker had to say.
I can very clearly see her walking down the staircase towards the end of the show, classy, intact, mad but with a confident and startling calm, towards whomever it was that had wronged her or her friends. She would start to talk slowly, simply, “You know, Mr. Henderson, it isn’t nice to call someone names…” until eventually the speed and intensity of her voice crushendoed, never losing composure. And there was a feeling in the air, a buzz of electric energy that was only a few final thoughts away from the final punch. And when she said, “…and another thing, Mr. Henderson…” you were totally frozen, gripping the arms on the chair, ready to stand up and explode in cheering. Because you might be the tallest, strongest, meanest, smartest man in the world, Mr. Henderson, but you have NOTHING on the intelligence, vocabulary, dignity, confidence, and articulation of Julia Sugarbaker, with her precisely polished ability to deliver what it is, exactly, that needed to be said. And now that she just told you off and where to go in the most charming, seductive, intimidating, eloquent way- you apologize- the crowd goes wild- and the credits roll.
That is what Julia Sugarbaker could do. That is what Dixie Carter could do. That is what a beautiful, intelligent, strong woman looks like. And that is what I want to be like when I grow up.
Thank you, Dixie Carter. May you rest in peace.