Dixie Carter is dead

Designing Women: Dixie Carter in center rear
Designing Women: Dixie Carter is rear center

Dixie Carter, best known as Julia Sugarbaker on “Designing Women” died this weekend. She was 70.

“Designing Women” was a breakthrough series that staunchly stood for gay rights and for people with AIDS. At a time when the Reagan and first Bush administrations were refusing to even use the word AIDS, this show portrayed a person with AIDS as a loving, caring person and even staged his funeral.

Julia was known for her sharp tongue. When confronting someone who was disgusted by her friendship with the gay man with AIDS, she minced no words. She said:

Alma Jean, get serious! Who do you think you’re talking to? I’ve known you for 27 years, and all I can say is — if God was giving out sexually transmitted diseases to people as a punishment for sinning, that you would be at the free clinic all the time!”

Today this clip appears somewhat dated. But at the time it was groundbreaking to portray someone actually touching someone with AIDS and explaining that sexually transmitted diseases cannot be caught this way. Here’s a clip from that show:

That series only received an Emmy for hairdressing. However, Carter also had a recurring role on “Desperate Housewives” as Bree’s mother-in-law for which she was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2007.

She was married to actor Hal Holbrook. Cause of death is not known.

UPDATE: Carter died of endometrial cancer in Houston.

—  David Taffet