Despres, Loraine

views updated

DESPRES, Loraine

PERSONAL: Born February 26, in Chicago, IL; daughter of Alexander Despres (a merchant) and Doris Stern (a merchant); married Lawrence Mulholland (divorced 1968); married Carleton Eastlake (a television writer/producer), 1985; children: (first marriage) David Mulholland. Education: Northwestern University, B.S. (theater); studied painting in Paris with André Lhote. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Various philanthropic endeavors; forest management.

ADDRESSES: Home—Beverly Hills, CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, 7th Floor, HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022.

CAREER: Writer. University of California at Los Angeles, instructor; international screenwriting consultant. Wrote television scripts for various primetime shows for NBC, CBS, and ABC. Worked variously as a writer of educational radio, film, and advertising in Chicago, Paris, and New Orleans.

AWARDS, HONORS: Maggie Award, Western Publishers Association, 200, for best interview in a consumer magazine; first place in journalism, Multiple Sclerosis Society, 1998, for article published in Yoga Journal; Award of Honor, Deep South Writer's and Artist's Conference.


The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.

The Southern Belle's Handbook: Sissy LeBlanc's Rules to Live By, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.

Author of television scripts for Dynasty, ABC, The Equalizer, CBS, Crime Story, NBC, Knots Landing, CBS, The Love Boat, ABC, Family, ABC, The Highlander, The Waltons, Chips, and "Who Shot J.R.?" episode of Dallas, CBS. Contributor of feature articles and interviews to various magazines.

SIDELIGHTS: Loraine Despres grew up in small-town Louisiana, Jewish in the overwhelmingly Christian South. Rather than let the prevalent antis-Semitism in the town control her life, Despres developed a sharp wit and quick tongue, which eventually served her well when she worked as a television writer in Los Angeles.

While earning her B.S. at Northwestern University, Despres spent a year in Paris, studying painting with André Lhote. After graduation, she wrote for radio, film, and advertising. In New Orleans she cofounded Distaff, the city's first feminist journal. To fulfill her dream of being in show business, Despres later moved to Los Angeles, and within two years was writing television scripts for hit primetime series, including The Waltons, Love Boat, Dynasty, Knots Landing, and Family. Her name is most widely recognized in conjunction with the hit show Dallas, for which she wrote the famous "Who Shot J.R.?" episode.

In 2001 Despres published her debut novel, The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc, to favorable reviews. In Library Journal Pam Kingsbury compared the southern tone and characters of the novel to the movie Fried Green Tomatoes. Set in 1956 Louisiana, the tale centers around thirty-one-year-old Sissy LeBlanc, mother of three children and wife of fourteen years. She is married to PeeWee LeBlanc, a man she despises. Bored and lonely, Sissy longs for adventure even while conducting her life according to a code she calls "The Southern Belle's Handbook." This code is a convenient list of rules with which to govern one's life, and Sissy abides by them religiously, until her former high-school sweetheart unexpectedly returns to town. When she finds Parker Davidson, sweaty and sexy, leaning on her kitchen counter, it is more than she can stand. But the suspense does not end there, for looming in the background is a mysterious and shadowy stranger, never far from Sissy's life. Boredom suddenly takes a backseat to emotional chaos as shocking secrets and family skeletons are revealed.

Although the novel was praised for its irreverent tone and humorous style, Despres does not shy away from tackling such serious issues as anti-Semitism, sexual abuse, and sexism. Her own upbringing and childhood experiences lend Despres an air of authority that makes the book realistic. The Southern Belle's Handbook, for example, is filled with rules Despres learned and heard about while growing up in the South, including advice on dating, marriage, and making choices in life. Despres compiled these bits of hand-me-down wisdom and words of advice into one handy guide, which became the basis for the entire novel.

Kathleen Hughes, writing in Booklist, noted that "this tale of lust, jealousy, and regret unfolds playfully amid a colorful cast of eccentric small-town characters." Kingsbury further praised The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc, noting that "Despres's heroine has spunk, her villains get their comeuppance, and her ending is psychologically satisfying."



Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 6, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1988.


Booklist, September 1, 2001, Kathleen Hughes, review of The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc, p. 49.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2001, review of The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc, p. 1145.

Library Journal, September 15, 2001, Pam Kingsbury, review of The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc, p. 110.

Publishers Weekly, September 24, 2001, review of The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc, p. 64.

Writer's Digest, August, 1981, Sue Murphy, "Who Really Shot J.R.?," p. 19.


HarperCollins Web site, (January 8, 2002), review of The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc.

Loraine Despres Web site, (October 15, 2003).*