Delta Burke And Gerald McRaney’s 27 Year Marriage Has Stood The Test Of Time

This article appeared in Ninjajournalist and has been published here with permission.

In the late 1980s, Delta Burke seemed poised to take over the world, but within a few years, she found that everything she’d been building crashed around her. Though she’s managed to rebuild her life in the intervening years, she’s finally speaking out about what really happened.

Starting To Rise

With each successive season on Designing Women, Delta Burke’s star shone even brighter, but a combination of influences, most notably her husband, Gerald McRaney, would pull her off the track in the blink of an eye.

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Strutting Across The Stage

Delta Burke was catapulted into a career in show business in her teens, when she began competing in local beauty pageants near her hometown of Orlando, Florida. While Burke was clearly infatuated with being in the spotlight, she never realized just how detrimental the pressure of pageants, and subsequently, television, would be to her wellbeing. Later down the line, she’d have to face these burgeoning struggles, but she was lucky to have one person to see her through the darkness.

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Sorting By Size

Being a pageant queen isn’t easy for anyone, but though competitions have become more accepting in recent years, there’s still an expectation that the girls and women who compete in these shows will fit a certain standard. For the young Delta, fitting into the pageants’ expectations became an unhealthy obsession, which only set her up for the strife that would come after she’d hit the big time with Designing Women. Of course, Delta had no inkling about this back then, she just wanted to be a star.

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Gaining A Foothold

When Designing Women first premiered in 1985, the creators were sure they had a hit on their hands, but the network wasn’t so sure. Led by Delta Burke and Dixie Carter, the cast shone brightly in their roles, it just took them some time before they found the audience they were looking for. By the second season, however, the show was a bonafide hit, and suddenly, Delta Burke found that her name was on everybody’s lips. The euphoria wouldn’t last…

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Bouncing On Speed Bumps

For nearly five years, Designing Women ran like a well-oiled machine. Each of the stars fit with the others like a glove until suddenly, it seemed like some sort of pipe burst. In the center of the mess was Delta, who started to publicly disparage the show. While it may have seemed like her comments sprang out of nowhere, it soon became clear to the public that she wouldn’t be returning in the following seasons, but no one knew why.

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Running A Sweatshop

One of the claims that Delta made in the middle of her feud with the Designing Women team was that the actors were often forced to work for 15 hours a day. Her claims continued to get more outrageous, some of which included that if they weren’t being kept on set for more time than was truly necessary, one of the series’ creators would round up the cast and lock them in a room, only to yell at them.

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Breaking Apart

One of the worst consequences of Delta’s feud with the creators of Designing Women is that it led to a fallout with her costar, Dixie Carter. Some had always wondered if there was the possibility that the women would end up at odds, given that they both had noticeably strong personalities. But for the better part of Delta’s time on the show, Dixie was one of her closest friends.  After their fallout, it would be more than a decade before the relationship was repaired.

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Alone At The Alter

When Delta first married Gerald McRaney, who even appeared as a guest star on Designing Women, after meeting on his own series, the entire cast showed up to celebrate with the happy couple. Two years later, Delta and Gerald decided to hold a vow renewal ceremony, but when it came to Delta’s co-stars, the second time around, all of them, not just Dixie Carter, were noticeably absent. That just continued to increase the effects that left Delta reeling.

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Feeling Lost

To those on the other side, Delta’s behavior might have seemed increasingly erratic or aggressive, but deep inside her soul, she was feeling entirely lost. The negative feelings she’d had during her pageant days had come back with a vengeance, but rather than explain how the pressure and conflict were affecting her, Delta just doubled down on the fight. It would take her years to confront what was really tearing her apart, but not before she almost lost her career.

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Kicked To The Curb

As tensions continued to rise, it was clear Delta Burke wanted out of the show. But for some reason, Linda Bloodworth Thomason refused to write her out. Delta couldn’t figure out why, until the very last episode of the sixth season. They would write her out, but only on their terms. Rather than gradually transition her out of the show, the writers were convinced they needed Delta, until she became too difficult to manage. In one fell swoop, she was gone.

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Piling It On

The official reasons that seemed to have been given for Delta’s abrupt departure from Designing Women had to do with her attitude on set. The producers claimed she was too argumentative, and it was creating disorder. However, there was another reason that wasn’t publicized, but wasn’t such a secret. Over the past couple of years, Delta had gained a noticeable amount of weight, and some whispered that many of the problems started because the team no longer liked how she looked.

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Rounds Of Applause

Even if one of the secret reasons behind Delta’s firing had to do with her weight, on the other hand, the show was more than happy to capitalize on those physical changes as well. One of the best episodes in the show’s history addressed Delta’s weight gain head on, as the character shows up to a high school reunion where no one can get over how her body had changed. For her work, Delta was nominated for an Emmy Award.

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Who Said It First

In the heat of her conflict with Thomason, Delta found a new battleground in the fight to prove her worth to the show. She may have brought in the Emmy nomination, but when Delta claimed it was her idea to write the episode, Linda Thomason fired back that she’d had to convince Delta to do it. Delta wanted more acknowledgment as a powerhouse behind their ratings, but Linda and the other producers refused to budge, simply doubling down on their disagreements.

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National Laughing Stock

One of the reasons the show took pains to address Delta’s weight gain was because for weeks on end, the tabloids couldn’t get enough of teasing her. The more the public laughed at her expense, no matter how happy her personal life had been, it took a toll on Delta’s mental health. At one point, radio shows would blatantly say things to her like “Delta Burke, how much weight have you put on?” There was only one person Delta could count on…

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Retreat To The Bayou

When Delta said goodbye to Designing Women, she retreated back to the comfort of her New Orleans home, keeping herself out of the spotlight while she took time to focus on herself. After all of the public ridicule, Delta could hardly face any kind of widespread attention, and rather than try to rehabilitate her image, she decided the best course of action was to focus on herself and keep her head down. It wouldn’t be long before she’d reemerge.

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Shaking Hands

Without Delta on board, Designing Women quickly tanked, earning one more season of good ratings that was fed by the drama with Delta before viewers turned their attention elsewhere. In 1995, however, Delta and Linda managed to mend the fence, which led to Linda offering Delta a Designing Women spin-off of her own, titled Women of the House. Unlike its predecessor, it would not involve Dixie Carter, who was still at odds with Delta. As it turned out, there was still a long road to travel.

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Health On The Line

By 1997, Delta seemed to be back on the rise, however slowly she was moving. She had found acceptance in her new, bigger body when she discovered she had a new health crisis on her hands. That year, Delta was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, which caused her to rethink her entire lifestyle. Managing the diagnosis was a trial in and of itself, but along the way, the star would find there were some unexpected benefits to the disease.

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Shedding Her Skin

As she embarked on a new diet plan in order to manage her disease, Delta discovered that the weight she’d been so ridiculed for gaining was slipping away. Even so, the change stoked a new media firestorm, which couldn’t help but detail in every single profile of the star just how slim she had become. She shared with People in a 1999 interview, “I’ve just about eliminated high glycemic foods like white bread, rice, and refined foods,” which helped her to make the biggest change.

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Talking It Out

One of the biggest consequences of Delta’s struggles during the latter years of Designing Women is that she eventually had to face her demons. By finally admitting that she had struggled with depression throughout her life, even during her pageant days, she was finally able to get the help she needed. Behind all of the toughest moments of Delta’s life was a lingering depression, but it was possibly both fueled and eased by one man in particular.

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Stuck With Stuff

There was one other major thing Delta had to face before she could fully move on to the rest of her life. In 2008, Delta revealed that in addition to suffering from depression, she also had what’s called compulsive hoarding syndrome. As she said in her enlightening Entertainment Tonight appearances, “At one time I had 27 storage units. I don’t have a big enough house!” She added, “My mom had it, it’s my mother’s fault. She saved the diaper I came home from the hospital in!”

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Always By Her Side

Through it all, Delta has always been able to count on the support of her husband, Gerald McRaney. Even nearly 30 years after they were first married, their relationship is still going strong. Delta was happy to stand by his side while he was awarded a recent Emmy for his work on This is Us. However solid their relationship may be, some think that Gerald still should bear some of the blame for what happened on Designing Women.

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Placing Blame

For starters, it seemed like the on-set conflict was kicked off by Delta’s weight gain, no matter how supportive they seemed to be. Her weight only began to creep up after her marriage, causing many to point fingers at Gerald. Some sources even went so far as to claim, “Her [Delta’s] husband stocked a room at home with pounds of chocolate, as a dramatic way of saying he loved her for herself, not for the way she looked.”

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Together Til The End

No matter what sort of darkness has touched her life, Delta slowly crept back into the public eye, especially after she confronted her inner turmoil head-on. With a supportive husband by her side, Delta doesn’t feel the need to have the spotlight turned on her, and in addition to intermittent acting jobs, she finds fulfillment by owning and designing a plus-sized clothing line called Delta Burke Design. She might not be the star she dreamed of, but she’s certainly better off.

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