Why the Sugarbaker Sisters Made Monday Nights So Memorable

Photo: courtesy Everett Collection
Nothing can ever top that Monday night lineup.

Television has given us many sisters. None quite as memorable as Julia and Suzanne Sugarbaker. Julia (played by Dixie Carter) was the older, wiser, strong-willed, independent sister. Suzanne (played by Delta Burke), was the sassy, self-centered, ex-beauty queen. Together, this Atlanta-based designing duo stole America’s hearts. Julia, the one most of us idolized and adored, proved a Southern woman could be elegant, eloquent, and direct. Julia got her point across. It was hard to believe the Sugarbaker girls were brought up in the same household, and by the same parents. Julia often gasped an exasperated “SUZANNE!” to reel back in one of her sister’s wilder notions. Suzanne would tear into her sister with lines that began with "Julia, you always...”. They sounded a lot like real siblings. But from time to time, you’d get a glimpse behind Suzanne's all-about-me mask to find someone more thoughtful and perceptive than expected. And it was always obvious that despite their differences, they depended on each other. Julia was very protective of Suzanne, and if it weren’t for that protectiveness–and sharp Sugarbaker attitude–the lights never would have gone out in Georgia.

We pulled together a few of our favorite moments from the show. We're pretty sure you'll recall them–and can hear them rolling right off of the tongues of those leading Southern ladies.

Suzanne: “It’s been my experience, Julia, that no matter where you go…there you are.”

Julia: “Suzanne, if sex were fast food, there'd be an arch over your bed!”

[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.”

Suzanne: “Julia! Why, you look awful! What happened to you?”
Julia: [stumbling down the stares from her hangover] “I look awful because I feel awful. And I feel awful because last night Reese Watson and I drank all the champagne in Georgia. Then, we got married.”
Mary Jo: “You got what?”
Julia: “Married. You know, husband and wife, bride and groom, BALL and CHAIN!”

Julia: “Just remember, Clareton is not the only school in Atlanta.”
Charlene: What are you trying to say?”
Suzanne: “What she's trying to say is: you're stupid too. I get that all the time. They think just because we got extra help in the boob department, we got skimped on everything else.”

Suzanne: [trying to find a dress for the class reunion] “Maybe I have gained a little weight. I don't think it's that noticeable. I mean, it's not like I'm going to enter the banquet room followed by a tidal wave. I'll just wear something that, you know, covers everything up. “
Julia: “Well okay, but you've gained a little weight in your face too.”
Suzanne: “Okay that's it! I don't have to take this. If I wanted to be insulted I could have stayed at home and waited for a crank call! Anyway, you all have certainly made your point. I'll just be going now. That is, if you think the streets of Atlanta can stand the strain of *both* me and my Mercedes.”

Suzanne: “Julia, why do you always have to look a gift horse in the mouth?” Julia: “Because, if you look one in the rear, they usually kick you.”

[Julia confronts, and then comforts, a very tearful Suzanne who doesn't want to give up Li Sing.] Suzanne: “Well I sure made a mess of things this time, didn't I?” Julia: “Not yet. In a few more hours they'll be talking kidnapping.” Suzanne: “I wish I'd never met her. She thinks I'm wonderful. She even loves my cooking.” Julia: “You don't cook.” Suzanne: “Well, I know that, but she doesn't! Li Sing's the first person who's ever loved me just for me.” Julia: “She's not the first. She's the third.” Suzanne: “What? you mean my ex-husbands?” Julia: “No, silly. Mother and me. We love you just for you.” Suzanne: “Yeah, but you don't think I can do anything.” Julia: “That's not true. I just said I didn't think you were cut out to be a mother. Suzanne: You mean unlike the four billion other women on Earth? Thanks a lot. Julia: But you do something nobody else can do.” Suzanne: “What?” Julia: “I don't know what it is exactly that you do. I just know nobody else is doing it, or can do it, like you do. You giving away your pillow?” Suzanne: “Yeah. I wanted Li Sing to have it.” Julia: “I think Grandma would like that. I remember when she made these for us. Roots and Wings. We sure got our share didn't we? Suzanne, I'm going to say something pretty harsh, but I'm saying it because I love you. Just once in your life, don't put yourself first.” Suzanne: “I'm not, Julia. I'm thinking of Li Sing.” Julia: “No, you're not. You're not thinking at all. You know, in your heart, that she's better off with this couple. If you love her, like you say you do, give her wings.” Suzanne: “I just didn't expect to fall in love with her. I know, you're right. I know. Ok, I'll do it.” [Julia takes Suzanne's hand and starts to cry herself.] Julia: “I'm so happy for you.” Suzanne: “Why?” Julia: “Because, now you know what it feels like to be a mother.”

[Suzanne enters with a pig on a leash] Julia: “I cannot believe that you are walking around with this big pig on a leash.” Suzanne: “Why not? It just fits my mood. This is the worst Christmas I ever had. All my vacation plans fell through, and I haven't heard a thing from any of my ex-husbands — not even a Christmas card.” Mary Jo: “Well, what about Hugh? Aren't you still dating him?” Suzanne: No, not anymore. He's in intensive care again. He's always in intensive care and I'm just sick of it.” Julia: “Suzanne, after all, he is 80 years old.” Suzanne: “Oh, he's just a big hypochondriac. Anyway, I was sitting there last night feeling sorry for myself, y'know, and Noel came over and nudged me with her little snout. She is ugly, isn't she? I am genuinely fond of this pig. I guess you could say she was there for me when I was lonely and needed a friend. Julia: “As your sister I have to tell you one thing.” Suzanne: “What's that?” Julia: “We're not taking that pig shopping.”

[The ladies discuss breast size, making reference to Suzanne's] Julia: “Suzanne's had those as long as I can remember. She was born with them. Mother and Daddy and I used to sit around and just stare at them. It's just the spin of the ole' genetic wheel. I think I've been amply compensated.” Charlene: “What's that mean?” Mary Jo: “It means Suzanne got the boobs, and she (pointing to Julia) got the brains.” Suzanne: “I don't think I like the turn this conversation has taken.” Mary Jo: “Oh, c'mon, big boobs/tiny brains...it's a story as old as the hills. I didn't write it.” Charlene: “Mary Jo! I cannot believe you would even repeat that!” Mary Jo: “Oh, I'm just kidding. It's just the "Littlest Angel's" way of kind of evening the score.” Suzanne: “What's this "Littlest Angel" stuff anyway?” Mary Jo: “It's the name of a training bra, Suzanne. I'm sure you wouldn't know anything about that.” Suzanne: “A training bra. You little people have to train yours, and you call us dumb.”

[After Julia returns from a fashion show where her dress got caught up in her pantyhose] Julia: “I can't believe that all my life, I've tried to create some semblance of grace and style. Now I'm going to be remembered as that woman.” Suzanne: “...who mooned Atlanta.”

Suzanne: “I'm serious, Julia. I do not want you to get up on your soap box about this one. Otherwise, I might have to point out to everyone that you own a fur coat yourself. You know what I'm referring to.” Julia: “Mother's mink? Suzanne, you know I never wear that. It's a family heirloom. It was grandmother's, for heaven's sake. It's just a souvenir of someone we loved.” Suzanne: “Maybe. All I'm saying is, you own a mink. So, speaking of big steel-jawed traps, you can just keep yours shut.”

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