In the 1980s we lived in Little Rock, Ark., and I worked as writer and broadcast producer at one of the state’s largest advertising agencies. Despite the city’s relatively small size, we had a lot of talent and some good clients. There was some really good advertising coming out of Little Rock at that time.
One of our largest accounts was ArkLa Gas (Arkansas/Louisiana). They had hefty budgets and really didn’t stint on their tv commercials. After all, they all went to the same country club as the guys from the electric company and wanted their commercials to stack up.
My boss, mentor and creative director, Bob Ginnaven, grew up in Memphis and went to Memphis State. He acted in every play he could get into, and struck up a friendship with a young actress from West Tennessee–Dixie Carter.
Fast forward a few decades. Bob is a partner in a Little Rock ad agency and Dixie is starring as Julia Sugarbaker on Designing Women. What most of you probably don’t realize is that the creators of that show has strong ties to Little Rock. All of the homes in the opening sequence were in Little Rock (including the stately mansion where that Bill and Hillary Clinton called home at the time). Often characters in the show would share a name with a well-known Arkansan and the four leading women even came to Little Rock to a benefit.
That’s when Bob and Dixie reacquainted themseleves. A few months later, Dixie agreed to come back to Little Rock to star in 4 tv commercials for ArkLa. These were really good spots and I wish I had a copy to show you. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
We pulled out all the stops…limos and hotel suites and catering and the biggest budget I ever had.
I met Dixie at her hotel the night before our shoot began. I nervously knocked on her door and she answered right away.
She was tiny. Sort of a bamboo pole with hair. You’ve never seen so much hair.
Anyhow, the next day after all the setting up and making up and nearly throwing up (just nerves on my part), it was time for Dixie to do her thing. And when she opened her mouth and started talking, we all went slack-jawed in amazement. We had all worked with some pretty good talent before–people who earned a living talking on camera–but this was different. This was all vintage champagne and home-grown tomatoes instead of Korbel and a hard, red, wintry piece of crap. Belgian chocolate instead of Herseys. First class instead of….well, you get the picture.
She ate constantly, drank like a fish and charmed us all completely.
We adored her and I know that no city is sadder about her recent death than Little Rock.
Here’s a little vintage Dixie to remind you of her fabulosity.