Martins Gift the QQA Memories of Little Rock and Designing Women

Garth and Joann MartinQQA members Joann and Garth Martin exemplify the spirit of the organization. They attend several events every year, they volunteer, and they remember the QQA when they think about their own legacy. At the QQA Membership Meeting & Greater Little Rock Preservation awards on November 14, the Martins gave the QQA a gift of their memories: a print of the Villa Marre signed by the cast and crew of the sitcom Designing Women.

Long term QQA members know that the organization’s headquarters were located at the Villa Marre, 1321 Scott Street, from 1979 to 2002. It was built in 1881 by a notorious saloon owner and liquor importer Angelo Marre and his wife Jennie. The house has maybe the most nationally well-known in the SoMa area because it was used as the façade for the fictional business of Julia Sugarbaker and her sister Suzanne Sugarbaker in Designing Women, which aired on CBS from 1986 to 1993.  

The Martins gift is particularly important to them because Joann had a small role in the sitcom. The role was a silent auction item during a 1987 fundraiser at the Villa Marre benefiting the The Arkansas Repertory Theatre . Garth Martin purchased the role for his wife. In January of 1988, Joann went to California for five days where she was given her own trailer and driver. 

“It was great fun and I enjoyed every minute of it,” Joann said.   

Joann appeared on Season 2, episode 19 titled “The Incredibly Elite Bona Fide Blue-Blood Beaumont Driving Club.” The part was supposed to just be a walk-on, but when the cast discovered that Joann had some theater training, they rewrote the script to give her a small speaking part. She portrayed “Muffin Farenholdt,” chairperson of membership for the Beaumont Driving Club, patterned off a club in Atlanta. When the Sugarbaker sisters applied to the club, only Julia was accepted. Joann’s character’s job was to tell Suzanne Sugarbaker that her membership application was rejected.

A picture of the Villa Marre was given to the show’s producers by Deborah Phillips, with the promise that it would be on the set. At the end of her week on set, the cast and crew signed the print and gifted it to Joann. 

Fourteen years ago, the Martins moved to the Rainwater Flats and became more involved in the QQA. “At 83 I’m beginning to think about what will go where,” Joann said. “I wanted to give the print to the QQA because the Villa Marre was a big thing for the organization.”