Gay southern comfort from Delta Burke
BY Delta Burke
June 20 2006 12:00 AM ET
Delta Burke is best known for playing Suzanne Sugarbaker
on Designing Women. Burke’s character
was strong, southern, and sassy, so that gays love
her should come as no surprise. Happily, as it turns out
Burke loves the gays right back. Burke can now be seen
in Del Shores’s play, Southern Baptist
Sissies. In her current role Burke plays three
different mothers who each deal with having a gay son.
After two sold-out shows in Palm Springs, Burke
returns to L.A. on July 11, 2006 for five more
performances. After that the show will go on a national
tour. The Human Rights Campaign recently awarded Burke
the prestigious Equality Award for the work she
has done in promoting the ideals of acceptance and
understanding. Her acceptance speech, both hilarious and
moving, would have made Suzanne Sugarbaker proud.
Thank you so much
for this. I have to admit, this was not something I
ever expected. I’m truly humbled. I mean, God knows
I’m good with the gays -- I mean, come on,
beauty pageants, Suzanne Sugarbaker, Sordid
Lives. Heck, the play I just did in Los Angeles was
called Southern Baptist Sissies, for
cryin’ out loud. Yeah, me and the
gays—we’re good, we’re tight. My hair,
my wardrobe, my makeup—always much, much better
because of the gays. OK, let’s just call it: If it
weren’t for homosexuals, I wouldn’t look this
good and my career would basically be nonexistent. So
from the bottom of my heart, I thank you all.
don’t want you to think that I’m just a taker.
I have given back too. I guess my giving to the gay
community started many years ago when I was a
naïve young ingenue studying acting at the London
Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. I was a missionary
of sorts to many a gay man. By then I was already a
gay magnet—for some reason they were just drawn to
me. And over and over I’d live out the same
scenario. Some extremely handsome guy would confess to
me that he was all confused about his sexuality, and
for some reason he thought I was the one who could turn
him—you know, help him figure it all out. Well,
I helped him figure it out all right. One night with
me, baby, they no longer had any doubts. They knew. They
were 100% positive that they were gay. I don’t know
exactly what that says about me, but I decided to look
on the positive side, knowing that I helped many a gay
man come to terms with his homosexuality.
You know, I just
realized I probably haven’t done enough for the
lesbians. I’ll have to get right on that. Although,
my sister Jennifer is lesbian, and I once bought her
and her girlfriend a trip on Olivia Cruises at an
auction at some gay event. That’s gotta count, right?
But you know, when we found out Jennifer was gay, I
have to tell you that in our home it really
didn’t matter. There was never any question about
accepting her. She was Jennifer, my sister who hated dresses
whom we loved very much. I just don’t
understand these people who have such issues with it.
As I mentioned
earlier, I recently did a play in Los Angeles written by
Del Shores who also wrote and directed me in Sordid
Lives. I played three different mothers, all of
whom had their own issues with their boys being gay.
Like a lot of Del’s work, the play is very funny,
then it turns on you.
play, Mark, the hero, keeps closing his eyes, saying,
“Sometimes I close my eyes and create a perfect
world, a world of acceptance, understanding, and
love.” At the end of the play, Mark stops a
hellfire-and-brimstone sermon being preached at his
friend’s funeral, and he creates that perfect
world. And in that world the lonely are no longer
lonely, and everyone is welcome. In that world preachers
preach sermons about truth, about love and hope. And
in that world mothers and fathers accept, embrace, and
love every single thing about their children.
Well, at that
point my character would hug her son—and honey, I
would just fall to pieces. I was supposed to stop
crying and start singing with the rest of the cast,
but the tears just wouldn’t stop. Because after I
hugged my boy, “Mark” would bring back the
love of his life, T.J., who had left him for a
woman—because of the church, because of society,
because like so many, he had been taught to believe that
what he was, was an abomination to God and if he lived
his truth he would go to hell. And as the music is
building—no help from me because I’m still
crying—but in Mark’s perfect world he
would say, “A world where I can love and he can
love.” Then T.J. would walk in, take Mark’s
face and kiss him and say, “I love you.”
There they were
in their black suits—so beautiful—holding
hands, standing before a preacher, like two grooms.
And my tears would continue to fall, through the
blackout, through my curtain call, all the way back to my
dressing room. Because Mark’s perfect world
didn’t really exist. He would always wake
up—with hope, yes—but he would always wake up.
I took this play
because I have hope too. Times are changing, folks,
because of people like you who are putting a face on being
gay, showing the world that you are just like the rest
of us. You are God’s creations, and you are
perfect. And someday, hopefully in my lifetime, we will have
Mark’s perfect world.
So, yes, I
believe in gay marriage. I believe in equal rights.
And I too dream
of a perfect world. And in my perfect world there will no
longer be the need to give Equality Awards, because equality
will simply be. Now, don’t think I’m
giving this back, because I love awards…and
tiaras…and homosexuals. Thank you very, very much.
This means so much.
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