"Nothing Matters But Our Love"

by Jerry Buck

"Dating is hell, and I was never good at it," says Delta Burke, sitting cross-legged on a couch in her Designing Women dressing room. "I didn't like going to bars because I always felt insecure and self-conscious. I stopped going to discos because I wasn't meeting people of substance there, and that was  real frustrating. I'd go a year without dating, then I'd think that life was passing me by, so I'd go on a few more miserable dates. But I'd always end up saying, 'Oh God, it's just not working.' There were times when I  thought I would spend the rest of my life with my dogs."

This is Delta  Burke looking back at her past, before she fell in love with Major Dad  star Gerald McRaney and married him in (an) extravaganza last May. Delta  and Mac met on March 27, 1987, at a publicists' luncheon. It was a noisy,  crowded affair, but "the minute we saw each other," Delta, 33, recalls,  "we only had eyes for each other. We spontaneously hugged, arid sparks  flew. Honey, I was hot for him!" Adds twice-divorced Mac, 43: "1 had sworn off marriage, but then I met Delta. What caught my attention were those  gin-clear blue eyes. They are the kind of eyes a man gets lost in, never to find his way out. Those eyes still fascinate me, and they probably  always will."

Because of their demanding work schedules, however, Delta arid Mac didn't meet again  until three months later, when the actor was cast as Delta's ex-husband in  two episodes of Designing Women. "Mac later told me that he took the role  just so that he could see me again," she says. "When we kissed, I couldn't  remember my lines and we both blushed." On their second date, Mac asked  her to marry him. "Logic was telling me it was too soon, but I had a gut  feeling that this woman was going to be my friend for the rest of my life," says Mac, who gifted Delta with a four carat Tiffany engagement ring. "I still think Delta is the most beautiful creature God ever put on earth."

Yet even with  all the romantic touches, meeting her dream man and letting herself trust  him completely were two different things. The actress has always, she  says, been fearful of men - the result of being molested by the father of a childhood friend when she was just four. "It was a terrible thing," Delta recalls quietly "Though the memory has faded through the years, it  will always stay with me. I was always frightened of men, afraid they would only deal with me in a sexual way. Every time a man approached me, I thought he would hurt me." Delta pauses, taking a bite of her Chinese  chicken-salad lunch. "Several times, I was involved in situations that  were close to date rape. All those experiences made me wary of men. Deep  inside, there was always a fear."

So when she  found herself drawn to McRaney in a major way, she squelched any fears she  had by "calling people and asking, 'Do you know anything about this Gerald  McRaney?"' she recalls. "When no one had anything bad to say about Mac, I knew he was for real. He's the most romantic man I've ever met."

A week after our first interview, Delta, dressed in a raspberry sweatsuit and matching sneakers, answers the door of the house where she and Mac live. She's  decided to give me a tour of the 62-year-old, gray-stucco house that sits  on a hillside in Pasadena, California. First it's off to the living morn  and foyer, where the drapes are made from the same emerald-green taffeta  that her bridesmaids wore. Then, upstairs, we peek inside a charming bedroom that's been decorated for Kathleen Victoria, the seven-year-old daughter Mac and his second wife adopted. (Kate lives with her mother, but often spends weekends with Delta and Mac.)

Delta is also  stepmother to Mac's two children from his first marriage-daughter Jessica, 23, and son Angus, 20, who is deaf. Are Delta and Mac going to start their own family? "Probably, but it's not a priority. I'd like our lives to be a bit more settled first," she says.

As the couple  is about to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, most of the settling down has been needed on the public front, not the private one. In  recent months, ever since Delta gained 30 pounds, she's become a target for tabloid taunts. The actress won't disclose her weight, but denies she's anywhere near the 200 pounds the press has reported her to be.)  Rumors run rampant that the producers of Designing Women gave Delta an  ultimatum to lose weight or be suspended from the show. Others insist her  husband is ready to leave her. "Those stories hurt me very much," Delta  says. "It seems no one is concerned with my feelings or dignity."

Yet even when  she was feeling her lowest, she was secure in the knowledge her husband  would never leave her. "Mac is the only person who's never, ever once mentioned my weight," Delta says. "The only time he brought it up was to  remind me that I could weigh three hundred pounds and he'd still love me. Mac sees me differently, and it's taken me a long time to really believe  that. Yet I know Mac can't help me lose weight," she adds. "Only I can get myself to lose weight."

© 1990 The Hearst Corporation "Redbook" pp. 34-36.
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