It's the holiday season, DW Fans, and this issue brings us to the end of the most active Designing Women year since the series first hit syndication.

The Designing Women CastDixie Carter and Delta Burke both returned in new series; Annie Potts moonlighted on stage in between filming the third season of her critically acclaimed show; and Jean Smart ended a year of screen and stage appearances with her first Emmy. Even Meshach Taylor is back.

This was also the year that DWT launched the Designing Women Fan Club and its "Belled" newsletter -- which has earned high praise; Entertainment Tonight premiered its Designing Women retrospective; and lastly and possibly most significantly, the Designing Women Cookbook went to press.

It's a time of holiday feasts and traditions, when family and friends escape their fast-paced world to share in heartfelt gatherings. What better time than the holidays to launch a cookbook, especially one made with so much love and charity? In addition, the cookbook itself salutes the DWFC with a special Sugarbaker Sangria!

So, join us as we pay tribute to two very special ladies when this issue goes behind the scenes of the Designing Women Cookbook. Plus, Delta finds out if Mel Gibson really knows What Women Want this Christmas, and Lifetime signs on one of Dixie's DW co-stars to narrate her "Intimate Portrait."

"Santa . . . May We Borrow Your Sleigh?"

A DWFC Exclusive Report by Amie C. Martin

There was a ferocious sleet storm in Little Rock, Arkansas, this week. Nevertheless, long time residents Robin Loucks and Karol Zoeller have important work to do. They're the editors of the Designing Women Cookbook and not sleet, nor snow, nor loss of power and heat will stop them.

The Designing Women CookbookLeft without heat and electricity, Robin doesn't hesitate to pick up the phone and call in for an impromptu phone interview in order to meet this press deadline. "Are you sure you're comfortable enough for an interview," I ask even though I've come to know this woman well enough over the last several months that I should know better. Without a beat, she jovially informs me, "Sure! I'm sufficiently bundled up and in front of our gas stove. Let's go for it!" In fact, if crowns were given for sufficient bundling, I'm afraid Suzanne in "Stranded" would have to step aside and give this one to Robin Loucks: long johns, bright pink jogging pants, thermal underwear top, silk chemise, turtleneck, black silk shirt, heavy sweater, and thermal cap. Despite the inconvenience of the power loss which may last several days, Robin is giggling and it's infectious. But I have to ask: "Silk?" While I'm thinking perhaps this is her way of feeling pretty underneath all the layers, Robin informs me that, in fact, "silk is one of the finest thermal insulators." This isn't the first and surely won't be the last thing I learn from this remarkable woman and the entire Designing Women Cookbook team.

In June of this year, John Paul (Top That! Account Manager for DWT) received his first notice of this project from Robin Loucks, and it's been a whirlwind ever since. Of course, the process had started long before. Robin and co-editor Karol Zoeller's husband, Mark, were instrumental in beginning the Villa Marre Endowment Fund in the mid 1990s to ensure the preservation of this wonderful piece of Victorian architecture which also serves as the official Sugarbaker House on Designing Women. At that time Robin proposed the idea of a Designing Women Cookbook but was turned down by the director of the endowment.

Robin Loucks and Karol ZoellerThe idea, however, never died, and when friend and fellow cooking enthusiast, Karol Zoeller (pictured far right, with Robin), approached Robin last fall about doing a cookbook, once again the beloved Villa came to mind. They wrote Designing Women producers Linda and Harry Thomason who responded in May of this year with an enthusiastic go-ahead, including Linda's personal recipe for gingerbread, a press shot of themselves, and a cast photo. A mad scramble ensued to do market research, assemble and edit recipes, and coordinate with the publisher to get a cookbook into the hands of collectors and cooks all over the country.

By the end of September, just three months after first contacting John Paul and the DWFC, Robin and Karol were incorporated, had secured the cookbook's domain name, and were editing the book of over 700 recipes from friends and lovers of DW across the country and in Canada. In October, they were starting to set up their local book tour, and Top That! was fortunate to be commissioned to set up their website as a mirror of DWT. Even the White House Liaison Officer for Clinton, Lynda Dixon, was onboard (a native of Little Rock) and called personal friend Harry Thomason to tell him of the progress. Thrilled, Harry immediately offered to put together a package of more materials for the cookbook's website and any future cookbook editions. In early November, Robin returned from a missionary trip to Haiti just as she and Karol received their first galley proofs. The two then spent several days reading recipes to each other out loud to proofread the book before sending it to press for this first edition.

Because the Designing Women Cookbook is a fundraiser, Robin and Karol have made every effort to keep costs low, and they opted for a freight delivery of the book which they would have to then unload and store themselves in Karol's garage. So, on November 22, 10,000 copies of the book (totaling a whopping 14,000 pounds!) were delivered to Karol Zoeller's Little Rock residence by freight. As with everything else, these ladies treated this memorable day as just another adventure, considering what many of us might construe as hard labor as a joyous milestone marking them one step closer to their goal. Explains Robin: "I have never had so much fun with a project that the work didn't seem like work. It was a joy. Even unloading the books! I have been laughing now for a month and it comes from delight."

These ladies have cause for delight! The Designing Women Cookbook is entirely self-marketed and gaining publicity solely through word of mouth. Though the cookbook is currently only in limited bookstores in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia, each time Robin and Karol drop by a bookstore to introduce it, they are immediately received with enthusiasm and more book orders. Just last week Robin told me, "We hit a neighboring town today with great results. Books a Million (Bookstore) said 'Where have you been? We've had six calls today for the book!' Tomorrow we go to Memphis and next week we're going to Atlanta!" In fact, the Little Rock Hallmark store immediately sold out of their original twelve book order and had to have another 24 delivered; those sold out immediately, as well, and an additional 72 were ordered and delivered to them -- and sold out; all in just a little over a week.

"We are terribly pleased with and humbled by the response to the cookbook," Robin and Karol both exclaim in unison. "Book sellers have consistently told us we have a best seller on our hands. We sold 1000 cookbooks through just a few local book signings and craft fairs in the end of November alone and are well into our third thousand this week," continues Robin to which Karol adds, "Followers of the show are simply delighted to see it!"

Not to mention Little Rock natives! As we go to press, the Thomasons are at the White House to spend the holidays with their close friends, the Clintons. And they'll have plenty of reading on hand thanks to a delivery of ten Designing Women Cookbooks, including a personally signed copy for Robin and Karol's favorite First Lady and Senator.

While the reception of the cookbook certainly has something to do with people's immediate recognition of and connection with the Designing Women, we must also give credit where credit is due, and that lies primarily with the enthusiasm and dedication of Robin and Karol and their husbands, Harry Loucks and Mark Zoeller. John Paul and I can personally attest to the tireless efforts of Robin and Karol -- both personal inspirations, as well as Harry and Mark, also invaluable members of the DW Cookbook team.

Mark Zoeller and Harry LoucksBoth women have been married to these men whom they gratefully term their "best friends" for fifteen years. While the DW Cookbook is Robin and Karol's project, Harry and Mark (both pictured here, with Mark to the left) have supported them 200% with pride and joy over their wives' dedication and the response they're generating. But actions speak louder than words. When Robin and Karol had the opportunity to meet with Barnes & Noble during a time they would have been finishing a book signing at Little Rock's "Festival of Trees" fundraiser, Harry (an environmental designer for Arkansas' Children's Hospital) and Mark (a retired dentist who now teaches dentistry at the local medical center) didn't hesitate to step up to the plate! Having already served as DW Cookbook delivery men on several occasions, the men (donning the cookbook's signature color of pink) enthusiastically took over the book signing for their wives.

Harry and Mark traversed the aisles, encouraging shoppers to visit the table where the cookbook was featured and mucking it up with the mostly female consumers, feeding them crackers and cheese. Explains Karol proudly: "When one of the women asked how much the cookbook was, Mark told them 'about $20.' She replied, 'how about 5?' Mark sadly told her, 'this is my wife's cookbook . . . I don't think I can give it to you for $5,' to which the woman responded: 'No, I mean, how about 5 cookbooks!'" In just over an hour, Harry and Mark sold over 50 cookbooks at the "Festival of Trees"!

"They're so supportive and have such a healthy and infectious sense of humor," continues Karol. At a craft fair book signing at Children's Hospital in Little Rock, for instance, Mark and Harry developed the slogan, "Every Southern belle should have a copy of the Designing Women Cookbook," and they didn't hesitate to approach the men with their slogan as well as the women -- although one man responded to Mark with a resounding "My wife's a redneck," and walked off. Well, you can't win 'em all, Mark!

Book SigningSo what's next for this Designing Women Cookbook team? Well, for starters, we're still finalizing the online order form on the cookbook's website, but in the meantime, you can email your orders into the website, or mail checks or money orders. Robin and Karol are currently shopping for a national distributor and have meetings scheduled in the new year at such book chains as Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a -Million (all at which they've participated locally), as well as Walden. Early next year, they'll be branching their book signing tour out to Springfield and Branson, Missouri, as well as Dallas, TX, for their wholesale market where a lot of national gift stores buy their spring stock. They'll also be featured as the cover story for the January 2001 issue of Active Years magazine which is produced in Little Rock, marketed in Memphis, TN, and Missouri, and sent to a national list of thousands of senior subscribers.

In fact, these ladies have been so busy that they nearly forgot about the scheduled photo shoot for Active Years in the Villa Marre kitchen last month in which they were supposed to be photographed preparing food. "We had a series of meetings all morning," begins Robin," and at 11am we rushed to my house where we had a very limited time to prepare food to present for the photo shoot." With no time to prepare any dishes from scratch as they originally planned, did they panic? "Not at all," answers Robin with ease. "We grabbed a frozen pork loin from my freezer and dressed it up with spices on the top and lovely garnishes around it for photographic purposes, and it all went off without a hitch! We never would have been able to do that if we didn't truly understand food though." Laughing, I confirmed that during the photo shoot the pork loin was actually still frozen: "Oh, yes! But I cooked it up at home for a lovely dinner that evening!"

Is it any wonder these women are taking the cookbook circuit by storm? Delightful and fun-loving, while still courageous, hardworking and inspiring, Robin Loucks and Karol Zoeller are tremendous testaments to the simple fact that being kind and having a goal and the enthusiasm and support to achieve it are the main ingredients of life. And this is only the beginning for them! Not only is their DW Cookbook tour just starting out, they're currently already working on Designing Women Cookbook II, as well as a Haitian cookbook to raise money for a nutrition program in Haiti sponsored by missionary groups throughout the United States. "I've never been so excited," Robin says. "I plan to joyously work continuously for the rest of my life! Every one should have 'work' which challenges them and causes them to jump out of bed every day with the excitement we feel."

As for Designing Women Cookbook II -- it is already in the works with plans to have it available this time next year! Featuring gourmet recipes, the cover will be a different shade of pink with the same picture frame as the first edition of the DW Cookbook and hopefully a picture of the cast on the cover. "We are collecting recipes starting now," enthuses Robin. Recipes for this gourmet cookbook should include no prepackaged mixes of any kind -- from scratch only! The DWC will have a section on its website regarding submissions in the new year, so spread the word and start getting your submissions together!

Both Robin and Karol don't hesitate to credit the popularity of Designing Women in aiding their cause of preserving the Villa Marre. As Robin explains: "The Designing Women show is such a delight that it is a pleasure to have it recognized. It was acutely ahead of its time and is so relevant today -- we hear that over and over! People are crazy about it. They watch it every day, and they thank us for producing this book. That's why we are so humbled . . . We have hit on something that is really meaningful and we are so pleased that we did it. This may be one of most important things I have ever done."

And undoubtedly not the last.

** For more information about Robin and Karol and the Designing Women Cookbook, including purchasing information, please visit the official Designing Women Cookbook Website, and be sure to visit again next year when the submission information for Designing Women Cookbook II is up, as well as a schedule of their book signings and other fun and valuable information.

Photos Courtesy of the Designing Women Cookbook.

Delta Makes Her Feature Film Debut For Christmas

Delta BurkeForget asking Santa what Delta wants for Christmas this year -- just ask Mel Gibson, because this season they're together, and he knows What Women Want.

Of course you've heard about it -- it's one of the season's most anticipated movies, and our own Delta Burke makes her feature film debut alongside Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt in Paramount Pictures' What Women Want.

The official description from Paramount:
"A Chicago advertising exec, Nick Marshall (Gibson) gets a whole new outlook on life when a fluke accident gives him the ability to read women's minds. At first, this "gift" provides Nick with way too much information, but he begins to realize that he can use it to good effect, especially when it comes to outwitting his new boss, Darcy McGuire (Helen Hunt). In spite of his best efforts to finesse Darcy, he soon finds himself falling in love and ultimately understanding what women want."

Mel and DeltaDelta plays perky Eve, one of Nick's secretaries. Together with his other secretary, played by Valerie Perrine, the two provide an additional comedic presence outside of the main story. In an Entertainment Tonight interview on location Delta admitted, "It's my first feature, so I've just been like a four-year-old. We went to the table reading and it's like...there's Mel Gibson! It's very exciting." She added, "He's a lot of fun, and I just follow him around and try to get a lot of stories out of him."

Delta and Valerie PerrineOne fun scene expected to make audiences roar with laughter has Mel's character staring at his secretaries, expecting to hear their thoughts, and realizing he's looking into their empty heads.

Hmmm, so maybe Mel can't read Delta, but the best way to find out is to go see What Women Want, now in theaters.

The Official "What Women Want" Website
Paramount Pictures Publicity
Entertainment Tonight: The Real Designing Women

Dixie Rings In the New Millenium With A Look Back
in Her Own 'Intimate Portrait'

Classic Dixie CarterLifetime Television has finally set a date for Dixie Carter's long anticipated "Intimate Portrait" -- narrated by none other than former DW co-star Annie Potts! Scheduled to premiere on Monday, February 5, 2001, Dixie's "Intimate Portrait" will focus more on her home life and family than the career spotlight of her "Celebrity Profile" on E! earlier this year. Since it's still in post-production, it's impossible to say with certainty what will make the final cut, but we can tell you that "Intimate Portrait" producers traveled to McLemoresville, TN, to take footage of Dixie's hometown and interview several members of her family and friends. Of course, you can also expect to see the familiar faces of many of Dixie's colleagues, including her Designing Women and Family Law co-stars, as well as those with whom she's worked in the theatre and cabaret.

Dixie can also be heard narrating "Intimate Portrait: Sharon Lawrence" on Thursday, Dec. 21. As many of you know, Dixie has had the occasion to play Sharon's mother on two different sitcoms: Fired Up (in which Dixie appeared as a guest star in two episodes) and Ladies Man (in which Dixie had a recurring role last season).

The Cabaret: The Official Dixie Carter Website

How Well Do You Know That Food?

(45) Which of the DW characters enrolled in a gourmet cooking class to expand her culinary skills?

(46) What dishes did Julia fix for her son Payne that had been his favorites as a child?

(47) Which dish did B.J. say was the cornerstone of Southern Church Lady Quisine?

(48) What did the Sugarbakers team feast on in lieu of cooking up Suzanne's pig for Christmas?

* Answers will appear in the next issue.

Answers from Issue #011

(41) Speaking of First Ladies, whom did Julia suggest that Nancy Reagan was dressed like at her husband's first Presidential inauguration?

Wilma Flinstone.

(42) With which President did Suzanne once stand in the White House Rose Garden?

Jimmy Carter

(43) One of Charlene's prize possessions is a letter to her from which President, who was also a hero to her?

John F. Kennedy

(44) Which member of the Sugarbaker's team voted for Ross Perot for President?

Carlene Dobber.....who else!!