Dixie Carter, R.I.P.: Her five best 'Designing Women' moments

News of the incredibly sad passing of Dixie Carter immediately took me back the late ’80s/early ’90s and watching Designing Women episodes with my mom. In other words, mother and gay son bonding at its finest! Carter, of course, played Julia Sugarbaker, the elegant but hotheaded owner of Sugarbaker Designs. If you were an avid viewer of Women, you know that Julia losing her temper in an episode was as safe a bet as Delta Burke’s Suzanne Sugarbaker saying something incredibly offensive. I mean, the other characters actually referred to Julia as “The Terminator.” Carter’s performance was strong, sassy, and deliciously Southern. Here are my picks for her five best Designing Women moments. But of course feel free to share your own favorite Carter/Women moments in the comments section.

1.) In probably her most famous dressing down ever in the history of the show, Carter’s Julia completely tears into a former beauty pageant winner who’s been trash-talking her sister Suzanne.

2.) Trapped in jury duty, Julia unleashes her frustration on her fellow jurors. Genius detail of ripping her jurors on “eating baskets of fried cheese” and enjoying staying at some dingy motel.

3.) When Mary Jo (Annie Potts) takes in her old art teacher who’s escaped from her nursing home, Julia is forced to take in the elderly woman’s pal. Things do not go well. Watch and marvel at Carter’s delivery. Deeeelicious.

4.) The Sugarbaker design team are guests on the cable access talk show of loony Bernice Clifton (Alice Ghostley) and are mistaken for high-end prostitutes. My favorite line: “If you do not correct this, I am going to personally pick you up and throw you across the room.” I just laughed out loud again.

5.) When Sugarbakers is hired to decorate the homes of a man’s wife and mistress, Julia has difficulty keeping her feelings to herself (“I find you rude, lazy, horny and dumb”).

What do you think, PopWatchers? What classic moments have I missed?

Comments (440 total) Add your comment
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  • robin

    The episode with the gay designer planning his funeral was such a memorable episode. No one has since done anyting along these lines -tasteful, thought provoking, and poignant.

    • Zo

      I remember that one, too… Very moving. I think that was more Annie Potts’ episode if I can recall it correctly– like about sex ed. at her kids’ school? Was Tony Goldwyn the dying man?

      • marnie winston macauley

        As a former writer of “As the World Turns,” I worked for head writer, the late legendary Douglas Marland, who was a dear friend of Dixie and Hal. I had the pleasure of meeting her during one of her performances at the Carlisle Hotel in NY. She was a marvelous cabaret performer and ignited the stage, and the audience. Sadly, we lost Doug way too young as well. If there is a place somewhere to find one another, I hope they’re enjoying what they did in life: laugh; talk, use their talent; heart … oh, and take yachting trips together!

        Re: Episodes: So many …….. forgive me if I repeat, as some elements may have been in the same shows:

        *The Women of the South: the ladies find they’re doing sexual poses for a magazine pictorial. Smashing ending showing a montage of “real” photos.

        *Julia’s rant at the NYTimes re: remark that Southerners eat dirt.

        *The spa trip where the “girls” divide and attempt to conquer.

        *The take-off on the Supremes.

        *The religious debate over female ministers, ending with Julia hitting the high note.

        *Julia head on the gov’s stairway.

        *Reece’s heart attack.

        *The nieces played by Dixie’s talented and educated daughters.

        *Julia’s son’s “professorial” girlfriend.

        *Julia’s son’s wedding when she had a few too many bourbons.

        *Helping Mary Jo financially.

        *Bernice’s nose job — an “outlouder.”

        *Gerald McRaney teaching writing metaphors

        *Julia’s handbag becomes “art.”

        *Suzanne almost loses her crown.

        *Sexy nanny while couples are on vacation.

        *Battle of the sexes while on vacation.

        to name a few …………

        My sincerest and deepest sympathy (and I know Doug would want his name mentioned) to the Carter-Holbrook family. Losing Dixie, is losing someone extraordinary: a woman of enormous talent, grace, class, vivacity, brilliance, who succeeded in media, and in the toughest job of all, motherhood.

        Marnie Winston Macauley, asksadie@aol,com

      • Belle

        Yes, Tony Goldwyn was dying of AIDS. Remember this was in the 80s so the word AIDS was so tainted and so much hate. That was great episode. Designing Women, Golden Girls and Murphy Brown. Now those shows were great to showcase smart intelligent women!

    • Cory

      I agree…I think that was one of the best episodes. And the one where she keeps running over the pornography billboard

      • Lindsay

        Julia had a standout moment in that episode too that should probably be on the list. Remember when the whole debate about AIDS being God’s punishment to Homosexuals came up by way of an ignorant client and Julia blew up?
        It’s a standout in my mind. Here’s the link on youtube. It’s kind of grainy:

      • Linda Napikoski

        Yes, I love “Julia Drives Over the First Amendment” and I was just blogging about it. I love her speech in that one: It’s not free speech, it’s commerce. That episode like so many was serious and funny, exploring so many aspects of an issue. One of the greatest TV shows of all time!

      • Meg

        That’s Sugarbaker, S-U-G-A-R-B-A-K-E-R. I miss this show so much!

      • kim

        That was the greatest one!

    • Mel

      my favorite Julia moment is from that episode where she lashes out on the woman who thinks AIDs is “killing all the right people”, and Julia responds with “if God was giving out sexually transmitted diseases to people as a punishment for sinning, then you would be at the free clinic all the time!”

      • fangirlshandbag

        That’s my favorite as well. No one could deliver a smack down like Dixie Carter. Here’s the link:

      • Monica

        OMG, yes. That may be the best line ever uttered on television.

      • Kelly

        I agree.

      • Tamara Dozier

        Definitely one of the most funniest episodes ever. I loved Dixie’s Charater when she was on her high horse.

      • Tom

        And of course her follow-up line (after most of the laughter and applause died down) was, “… and so would I.” It showed her character’s humility.

      • gwld

        my favorite…”then you would be at the free clinic ALL the time”. she was brilliant.. rip

    • Snarf

      My fave too.

    • TEXBOY88

      I agree, that one episode stands to be history in the world of TV- I remember the sullen anti gay lady who tried to cross Julia was named IMAGENE- “If God were handing out disases we would all be down at the free clinic- lol, RIP SWEET “TOUGH” and PRETTY, Julia.

    • Wickeddoll

      I was going to mention that one too! I loved Julia putting those idiots in their collective places.

    • Jay

      That was a great episode…Imogene I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to move your car.” “Why?” “Because you’re leaving!”

    • Melissa

      I had forgotten about that episode, thank you for reminding me. It was a beautifully done episode…so very touching and Tony Goldwyn did indeed play the dying young man. Dixie Carter will truly be missed…such a great actress.

    • JonnyT

      Yes! I was going to name that very scene, and not only for the verbal ass-whupping she doles out to the hateful woman. What she says about Hollywood depicting monogamy because of AIDS. As she so eloquently put it, “What was wrong with depicting monogamy BEFORE AIDS? Heaven forbid you show it because it’s virtuous, or loyal, or classy.” Amen!

    • Rod

      “Killing All The Right People,” is Dixie Carter as Julia Sugarbaker at her finest. It should be the number one best moment followed by “Reservatios for Eight.”

    • Karen

      That was the one with her son’s friend’s mother, right? Where the woman thinks the guy has AIDS because he’s a bad person? That is my favorite dressing down ever, partly because I believe Julia ends with “and he has A’s, in EVERYTHING, including GYM!” So wonderful.

    • Sarah

      I love that episode too because she really lets that lady have it. The lione I like is,”if God was passing out diseases (and I forget the exact word she uses) you would be the first in line at the free clinic.” Or something like that. Very inspirational!

  • Jen

    There are sooo many good ones, so it’s hard to narrow down! This is a great one..http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnMn-ObT0r8

    • Jen

      • Allison

        Thank you for posting this clip. I find it as appropriate in today’s climate as it was when it originally aired. Perhaps even more so. RIP, Dixie Carter.

    • RJ

      I love that clip. A second favorite is Julia’s commentary on the infamous battle between men and women – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVl4bmGcn3c&feature=related

  • David Hancock

    I am from the same area in Tennessee as Ms. Carter, and her passing saddens me deeply. I adored the cadence of her voice because it always reminds me of home. And, true, the funeral episode for the designer dying of AIDs was quite simply great and moving writing in every way. Rest in peace, lovely belle.

    • miriam

      i am looking for the name of the song sung at the funeral of a gay friend. help please.

      • Lynda

        The song is “Just A Closer Walk With Thee.”

  • Curmudgeon

    Sorry, but she was much more than just a “sassy, razor-tongued broad” on Designing Women.
    How could you leave out her stunning performance of “How Great Thou Art”?!?! It brings tears to my eyes everytime I see that episode.

    • Donna

      I’m so glad to hear that soneone else remembered her singing “How Great Thou Art” No one has EVER sung it more beautifully or memorably. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. (I’d give my eye teeth to hear it again.) With Dixie’s passing God has surely added her to his holy choir. May peace be with you, dear lady..

    • Aaron

      my favorite will always be the night the lights went out in georgia monologue, but for some reason, when she sang How Great Thou Art has always stuck with me. she truly was magnificent.

    • Ames

      I literally just got chills thinking about her hitting that high note. So beautiful.

      • Silv

        “How Great Thou Art” is the one scene I remember when I think of Ms. Carter. God called her home just to hear it again.

      • HugeDWfan

        When cast members were asked to pick their favorite episodes, Dixie always claimed this one to be the most special to her. RIP Dixie. Your character brought so much joy to my life. I can work a Julia quote into any conversation.

  • shawnclemson

    Those were great. Also great: Julia’s response to the question “Is your fish fresh?” when she was working behind the counter in the fast food restaurant; when Sugarbaker’s was put on the list of historical homes and she informed a tourist that there was no smoking in the building; and her dressing down of moralistic Imogene who was espousing the belief that AIDS was a punishment for sinning. Not to mention the classic “Thank you, Ray Don” from the pilot.

    • ger

      Oh my god, I forgot about Ray Don. I loved that one,

      • Liza234

        OMG the two part Ray Dawn, it started in the piolet with him hitting on them and then Midway through the first season he comes back as Julia’s Tax man and the Whole “No Ray Dawn we do not need you to keep us Company” rant bites Julia in the keaster!

    • dee dee

      I would have thought Ray Don would be the #1 clip.

      • lynn

        I totally agree. I honestly thought Ray Don would be #1. I was shocked to scroll down to find it wasn’t here at all.

      • TRP

        Ray Don is the one I was looking for too! Classic!

      • lynn

        Yes, I thought Ray Don would be Number 1 because it is unforgettable!

    • Elissa

      Seriously. RAY DON is classic. I guess there is no Youtube clip of it, so it didn’t make the list. But it is number 1 for me (tied with the night the lights went out in Georgia).

      • Joni

        Count me in with the “Ray Don” speech being #1.

      • Anna

        I’ve searched all over for a clip of that first Ray Don moment and can’t find one, but I did find the dialogue:
        Ray Don: Allow me to introduce myself – Ray Don Simpson.

        Julia: There’s no need for introductions, Ray Don, we know who you are.

        Ray Don: You do?

        Julia: Of course. You’re the guy who is always wherever women gather or try to be alone. You want to eat with us when we’re dining in hotels. You want to know if the book we’re reading is any good or if you can keep us company on the plane. And I want to thank you, Ray Don, on behalf of all the women in the world, for your unfailing attention and concern. But read my lips and remember, as hard as it is to believe, sometimes we like talking just to each other, and sometimes we like just being alone.

    • Nona X

      The Ray Don speech is the Julia Sugarbaker moment of all Julia Sugarbaker moments, bar none.

  • Maura

    You missed the one where the women are eating in a restaurant, and a man comes up and introduces himself. Julia drawls: “There’s no need for introductions Ray Don, we know who you are” and proceeds to terminate him. Also good is the one when a photographer is taking racy photos of the Sugarbaker’s staff, and he’s trying to get Julia to put a strand of pearls in her mouth: “If you are looking for somebody to suck pearls, then I suggest you try finding yourself an oyster.” Great stuff and she will be missed.

    • J. Denise

      I loved that show! Julia Sugarbaker was a great example of the say Southern women are. “Loved LOVED” the episodes with Ray Don in them. One of the best shows of all time on television. Have probably seen every episode 4-5 times each. Rest In Peace Dixie

    • RobinL

      I loved that one too. When I was thinking of my favorite moment of hers it had to be when she was told to suck those pearls. Hilarious!!

  • Carol

    The Abbott banister!

    • Sunny

      YES!!! My FAVE!! As Julia lays on the stairs w/ her head stuck in the Abbot Banister (a treasured historical relic that cannot be damaged, even to extract her head), Suzanne points out her stockings don’t match her dress. I can’t remember the exact line, but her response is something like, “Oh my goodness Suzanne, can you imagine how EMBARRASSING that would be?? ‘Do you see that woman over there? The one w/ her head stuck in the banister? I don’t believe her pantyhose match her dress!!'” Oh Carol, so glad you remembered too =)

    • MW

      I absolutely LOVE that one! That might be my favorite episode of the entire series. This is such a sad loss. She was relatively young for this day and age. I had looked forward to many more brilliant performances.

  • IrmaCMD

    She was the best! I loved the episode where she almost lost Reece Watson to a heart attack (who would later then die)…Her coming over and dismissing Hattie Mae, Reece’s maid, was wonderful. That and the episode where her son’s teacher/lover come to stay was also brilliant.

  • John

    There was an episode where a guy was hitting on the ladies while at a Japanese restaurant — it was classic Julia how the poor man was put in his place…

    • Des

      “RAY DON.”

    • Margaret

      I agree with John. The one where she put this guy down without a curse word. I loved the writing for her character. she could slice someone to shreds with her words and not even raise her voice.

    • sky

      YES! I think he name was “Ray Don” — that is such a classic scene!!!

      • Jarret

        Ray Don was a classic as well as the one where the sisters are going somewhere and Suzanne says to a lady, “Where y’all from?” and the lady responds, “We are from a place that doesn’t end thier sentences with prepositions.” and Suzanne says like only Suzanne can, “Excuse me, where y’all from, bitch?” Love it!

      • jenn

        Jarret, I think that was from the episode where Suzanne was trying to be nice so she threw a dinner party for the ladies and their SO’s. Charlene was dating a rather large man at the time and she told the story you’re referring to.

  • Nicole

    So sad – as a child of the 80’s I was a huge DW fan, and Julia was just so incredible – I wanted to be as eloquent and strong as her when I grew up. One of her moments that immediately comes to mind that wasn’t included in the list was her memorable speech to Ray Don Simpson when he wanted to join the ladies for a drink at a bar. (“Oh, we know who you are, Ray Don.”) I tried to find the clip on YouTube, but no luck. A classic moment though.

    My heart goes out to her friends, family, and especially her husband, Hal Holbrook. They seemed like a hell of a team.

  • jon

    Just the image of her holding up her finger and saying a quiet but firm “No.” in self-defense class has stuck with me and always will.

  • Jeff

    Purely priceless clips of Dixie.It recalls a time when My ex waited on Dixie at a shoe store on Rodeo Dr. She brought her daughter to buy a pair of shoes for some event.
    Every pair didn’t fit right.Finally she found a pair she “really” liked,but complained that it was a bit loose.In pure Julia delivery Dixie said,”Put a band-aid in the Mary Dixie!”

    That moment will be forever with me.RIP Dixie.

    And after watching these clips,I find it fascinating to think she never won an Emmy nor ever nominated.Too bad. We no longer have comic actresses like her on TV.

    • Dan

      She should have been nominated for an EMMY on DW, but eventually she was nominated for her role as Orson’s mother on “Desperate Housewives.”

  • Tom

    I remember when she played Brandy Henderson on the soap “The Edge Of Night.” That’s where I first saw her. She was great on “Desperate Housewives” and had hoped she was to be a regular on the series because she was´╗┐ so good. RIP Dixie Carter. You had style and class and will be missed.

    • Bobby’s Robot

      I remember Brandy too!

      • Sue

        I loved her on EON. Olivia Brandeis Henderson, lawyer and romantic rival of Nicole for Adam.

    • Steve Ungrey

      Brandy was like a younger Julia, only not as outspoken and more quiet. She could have her moments. I remember the first episode on ABC when she was getting out of Donald May’s car… “Oh, Adam… I’d rather go to a murder trial than a child custody hearing.” She did a great job in her time on Edge.

    • Joni

      I forgot that she was Brandy on “The Edge of Night” – Adam’s wife after Nicole. My favorite soap back in the day.

      • Craig

        Actually she never married Adam. They were engaged but then Nicole turned back up after having amnesia for a yr and they thought she was dead. Adam went back to Nicole and Brandy left not so awful long. So glad someone mentioned her from EON I loved that soap and enjoyed that storyline. She was only on it 2 yrs and it was her first major acting role.

  • Connie

    Obviously her berating Joe Don was an episode you missed. That or you didn’t appreciate it the way a female would.

  • Connie

    Sorry it is Ray Don and I just saw the other post about it.

    • msyka

      I have so many fsvorite Julia episodes; Ray Don Simpson will always be one of my favorites and dealing with that little girl, Randa Oliver. The camping trip episode is hilarious and “Reservation for Eight.” I will always be grateful for what Dixie Carter gave us in all of her performances. Thank you Ms. Carter.

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