The Celebrity Collector

Delta Burke and Gerald McRaney
Have Warehouses Full of Their Collections

By Ken Hall

Delta Burke and Gerald McRaney have accumulated so many things over the course of their lifetimes ­ both as a married couple and before ­ it probably makes sense they'd take space in an antiques mall. The couple, married for 16 years, is leasing 1,500 square feet at the recently opened Antique Galleria in Collins, Miss. Collins is where McRaney and his older brother, Buddy, were born.

"Delta will be going through a warehouse full of stuff in New Orleans soon to determine what will be brought over to Collins for sale," McRaney said, although these words were spoken prior to Hurricane Katrina, and it was unclear at press time how much damage the warehouse had sustained, if any. What's housed there is mostly antique furniture: English, French and period American.

The couple leased more than 20 banks of climate-controlled units in New Orleans. Plus, they have merchandise stored in California (near their home in Studio City) and a 5,000-square-foot warehouse in Collins that Buddy affectionately dubbed "the best little warehouse in Collins." It was, until recently, a storefront space, open to the public, offering hand-painted furniture from China.

"About two years ago, the three of us - Delta, Gerald and myself - began importing accent pieces from China, under the name McRaney Enterprises, LLC," Buddy said. "We started selling things like trunks, entertainment centers, bombé chests, dressers and vanities direct to the public. Most of it is walnut. The wood is from America. It's shipped to China, where the pieces are made."

The business, with Buddy handling the day-to-day operations, has done well, and for now the imported merchandise is what people will see when they visit the Collins mall. "Gradually," Buddy said, "we'll introduce more and more of Gerald and Delta's antique items into the mix. Just what, I can't say. It's like going through soup. There's a little bit of everything in those warehouses."

That's because the McRaneys are a couple of self-admitted packrats. "Delta got it from her mother, who probably has the first diaper she ever put on Delta's bottom as a baby," Gerald said. He talked about his wife's massive collection of porcelain dolls, which took up the bulk of two large rooms in a former residence, and her fascination with English- and French-made period furniture.

Delta wasn't available for an interview, as she was just concluding a run on Broadway in the play "Steel Magnolias." McRaney spoke on both of their behalf and mentioned how he, too, was raised around antiques. "My mother, Edna, was a freak for antiques," he said. "She had an extensive collection of demitasse cups and saucers, and there was always period furniture in the house."

Gerald remembers, as a boy, doing his homework at an English mahogany desk. That led to a fascination with campaign furniture, used by military personnel, often on safari. "Roorkee chairs, for example" he said, "which were used by British officers in India, came in three pieces. That made them easy to assemble and re-assemble when their units got orders on short notice to move out."

As a young man, McRaney would keep his eye peeled for a find. Once, he spotted a brass bed from the 1880s at a barn sale. The price: just $20. "It was layered over with varnish, but I knew I'd found something nice," he said. He added he and Delta still shop that way - with an eye on a bargain, wherever they happen to be. A few of the items they've accumulated along the way include:

  • A vetrine, or small display case, purchased while the couple was in Paris on their honeymoon. It's from the early 1800s, about four feet tall, made of a darkwood, possibly ebony, and with beveled glass.
  • A four-poster Natchez rosewood bed, currently in storage in New Orleans. It's about 200 years old, with a cover on top.
  • A darkwood china cabinet, English, about 150 years old, with hand-carved hunting scenes on it. The piece was purchased from the M.S. Rau antiques shop in New Orleans.
  • A hand-made, 12-gauge shotgun. (McRaney collects shotguns and hunting rifles and owns more than 20 pieces). He bought it at a shop in London called Holland & Holland in 1989, while on location making a film.

Ironically, the McRaney's home in California is contemporary and, with low ceilings doesn't lend itself well to the display of antique furniture, much of which tends to be large. So, except for an English breakfront in the living room, the bulk of their treasure is in storage ­ for now. Someday, when they retire, they'll appreciate what they have accumulated over the many years ­ or sell it!

Gerald McRaney was born Aug. 19, 1947, in Collins, to parents Clyde, a builder, and Edna. He's half Scottish, half Choctaw Indian. The family moved twice when Gerald was a boy, first to Picayune, then to Natchez. He injured his knee playing football in high school and joined the drama club. "Mac" (his nickname) worked in the oil fields as a young man, but he continued his acting, too.

McRaney attended the University of Mississippi for a short time and later became an assistant stage manager at a New Orleans repertory company. His first marriage, to Beverly Root, produced a daughter, Jessica, and a son, Angus, who was born deaf. He divorced and remarried to Patricia Rae Moran and the couple adopted a daughter, Katie. His first TV appearance was in 1969.

Fame would take its time finding McRaney, but he finally got a break when he landed a lead part in the series, "Simon & Simon" (1981-85). His character, Rick Simon, was passionate but irresponsible, and the role proved that McRaney could handle a dramatic role with a comedic edge. It was the perfect segue into another successful series, "Major Dad" (1989-93), a situation comedy.

McRaney met Burke when they were presenters at a Hollywood awards luncheon and were seated together. He later was a guest on "Designing Women." The couple's marriage in 1989 was a cover story in People magazine, which attests to their popularity at the time. Today, McRaney is a regular on the HBO series "Deadwood" and hosts an outdoor adventure show on the OLN Network.

Delta Ramona Leah Burke was born July 30, 1956, in Orlando, Fla. She's become so closely identified with her character in "Designing Women," Suzanne Sugarbaker, that many assume she's from the Deep South, or at least not from Florida. But not only is Delta a Floridian, she won the title of Miss Florida at the age of 17 and competed in the Miss America contest, representing her state.

She didn't win the beauty pageant, but she did win a talent scholarship, which she used to attend a two-year study program at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. She returned to the States and, within a month landed roles in two mini-series: "The Seekers" (1979) and "The Chisolms" (1980). That led to a leading role in the series "Filthy Rich" (1982) and "1st & 10" (1984).

But these were mere warmups for what was to become the role of a lifetime: the co-lead in one of the most popular situation comedies of all time, "Designing Women" (1986-1993). In it, Delta played a shallow ex-beauty queen who, with her sister (Julia Sugarbaker, played by Dixie Carter) ran a successful design firm out of Julia's Atlanta home. Annie Potts and Jean Smart also starred.


The McRaneys' 1989 wedding
was a cover story in People magazine, attesting to their popularity at the time.

Both stars continue their acting careers. McRaney is in the HBO
hit series "Deadwood," while
Burke was just on Broadway in "Steel Magnolias."

Delta Burke's massive collection
of porcelain dolls took up most of two rooms in a house she and Gerald previously lived in.

McRaney's first big break came when he was cast in the hit show "Simon & Simon" (1981-88). He played the passionate but irresponsible Rick Simon.







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