Julia Sugarbaker was a refined Southern woman— intellectual, whip smart, feminine, and downright fearsome. On Designing Women, she was known for her blistering tirades on topics ranging from the first amendment to chauvinistic behavior to the real reason the lights went out in Georgia one night. She paired her pearls with a razor-sharp tongue and fiery wit that sent many of her targets scampering for safety. Some of Julia’s sharpest barbs were aimed at her beauty-pageant winning sister Suzanne (played by Delta Burke), but if anyone else dared to tease Suzanne—watch out.
Julia was so beloved and feared for her epic speeches that years later, Tina Fey’s character, Liz Lemon, channeled her on 30 Rock declaring to a packed writers’ room, “You don’t cross a Sugarbaker woman!” Indeed, you don’t, and here are 13 reasons why:
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Julia: Madame, and I use that term loosely, you couldn't find your considerable derriere if you were sitting on it!
Julia: "It has been the men who have done the law making and the money making and most of the mischief making. So, if the world isn't quite what you had in mind, you have only yourselves to thank.
Julia: “Suzanne, if sex were fast food, there'd be an arch over your bed!”
Charlene [defending her novelty lingerie purchases]: These are gag gifts.
Julia: They certainly make me gag.
Julia: "There's no need for introductions, Ray Don, we know who you are. You're the guy who's 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. 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."
Julia: “I’m saying this is the South, and we’re proud of our crazy people. We don’t hide them up in the attic. We bring ’em right down to the living room and show ’em off. See, Phyllis, no one in the South ever asks if you have crazy people in your family. They just ask what side they’re on.”
Phyllis: Oh? And which side are yours on Mrs. Sugarbaker?
[On a home tour gone awry]
Julia: We Southerners have had to endure many things, but one thing we Southerners don't have to endure is a bunch of bored housewives turning historical homes into theme parks, not to mention ill-mannered tourists with their Big Gulps, Mistys, Slurpees, and Frosties, their dirty feet overflowing rubber thongs, and babies who sneeze Fudgesicle juice! Out, out of my house! As God is my witness, I will burn it down myself before I let you in again!
Mary Jo: Julia, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but I don't think you're going to be invited to be on the tour of homes next year.
Julia: Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.
[Boarding an airplane]
Suzanne: Where are our seats?
Julia: I don't know. If history teaches us anything, mine will be next to a baby who smokes.
When someone dared to besmirch her sister Suzanne’s reputation:
Julia: “For example, you probably didn’t know that Suzanne was the only contestant in Georgia pageant history to sweep every category except congeniality, and that is not something the women in my family aspire to anyway. Or that when she walked down the runway in her swimsuit, five contestants quit on the spot. Or that when she emerged from the isolation booth to answer the question, ‘What would you do to prevent war?’ she spoke so eloquently of patriotism, battlefields, and diamond tiaras, grown men wept. And you probably didn’t know, Marjorie, that Suzanne was not just any Miss Georgia, she was the Miss Georgia. She didn’t twirl just a baton, that baton was on fire. And when she threw that baton into the air, it flew higher, further, faster than any baton has ever flown before, hitting a transformer and showering the darkened arena with sparks! And when it finally did come down, Marjorie, my sister caught that baton, and 12,000 people jumped to their feet for sixteen and one-half minutes of uninterrupted thunderous ovation, as flames illuminated her tear-stained face! And that, Marjorie – just so you will know and your children will someday know – is the night that the lights went out in Georgia!”
Here’s the clip if you want to watch it unfold in all its glory:
[En route to Japan]
Suzanne: And I'll tell you something else. I am not eating octopus, walking around in my stocking feet, or takin' a bath with my neighbors no matter what those little people say.
Julia: It's always stimulating to travel with the international voice of racism.
[When a flight attendant refuses to tell her the age of the plane]
Julia: What exactly are they supposed to do, wait for a wing to fall off and count the rings?
[During a photo shoot of prominent Atlanta businesswomen]
Julia: If you are looking for somebody to suck pearls, then I suggest you try finding yourself an oyster, because I am not a woman who does that. As a matter of fact, I don't know any woman who does that, because it's stupid. And it doesn't have any more to do with decorating than having cleavage and looking sexy has to do with working in a bank.
[On the phone to a newspaper writer, who claimed Southerners eat dirt for vitamins]:
Julia: “I have been a Southerner all my life, and I can vouch for the fact the we do eat a lot of things down here. We've certainly all had our share of grits and I’m sure there are no self-respecting Southerners anywhere who haven’t consumed at least several tons of their mama’s homemade biscuits and gravy, and I myself have probably eaten enough fried chicken to feed a third world country, not to mention barbecue, cornbread, watermelon, fried pies, okra, and, yes, if I were being perfectly candid, I would have to admit we have also eaten our share of crow. And for all I know, during the darkest, leanest years of the Civil War, some of us may have had a Yankee or two for breakfast. But, speaking for myself and hundreds of thousands of my Southern ancestors who have evolved through the many decades of poverty, strife, and turmoil, I would like for Mr. Weaks to know that we have surely eaten many things in the past, and we will surely eat many things in the future, but—God as my witness —we have never, I repeat, never eaten dirt!”