I am a child of the 80s. Whenever that email forward comes around and lists 100 things from the 80s that should resonate with those that grew up in the 80s, I resonate with 115. From the Monchichis and the Smurfs to Different Strokes and Designing Women, I grew up in a time when all the world's problems were solved in 30 minutes by Mr. Drummond, Mrs. Garret, Mr. Huxtable, and the Golden Girls.
I grew up wishing desperately that I lived with M'am and George in a house with secret rooms and a hidden stairwell behind the grandfather clock in the living room. I reveled in the fact that Punky Brewster's dog's name was Brandon and my middle name was Brandon. I can still, to this day, sing the theme songs to just about every 1980s sit com, Saturday morning cartoon, after school cartoon, and children's show from Sesame Street to the Great Space Coaster. And in high school, when Bob Ross (aka the Channel 2 Art Guy...the white man with the Jewfro that drew happy trees) died...I went into three days of deep mourning.
But, other than Nell Carter, no TV female personality from the 1980s impacted my life more than Dixie Carter aka Julia Sugarbaker aka Mr. Drummond's wife and the mother of Sam on Different Strokes.
I have had three step-father's in my life in addition to my birth father. So when Mr. Drummond decided to remarry and brought a step-mom into the house, I finally felt like I had found a home on prime time television. Add to that the fact that Dixie Carter was as sassy as my own Mother and had a beautiful Southern accent like my Father, and it was love at first sight.
When Designing Women debuted, I was hooked. There was a black man on the show that I loved (Meshack Taylor), and it was four strong, independent, and funny women that took life by the balls and lived it according to their own desires. I watched my Mama doing the same thing, and I loved the show for validating her existence. Since birth, I have been drawn towards strong, sexy, independent, powerful femme women, and Dixie Carter was my goddess. And when the episode aired wherein Dixie stands up for her sister (Delta Burke...another favorite of mine)...I too knew why that Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia.
I know that Dixie was a conservative Republican, but the fact that she, in her art, addressed issues such as blended families, multi-cultural families, valuing ex-convicts, feminism, and sexuality...I can forgive her for being a product of her geography. No one will remember Dixie the Neo-Con, but everyone will remember the Designing Woman.
We lost a great actress and a strong woman yesterday, and I, for one, will always remember her fondly. Say hello to Bea Arthur for me, and do some dirty dancing with Patrick Swayze...one day we will all hang out, have a mint julep, and reminisce about the decade of Greed and the popular culture that forced America to start seeing some realities that it had tried to hide or deny for a very long time. Rest in peace, Dixie. I love you.