Delta Burke

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Delta Burke
Deltaburke2.jpg
Burke at the 1990 Emmy Awards
Born (1956-07-30) July 30, 1956 (age 58)
Orlando, Florida, U.S.
Nationality American
Occupation Actress, producer, author
Years active 1974–present
Spouse(s) Gerald McRaney (m. 1989)

Delta Ramona Leah Burke (born July 30, 1956) is an American television, stage and film actress, comedian, producer and author.

Burke is best known for her role as Suzanne Sugarbaker in the CBS comedy series Designing Women (1986–1991), for which she was nominated for two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. She has also appeared in Delta (1992–1993), Women of the House (1995) and DAG (2000–2001).[1] She has also produced and played roles in made-for-TV movies, appeared in movies, like What Women Want, performed on Broadway productions and guest starred on television series, including Saturday Night Live and Boston Legal.

Early life and Miss Florida[edit]

Delta Ramona Leah Burke was born in Orlando, Florida, to a single mother, Jean.[2] Frederick Burke, an Orlando realtor, adopted her after marrying her mother. She has never met her biological father.[2] Burke has two younger siblings: a brother, Jonathan; and a sister, Jennifer.[3]

Burke graduated from Colonial High School in 1974, and won the senior superlative "Most Likely to Succeed."[4] In 1972 she won the Miss Flame crown from the Orlando Fire Department and went on to become State Miss Flame. In her senior year of high school, she won the Miss Florida title for 1974; she was the youngest Miss Florida titleholder in pageant history. She was subsequently paired with Miss Georgia, Gail Nelson, in the Miss America 1975 pageant. Burke won a talent scholarship from the Miss America Organization, allowing her to attend a two-year study program at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

Career[edit]

Early career[edit]

In 1974, as part of winning Miss Florida, Burke appeared on the ABC TV show Bozo the Clown, filmed in Orlando, Florida. She worked as the magical assistant to Herbert L. Becker. The two worked together for six months.

In 1980, Burke portrayed the role of the second Bonnie Sue Chisholm in the CBS western miniseries, The Chisholms. Her best-known role as Suzanne Sugarbaker in Designing Women was created by Linda Bloodworth Thomason. Before Designing Women, Burke spent a year on Filthy Rich in 1982 playing the wily young widow, Kathleen Beck. After that, she played female football team owner Diane Barrow on 1st & Ten.

Designing Women fallout[edit]

Burke earned two consecutive nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1990 and 1991, the only female cast member of Designing Women to do so. Meshach Taylor had received one in 1989 for Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. In 1990, Burke publicly expressed dissatisfaction with the show on a televised interview with Barbara Walters and other media outlets. She argued on Entertainment Tonight that there was a labor dispute, and actors were often forced to work over 15 hours per day, with executives even blocking the doors and keeping actors on set. She also said that castmate Dixie Carter, who had once been her close friend and maid of honor at her wedding to Gerald McRaney, wasn't speaking to her as she sided with her bosses. At the end of the fifth season of Designing Women in 1991, Burke was let go from her contract due to her contentious relations with Carter and the Thomasons.[1]

Burke became a blond for the short-lived TV sitcom Delta (1992), in which she portrayed an aspiring country music singer.[5] When ratings plummeted, Burke became a brunette again. In 1995, she and Linda Bloodworth Thomason reconciled their differences, and Burke returned as Suzanne Sugarbaker in Women of the House (1995), but that show also met an early demise.

It took more than a decade for Burke and Carter to reconcile, but they did so when Burke guest-starred in an episode of Family Law, on which Carter was a regular castmember.

Weight issues[edit]

Since the early 1990s, Burke's weight has been a subject of discussion in the tabloid press.[1][5] Her struggles with weight, depression, and eating disorders stretch back to her pageant days in the early 1970s. She became a much-parodied figure in the press due to the media's incessant obsession with her weight, including in a skit on Saturday Night Live, wherein Leon Phelps from The Ladies Man has a sexual fixation with her. In 1989, Burke asked Thomason to write an episode addressing her weight. The episode, "They Shoot Fat Women, Don't They?", had Suzanne Sugarbaker going to her 15-year high school reunion and having her feelings hurt after hearing disparaging remarks about her weight. Her performance on this episode is said to have led to her receiving her first Emmy nomination as Best Actress.[6] She earned a second nomination the following year.[7]

Burke later lost about 60 pounds, spurred by her nearly 10-year battle with type-2 diabetes. She says she plans to keep on losing weight to remain healthy, as well as to improve her prospects for playing "Truvy" in the Broadway production of Steel Magnolias, a role that required her to be more slender.[8][9]

Later career[edit]

Burke has appeared in a film for Hallmark Channel, titled Bridal Fever, which aired February 2, 2008.[citation needed]

Burke has been a leading actress in a number of television films, and had a supporting role in the Mel Gibson film What Women Want (2000).[5]

In the early 2000s, she co-starred with David Alan Grier on the sitcom DAG; she had lost much of her excess weight for the role after being diagnosed with diabetes. She had a recurring role on Popular as Cherry Cherry.

She starred[when?] as Mrs. Meers in the Broadway musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. She was succeeded in that role by her Designing Women co-star Dixie Carter.[citation needed]

In 2002, she reunited onscreen with Carter in a guest appearance on Carter's series Family Law.[citation needed]

She also played Bella Horowitz during a five-episode arc on Boston Legal as a former flame of William Shatner's character, Denny Crane, in season three.[citation needed]

In March 2012 it was announced Burke had been cast in the ABC comedy pilot Counter Culture.[10] However, after Burke fell on the set, production of the pilot was suspended and it was not picked up to series.

Personal life[edit]

Burke has been married to actor Gerald McRaney since May 28, 1989. The couple has no children together, although McRaney has adult children from his prior marriages. Burke and McRaney's primary residence is in Los Angeles, California; they also own a house in Telluride, Colorado, and one in New Orleans, Louisiana.[citation needed]

Burke is diabetic.[11][12]

Burke is a supporter of gay rights,[13] and has worked with openly gay playwright and screenwriter Del Shores on many occasions, in Sordid Lives and Southern Baptist Sissies.[13] In 2006, Burke and openly gay Tennessean actor Leslie Jordan were disinvited from the Nashville talk show Talk of the Town after the show's managing director decided the subject matter to be discussed would offend the conservative viewers.[14] Burke first became supportive of gay people and gay rights through attending acting school in London and also through her sister, Jennifer, who is a lesbian.[13]

Burke is a very successful designer and manager of the clothing company Delta Burke Design, headquartered in New York City.[5]

Burke and McRaney are also the owners of an antique store in Collins, Mississippi.

Burke has compulsive hoarding syndrome, for which she received therapy. "At one time I had 27 storage units. I don't have a big enough house!" she said. "My mom had it, it's my mother's fault. She saved the diaper I came home from the hospital in!"[15]

Filmography[edit]

Film and Television credits
Year Title Role Notes
1978 Zuma Beach Terri uncredited
1979 Charleston Stella Farrell
A Last Cry for Help Carol
The Chisholms Bonnie Sue Chisholm TV mini-series
The Seekers Elizabeth Fletcher Kent
1980 The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo Diane Stone Episode: The Haunting of Orly Manor
1981 Nero Wolfe Jean Wellmann Episode: Murder by the Book
The Fall Guy Cantina Waitress Episode: Series Pilot
1982 Rooster Laura DeVega
The Fall Guy Bryna Episode: Mighty Myron
1982–1983 Filthy Rich Kathleen Beck 15 episodes
1983 Johnny Blue Joanne Kruger
Fantasy Island Gloria Ransom Episode: The Devil Stick/Touch and Go
Murder Me, Murder You Paula Corey
Gun Shy Clementine Episode: Mail Order Mommy
Remington Steele Nancy Stinson Dannon Episode: Altared Steele
1983–1984 The Love Boat Andrea Sheppard 3 episodes
1984 Automan Rachel Innis Episode: Unreasonable Facsimile
Mike Hammer Linda Sloane Shots in the Dark
T.J. Hooker Diana Polnoi Episode: Grand Theft Auto
1984–1988 1st & Ten Diane Barrow 6 episodes
1985 Who's the Boss? Diane Wilmington Episode: Paint Your Wagon
A Bunny's Tale Margie
1986 Hotel Sherry Episode: Restless Nights
1987 Simon & Simon Christy Keating Episode: Desperately Seeking Dacody
1988 Where the Hell's That Gold?! Germany
1986–1991 Designing Women Suzanne Sugarbaker 120 episodes
1991 Saturday Night Live Herself – Host Episode: Delta Burke/Chris Isaak
Love and Curses... And All That Jazz Desiree
1992 Day-O Grace Connors
1992–1993 Delta Delta Bishop 17 episodes
1994 The Mighty Jungle (family sitcom) Viola
Diagnosis: Murder Maggie Donahue / Sister Michael Episode: Sister Michael Wants You
1995 Simon & Simon: In Trouble Again Mrs. Heiser
Women of the House Suzanne Sugarbaker 13 episodes
1996 A Promise to Carolyn Debra
Maternal Instincts Tracy Horton
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Myrtle Beech Episode: Swear to God, This Time We're Not Kidding
Promised Land Julia Fitzgerald Episode: Homecoming
1997 Melanie Darrow Melanie Darrow
1998–1999 Any Day Now Teresa O'Brien 2 episodes
2000 Sordid Lives Noleta Nethercott
What Women Want Eve
1999–2001 Popular Cherry Cherry 6 episodes
2000–2001 DAG Judith Whitman 17 episodes
1996–2001 Touched by an Angel Diana Winslow 3 episodes
2001 Dangerous Child Sally Cambridge
2002 St. Sass Billie Lang
Family Law Marcie Dell Episode: Ties That Bind
Hansel & Gretel Stepmother
2003 Going for Broke Laura Bancroft
Good Boy! Barbara Ann voice
2006 The Year Without a Santa Claus Mrs. Claus
2006–2007 Boston Legal Bella Horowitz 5 episodes
2007 The Wedding Bells Sheila Pontell Episode: For Whom the Bells Toll
2008 Bridal Fever Dahlia Marchand
2009 Drop Dead Diva Tessa Wells Episode: Make Me a Match
2012 Counter Culture Nonie TV series, main cast

Nonfiction[edit]

  • Delta Style: Eve Wasn't a Size 6 and Neither am I (1998, St. Martin's Press ;ISBN 0-312-15454-2 )

References[edit]

External links[edit]