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  BELLED #30 - FEBRUARY 28, 2003


Welcome to our first edition of 2003, and the very first edition of Belled being delivered to your e-mailboxes in full color HTML!!

Long-time subscribers know that this is a substantial change from previous editions, and now that we are operating the mailing list independently from both Yahoo Groups and Topica, more exciting changes are on the way; as of this issue, we're starting with this change: Belled subscribers will receive their HTML Belled newsletters 24 hours prior to the release of the HTML issue on Belled Online itself! We are continuously amazed by and proud of the number of subscribers which grow each week (as are the cast and producers), and we will continue to find ways to thank you for your support and enthusiasm in any way we can.

This is our first test, so we are counting on the support and feedback weíve always received from Belled subscribers to let us know if there are further adjustments to be made. Please email Belled@topthat.net if you experience any problems with this new, HTML e-Newsletter. For now, we have transferred the existing subscriber list from both Yahoo Groups and Topica to our own server and in the next few weeks, we will have new subscribers sign up directly through us.

We've also been receiving email requests for more information on Annie Potts, as well as other actors involved in the series. Annie has been taking a long deserved hiatus, but rest assured that when she resurfaces, we'll let you know. Our goal is to keep you updated on the entire Designing Women team when, and if, they are involved in new projects -- some are currently more active than others. Also, be sure to continue visiting the Belled Hot Off the Press Page for continued updates and tidbits on all of the cast members.

And now on to our current issue:

Cast Feature: Dixie Carter returns to the stage as Jacqueline Susann in Paper Doll.

Designing Women Flashback: Wacky Bernice answers letters from the lovelorn.

Project Spotlight: Jean Smart joins Steve Martin and Queen Latifah to start Bringing Down the House.



  CAST FEATURE


Dixie Carter Gets Doll'd Up for Return to Stage



'Paper Doll'

by Mark Hampton and Barbara J. Zitwer
Directed by Leonard Foglia
with Dixie Carter and Jerry Grayson

March 5 - April 6
Long Wharf Theatre
222 Sargent Drive, New Haven, CT
Box Office: 203.787.4282

In 1997, Dixie Carter took over the role of opera star Maria Callas from Zoe Caldwell in Broadway's Master Class. Not only did Dixie receive wonderful reviews for her run as Ms. Callas, she was thrilled with the opportunity to play her personal idol. Now, Dixie is taking over the role of another powerful and celebrated woman ahead of her time -- but her celebrity is of a very different ilk.

Jacqueline SusannIn the pre-Broadway review of Paper Doll, Dixie stars as Jacqueline Susann, the flamboyant 1960s icon of the trash novel profession, best known for her 1966 novel, Valley of the Dolls. In real life, Susann represented much of the fashion of the 1960s, as well; free love, open marriage, pills, and booze were ever present. Still, Susann was a shrewd businesswoman and is often credited as being the first author to design and perform "the book tour," using the emerging television talk shows of the time as self- and book-promotion venues.

Together, with her husband and manager, Irving Mansfield, Susann's life was obsessively focused on self-promotion and a desperate need for stardom. Though her pill-popping, drinking, and foul mouth were certainly no secrets, Mansfield and Susann went to great lengths to hide anything which they felt would taint her colorful and powerful inconic image, including their autistic son, who was institutionalized, and Susann's battle with breast cancer.

Dixie CarterPaper Doll provides a glimpse into Susann's public and private life through monologues during one day near the end of her life. It is the day her doctor gives her the final diagnosis that the cancer which would take her life at the age of 56 has returned. As Dixie told syndicated columnist Liz Smith in an interview last week: "She was so smart and driven -- this play catches all the sad and strange reasons fame was important to her, and why she was in such a hurry to make the most of it when recognition finally came."

Billed as a romantic comedy, the monologues are mostly Susann's, but also prominently feature Irving Mansfield, who (in a last minute cast change) is played by Jerry Grayson (Sopranos, Pushing Tin, Quiz Show). This run at the Long Wharf in New Haven, CT, is a pre-Broadway review, with Paper Doll tentatively set to open on "The Great White Way" later this season.

If you're in the area and are able to attend, don't expect to see Julia Sugarbaker, Dixie Carter, or even Maria Callas though! "This is one very juicy role, though the language in it stunned me a bit," Dixie also told Liz Smith. "Jackie had a rough mouth, and I don't even say 'damn' in real life. In Paper Doll I curse like a sailor. I just hope I don't pick up the habit now!"

While we can't speak for new or potential habits, we know Belled subscribers and readers are in the tried and true habit of supporting their favorite Designing Women, so we hope many of you will be able to attend the Long Wharf Theatre's production of Paper Doll with Dixie Carter. It promises to be quite a trip!

**Sources: Long Wharf Theatre, The Cabaret: dixiecarter.com


  DESIGNING WOMEN FLASHBACK


Alice Ghostly as Bernice Clifton

ASK BERNICE!

Everyone's favorite Fruitcake dishes out her own brand of advice to the lovelorn.


FROM THE BELLED EDITORS:
We apologize for the delay in publishing Bernice's answers to your questions which we hoped to issue in time for Valentine's Day. We are happy to report that her new medication is having phenomenal results! Thank you to everyone who submitted questions. To those of you who will find your questions answered below, remember -- take Bernice's advice with a grain of salt (preferably with tequila and lime.)*

________________________________


Dear Bernice:
Every guy I fall for keeps getting taken away from me by someone I know. Am I just really unlucky, or am I doing something wrong? ~Krista

Bernice Reponds:
Listen, Sister -- quit your belly-aching. You kids whine about how hard dating is when all you really have to do is get out there and show some confidence. The only problem I see is that you have too many choices! Narrow 'em down, kid, and then go in for the kill. In the meantime, tell those she-beasts to keep their hands off your man! Men love a good catfight -- as long as the girls don't look like guards from one of those Linda Blair prison movies.

________________________________

Dear Bernice:
No heartache here at least not yet! My boyfriend and I are in disagreement on whether or not Anthony is gay. I say no he is not and he says that he is, can you help clear this up? ~Kelley

Bernice Reponds:
My sweet Anthony? That boy is just like an illegitimate son to me, but he's also hot stuff and could barely juggle all those girlfriends until that Etienne sunk her claws into him. Now he barely has time for Mama -- let alone men.

________________________________

Dear Bernice:
Yea...I have a heartache for my love life...I don't have one! ~Amanda

Bernice Reponds:
Ah, let me share a piece of wisdom with you my great Aunt Mildred shared with me when I was your age. "Bernice," she said (she always called me Bernice), "there will be times in your life when you wonder . . . 'what is love?', 'what is life?', 'what is a love life?', 'why don't I have this thing called a love life?' My dear Bernice (I still can't get over how she knew to call me that, but it goes to show how wise she was), when you get to the point in life when you ask that last question, 'why don't I have this thing called a love life?', ask yourself this: "Why am I here talking to myself asking this question when I could be signing up for match.com?!"

________________________________

Dear Bernice:
I want to have sex. ~Mitch

Bernice Reponds:
Well, you're just going to have to stand in line. I know I'm an irresistable red hot mama, but some things will just have to be adored from afar. Meanwhile, Carlene found this INFLATE-A-DATE in a drug store sale bin.....

________________________________

Dear Bernice:
How can I get fabulous dates with rich men, like Suzanne always does? ~Laurie

Bernice Reponds:
Easy: hit up the old folks' home. Those fine pickings have money burning holes in their plaid pajama pants and cataracts strong enough to make Liza Minelli look like J. Lo. With a big wig and a sparkling tiara, you've got yourself a night on the town, honey...

________________________________

Dear Bernice:
How can I get a date for Valentine's Day this year? ~Jacqueline

Bernice Reponds:
The editors of Belled kept calling my cell to get me to finish the column before Valentine's Day, but my girls all were in dateless-crisis, too, so I had to cancel my date with the old man down the hall in order to be with them. It's okay though -- I left him with a cassette of Titanic and some vodka stingers. Once he mixes a couple of those babies with his medication, he'll never know I'm not there since he already mistakes me for Catherine Zeta Jones. Anyway, here's some advice for 2004: I hear the corner of Magnolia and Main is promising.

________________________________

Dear Bernice:
I'm 16 and I love a guy who doesn't love me. We've been friends for about 12 years and I know everything about each other. I want to step up our relationship but he wants to remain friends, what should I do? ~Jen

Bernice Reponds:
Oh, you crazy fool!! Why are you pining away for some man who can't see how great you are? Take it from Mama, get out there and strut your stuff -- and don't settle for any man who isn't walking funny every time he sees you. My late husband and I started off as just friends, and I made him chase me for years before I finally said yes. He would always say, "Bernice, marry me..." and I'd always respond, "Oh, you crazy fool! You don't have any money!" But, you see, my Louis came from a circus family, and he was billed as the man with the world's longest tongue. Plus, as it turns out, his family carried a life insurance policy on him that paid three-hundred thousand dollars if he died from swallowing a sword. It all turned out just dandy for the first few years, except that when you have the world's longest tongue you just don't go risking it by putting knives in your mouth.

________________________________

Dear Bernice:
My other half tells me that he loves me, however, does not include me in the extra curicular activities of his life. I love him and want to share his interests. Am I being selfish? I understand that there are some things that a man needs to do by himself (have hobbies, etc.) but I want to share as much of his life as possible. Bernice, what should I do? ~Steve

Bernice Reponds:
Hmmm. Maybe you need one of those hot leather daddies to come in and teach him how to behave (and tape it for me). And go find some hobbies of your own. When you get old people expect you to know how to make things -- so you might as well start early so you can actually be good at it.

________________________________

Dear Bernice:
I have a thing for a much older woman, only I'm afraid I won't be able to keep up with her. What should I do? ~Rusty

Bernice Reponds:
Never fear--with a little endurance training, you'll be wheeling alongside granny in no time! Brush up on your bocci, polish your pinochle, and watch for shifting dentures when the time comes for a little one-on-one action. Most importantly, don't give up your pursuit--she'll have to stop for her soap operas eventually.

________________________________

Dear Bernice:
I'm 25. Guys have always said I'm the type of girl they want to marry. I don't want to get married until I'm older so believe me when I say I'm not pressuring them, but it doesn't matter because they end up leaving before that point anyway in order to pursue more, shall we say, cheesecake partners. What's a good/no-pressure girl to do? ~Christine

Bernice Reponds:
Listen, Girlfriend, I'm here to tell you that men are no good. After Mr. Clifton died, men used to pay big bucks for a date with me, but it turned out most of them only wanted me for my body. Then one day this rich man came along who put me up in his hotel room and paid me to be his escort for the week. He took me from the streets and treated me like a pretty woman. That man -- was Richard Gere. Boy did that man love me, but in the end I had to break his heart -- he had just too many sculptures of fat, bald men with earrings and no shirts. Even his telephone was in the shape of a fat, bald man. I mean, I'm all for love, but not when you have to talk into a fat man's navel.

*Advice given in ASK BERNICE! is purely fictional and intended for entertainment purposes only.
**Photo credit: Columbia Pictures Television -- courtesy of Designing Women Tribute.


  PROJECT SPOTLIGHT


'Bringing Down the House'

Steve Martin and Queen Latifah

Can Queen Latifah help Steve Martin win back Jean Smart's heart in their latest comedy?


Jean SmartSteve Martin returns to the silver screen next week with the Touchstone Pictures/Disney release of Bringing Down the House, co-starring Queen Latifah. Joining the two leads are familiar character actors Eugene Levy, Joan Plowright, Betty White, and Jean Smart.

Martin plays Peter Sanderson, a divorced, straight-laced, uptight attorney who still loves his ex-wife (Jean Smart) and canít figure out what he did wrong to make her leave him -- or how to get her back.

Peter tries to move on and becomes smitten with a brainy, bombshell barrister heís been chatting with on-line. However, when she comes to his house for their first face to face, she isnít refined, isnít Ivy League -- and isnít even a lawyer. Instead, she's a prison escapee named Charlene (Queen Latifah) whoís proclaiming her innocence and wants Peter to help clear her name. Peter wants nothing to do with her, but not willing to take no for an answer, the loud and shocking Charlene turns Peterís perfectly ordered life upside down, jeopardizing his effort to get back with his wife and woo a billion dollar client (Joan Plowright).

Smart, Jones and Brown Pictured here with Kimberly J. Brown and Angus T. Jones, who play her onscreen children, Jean looks incredible, and she can be spotted several times in the theatrical trailer, which is available at both the film's Official Touchstone site and Yahoo Movies.

The Hollywood Reporter calls Bringing Down the House "questionably tasteful but often laugh-out-loud funny," adding that it approaches "inappropriateness on more than one occasion." And it's the type of physical comedy that Steve Martin is famous for -- a perfect vehicle for Queen Latifah to spread her wings after an acclaimed supporting performance in the smash hit Chicago.

Bringing Down the House hits theaters on March 7th.

**Sources: Bringing Down the House (Official Site), Yahoo Movies, Smart Stuff: Officially Jean Smart
Photos credits: Touchstone Pictures.