Coffee with Barb & Teagan — Memorable Southern Characters

Originally posted at “Barb Taub — Writing & Coffee. Especially Coffee.”

(If you’re looking for the serial, “Copper, the Alchemist, & the Woman in Trousers” go back one post)

In my “real job” outreach is a buzzword.  I see my blog as a great outreach effort. Through this blog I’ve met so many fascinating people and made great friends.  A newer friend is Barb Taub and she let me visit her blog for coffee and a delightful chat.  I hope you’ll join us to share in the fun.  While you’re there, check out her terrific blog.  Hugs!

  Coffee with Barb & Teagan — Memorable Southern Characters

atonement-video-cover-copyBarb, the coffee smells divine!  Yes thanks – I’d like cream, but no sugar.  I’m so happy to sit back and enjoy a cup of coffee with you.  This really is nice.

Speaking of cream, I’m pleased as a cat with a bowl of cream to tell a little about my novel, Atonement, Tennessee.  Umm that really is good coffee.  “Ralda Lawton,” my heroine, would have appreciated it her first morning in her new home town.  She was inundated with people dropping in, and she was feeling awfully frumpy, since the movers hadn’t arrived with her stuff – or clean clothes!  At least she had a jar of instant coffee with her. Feeling-Frumpy-ad

I’m happy to have this chance to comment on one thing about my characters, particularly the group of women friends who are all neighbors in the town of Atonement, Tennessee.  Certainly I wanted to make them come to life and be memorable.  So I may have said they are “larger than life.”  But the real truth is — they are not.

If you have spent a couple of decades or more living in small towns in the “deep south” of the USA, like the one where I grew up, then you have surely known women similar to Bethany Gwen, Racine Mabry, or Lacey Hampton.  The places I’ve lived and the people I’ve known provide a good deal of the inspiration for my writing.  Even love-to-hate-them Ralph Hampton and Destiny Culver.

So now, I want to reminisce about some other memorable southern characters.  At the top of my personal list is the late Dixie Carter as Julia Sugarbaker of the TV show Designing Women.  Whenever I speak passionately about a subject I apologize for getting up on my “Julia Sugarbaker soapbox.”

Designing Women — The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOllz6eGbXI

Then of course there’s Fannie Flag, who played a number of unique southern ladies as an award winning actress.  However, she also wrote unforgettable southern characters in her best seller, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, which was adapted into the 1991 movie Fried Green Tomatoes.

By the way – her Match Game performance isn’t a quarter of what you’d see in real life in any southern bar.  I’m just saying…

Match Game ’75: Fannie Falls in Love

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdPJlFHhWBM

One memorable character that really was larger than life was played by Polly Holliday (in the TV version) as Florence Jean Castleberry, better known to all as “Flo.”  Flo was a waitress in the movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, the subsequent television series, Alice, and that show’s spinoff, Flo.  Yes that character was larger than life and outrageous… but nevertheless, I’ve met more than one outrageos real life Flo.

Alice Flo puts an APB out on Santa Clause

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2F2m0qS9TI

On a more serious note, there’s Kyra Sedgwick as Brenda Leigh Johnson in TV’s The Closer.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking her femininity and accent diminish her intelligence or her ability.  The only thing that bothers me about this character is the double-name.  That’s another stereotype.  I’ve actually known a lot more people from “up north” with double names.  But I’m trying to stay off that Julia Sugarbaker soapbox.  (Winks and grins)

TNT: The Closer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzzX5hni_i8

And yes – we are constantly ridiculed.  Quite frankly, I don’t handle it half as well as “Brenda Lee.”

The Closer – Provenza mimics Brenda

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-F4Gwor1ao

Since she’s my favorite I’ll round this out with one more Julia Sugarbaker moment…

Designing Women – Julia Sugarbaker – Southerners Do NOT Eat Dirt – YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TaDiT_TpEOk

Barb, thank you so much for the coffee and your lovely hospitality.  It has been a pleasure.  Mega hugs to you and all your readers.

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47 thoughts on “Coffee with Barb & Teagan — Memorable Southern Characters

  1. I am a Southern Girl by birth (Knoxville, Tennessee) but have lived most of my life in other places. I now live in Florida, which is South, but not Southern. I get very offended when people try to make all Southerners sound like we’re slow witted and soft spoken. Though it’s true for some, it’s not true for all of us. I enjoyed the article and the clips. I love Julia Sugarbaker! Did you ever hear Dixie Carter’s narration of “A Southern Belle Primer”? It’s absolutely amazing.

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    • Welcome Dellani! I’m so happy you enjoyed this fun post — and I couldn’t agree more with what you said. No, I haven’t heard of “A Southern Belle Primer” — but I love Dixie Carter so I’ll keep an eye out for it.
      Best of luck with “Bad Fall.” Wishing you tons of sales! Hugs. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Teagan, what a great treat! I loved The Closer and Brenda Lee. It was one of my favorite shows. Also Designing Women and Julia Sugerbaker, another favorite. I was a northerner, but loved those strong women with their true southern accents. Thanks for the fun memory! Christine

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  3. I don’t know any of those characters Teagan, but they’re great – loving Julia Sugerbaker and I’m going to look out for repeats of The Closer which I’m sure must have made it over here 🙂

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    • Hi Andrea. It’s so kind of you to read and comment. I’m pleased to introduce you to Julia Sugarbaker and Flo. As a teenager I was appalled by the way southerners were depicted on TV — and the “accents” were deplorable. So I was happy to see Designing Women, with multiple female leads (including the Sugarbaker sisters) who were all true southerners. What a concept — use people with real accents… Even aside from that, Dixie Carter was a phenomenal multi-talented woman. Huge hugs to you my friend. 🙂

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  4. I poured myself a cup of coffee and joined you from Norway. I enjoyed my coffee break with you a lot. I had only ever heard of Brenda Leigh from the Closer of the characters above.

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  5. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Teagan recalls memorable Southern characters past and present and one of my personal favourites the feisty and persistent detective that was Brenda Lee in The Closer.. I still say Thank yoooo when I want to emphasise my pleasure over something.. her legacy lives on. Although I agree some characterisations of southern women is not as flattering as it should be.. strong women

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    • Thanks so much for reblogging, Sally. I’m sure Barb appreciates it too. Regardless of where you are from, I think I should include you in the ranks of strong southern women. 😀 Mega hugs.

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  6. Teagan, I love Dixie, and Fannie, and “Flo”!!!! Never watched “The Closer”. I’m from the Deep South, (Florida, some people don’t realize it, but yes, we’re Southern). Miss Sugarbaker had it going on!

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  7. I must catch up with some. I know the Closer and I must say I love her and she always manages to take people by surprise because they underestimate her badly. And anybody who hasn’t read ‘Atonement, Tennessee’, what are you waiting for?

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    • Oh thank you Olga 😀
      I related to the Brenda character on The Closer for precisely that reason. Heaven knows what it is about me, but (in business) people always seem to think I can be easily pushed around, even bullied. And I’m sick and tired of having to fight my way out of corners because of that.
      My favorite example to explain is a woman who had not met me before. After one such meeting filled with out-of-the-corner battling she said, “I thought you were going to be a prudish little southern woman. But holy crap. Haven’t those people ever heard the term Steel Magnolia?”
      Similar scenario in the next meeting, and she said “Forget calling you a Steel Magnolia. Hell, you’re a Georgia Rottweiler.”
      I told her I liked the floral reference better — being such a cat person. LOL. 😀
      It’s exhausting when people underestimate you. At least when underestimating someone also undermines their career…
      Really enjoyed your post about friendship & health over at Sally’s.
      Mega hugs my friend

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