Delta's blues

In these days of little purple-pill and frowning-pet-rock pharmaceutical advertisements parading as public service -- and crying, bleeding, even dying all the way to the bank -- it's nice to know that a good celebrity hookup makes the medicine go down better than a spoon full of sugar.

This week's sugar, or saccharine, comes in the form of Miss Delta Burke, the once Designing Woman of the exploited tabloid bloat and, lest we forget, former Miss Florida. She's rising from the ashes and into cheery Orlando in the service of the Big D, depression, promoting a new web philanthropy, Go Out And Live (GOAL, geddit?), and more charming than I could ever expect her to be.

Depression isn't funny (except it is) and 7:30 a.m. isn't a terribly pleasant time for a beauty queen to be providing an interview. I'm the beauty queen.

"Honey, it ain't easy. This is killing me," she kills me from a cell phone, apparently driving into town. Killing you? I'm already dead.

"So whatcha wearin'?" I call girl.

"Oh, full regalia," she fakes a tiara. "I woke up at like, 2, because it takes awhile to get the whole thing."

Don't I know it. Secretly, I'm thinking that Delta is actually my mother. Reportedly, mom was once Miss Teen Miami, but far too shy to ride in the parade -- so, naturally, she renounced her title before Playboy could get to her. I think at this point that my mother and Delta switched identities and shoes, and I was consequently raised the conscious, pragmatic pariah that you see before you today. Without a tiara.

"So you are from here, right?" I Murder She Wrote.

"Yes, I am from here," she pageants. "It's great, because when we got in, we drove by a lot of places that I used to go to, and home sites and stuff like that -- brought back a lot of memories, which is good."

Not always.

"I don't handle the humidity quite as well I used to. That's just a thing with getting older," she humidifies. "My hair hates it."

"Totally! My hair hates me!"

"Well I just wore a wig, because I know my hair's straight as a board, and I knew it would do nothing. So I just slept on a wig."

Ooooh, depressing. My hair, when not killed by the gods of peroxide, is very very curly. Maybe she's my aunt.

"Let's talk depression. Do you think, being the big-time Hollywood celebrity you are and all, that there's a false association between artistry and misery?" Because I do.

"I think at first, when antidepressants were being discussed, that a lot of people were afraid they would lose their creativity," she doesn't. "I do remember kind of thinking that at first, because when you get that depressed, you do kind of touch the madness for awhile -- which you think is terribly creative, but who knows?"

I'm touching the madness as we speak.

"Wasn't there some sad irony in the fact that you were clinically depressed and mocking an aging beauty queen as Suzanne Sugarbaker, I mean, being an aging beauty queen?" I tiptoe.

"Oh, you mean putting on all the weight?" she jumps my gun.

"Well, later I do. But for now, I'm just talking about the role. You know, making fun of yourself publicly when you're already destroying yourself. It all sounds very, very familiar."

"Oh yeah, yeah, yeah," she brushes me off. "But I could do that because, you know, I had been there. But I loved Suzanne. She was great."

"You became very, very famous, and with a pig," I shoot.

"But, I was not used to that kind of scrutiny, I was not used to having the press be ugly. It just got really brutal, the things they were saying, and I could not cope with that."


"And I couldn't cope with being hunted. They would break into your house. It's a very frightening thing when all of that happens, and you don't know what to do."

I don't even know where you live.

"It's a brutal, brutal thing, and it nearly killed me," she makes me feel incredibly guilty. "People don't realize that they have that much power to change a persons life. I mean, I liked reading them before they started writing about me. Now I understand, and now I can laugh a little bit."

Enough about then, then. Let's talk about now.

"I did a pilot, but they (WB) didn't pick it up! It would have been perfect because, did you ever hear about the Sweet Potato Queens?"


"Is that perfect for me or what? It is like women run amuck, wearing big tiaras and costumes!" she still wears big tiaras and costumes. "They (WB) were just such schmoes. They want the teen-ager thing so much, and the teen-ager didn't test so well, so they didn't take it. I should just take it to Lifetime or something."

Ok, what else?

"I have this movie I did for Lifetime -- thank God they still make movies ... "

Thank god.

"It's called "Going for Broke," and it's about a compulsive gambler, so that comes on in July. Then, towards the end of July, they have this "Designing Women" reunion, where we all got together."

I'm panting. Dixie -- that was the night the lights went out in Georgia! -- Carter!

"We gabbed and shared clips, and it was a lot of fun."

"No hard feelings, then?"

"We get together and have cocktails. We have our cosmopolitans and reminisce and talk a lot about plastic surgery and menopause, which the other women don't like me telling anybody, but ... "

You've come to the right place, baby.


Since 1990, Orlando Weekly has served as the free, independent voice of Orlando, and we want to keep it that way.

Becoming an Orlando Weekly Supporter for as little as $5 a month allows us to continue offering readers access to our coverage of local news, food, nightlife, events, and culture with no paywalls.

Join today because you love us, too.

Scroll to read more Arts Stories + Interviews articles

Join Orlando Weekly Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.