Blanche put her foot down on the accent
Every member of the Golden Girls has proven that when you give raw talent the creative reigns, you get TV magic. Rue McClanahan was born in Oklahoma but, when she first stepped into that liminal space of a kitchen, her on-screen southern drawl became instantly iconic. This was entirely McClanahan’s call, as the original director wanted their original accents for the characters.
Betty White was the oldest of the goldest
A huge part of what made the show so heart-warming was the showbiz experience of the cast. White was the oldest of the fearsome foursome, braving the Florida heat at 63 years old. Rue was the youngest at 52 but by no means inexperienced. She had already appeared on Maude and Mama’s Family, alongside a wealth of other iconic stars.
Rue got Blanche’s entire wardrobe
As the youngest child of the oftentimes dysfunctional sisterhood, Rue was entitled to some demands. She had it written in her contract that she would get to keep all of the Southern Belle’s custom-made garments. The 13 closets she had collected by the end of the show were auctioned to fans following her death.
Bea Arthur hated cheesecake
In many ways, that amber, pounded cookie-crumb crust was the fifth girl. In times of hardship, the desert was always there for the good ladies, and the show’s passionate fanbase would send them in by the truckload. Bea Arthur sadly hated the sweet, turning her life into a zesty, Sisyphean nightmare.
They almost used a different theme song
Imagine a reality where nobody knows the word confidante. It would have been an unspeakable loss to not have every episode open with Thank You For Being A Friend but did you know that the track was a late addition to the show? The producers wanted the Bette Midler song Friends, which is fantastic, but far too slow to get the show going.
Bea Arthur and Betty White didn’t like each other
Rose and Dorothy got along like all sisters do, mostly well with sparks of intense and seething frustration. Arthur reportedly didn’t enjoy White’s upbeat attitude on set, with White admitting that Arthur found her to be a “pain in the neck”. If anything, the minor squabbles probably made the Girl’s hilarious insults more satisfying.
Rue and Betty were best friends
Despite some grievances, all of the cast remained friends until the end. After McClanahan’s passing in 2010, White revealed how close their bond had been since the very start. The two would pass the time between takes by playing word games with each other, such as riddles. It’s amazing how easy it was to make friends before the cell phones got us.
Estelle Getty struggled with stage fright
Although Getty had been a lifelong stage actor in the New York theatre scene, she often struggled on-set to remember lines and cues. Golden Girls was her breakout role and her first sitcom, it wasn’t like anything she had experienced before. Despite this, she sat among TV royalty in heavy old woman make-up and still earned an Emmy.
Bea hated wearing those earrings
One of Dorothy’s stand-out wardrobe choices was her dazzling selection of ear piercings. The show’s stylist, Judy Evans, made each of the girls fierce in their own way but Bea had no piercings herself. This meant using big, extravagant clip-ons that left her poor earlobes numb and red at the end of the long filming days.
The royal family were huge fans
Both Queen Elizabeth and her mother were known to be huge fans of their fellow queens across the Atlantic. The cast was asked to perform a sketch at the 1988 Royal Variety Show, though it was edited to remove some of the raunchier material. The Queen Mother even chuckled when Sofia suggested a freshly widowed Blanche should hit on the paramedic.
The theme song was written in an hour
It seems the world was against Thank You For Being A Friend ever becoming a hit. Not only was it a last-second addition to the show, it was barely even acknowledged by its writer! Andrew Gold released the song as a “throwaway” in 1978, and never expected it to become a world-recognized nostalgic mood setter.
Bea Arthur hated wearing shoes
Arthur is known to be quite an eccentric woman. She hated wearing shoes unless she had to, so she had it written in her contract she would be allowed to walk around set without them, providing she didn’t sue if she stepped on something. Thankfully, Blanche kept a very clean and well-vacuumed house.
Betty White would befriend the audience
This was another of Betty White’s professional decisions that rubbed Arthur the wrong way. As the show became more popular, people would travel from all over the world to sit in the live studio audience, and White wanted them to have a good time. She would banter and chat with them between takes, while Arthur, austere and classical as she was, liked to stay focused.
Blanche and Rue had some saucy similarities
Golden Girls wasn’t afraid to highlight something that has become taboo on primetime TV; older people still have sex. Blanche was by far the most openly amorous, ready to throw herself or one of her girlies into the way of any eligible bachelor. McClanahan it turned out went through them at a similar rate, racking up six marriages over her life.
Betty White couldn’t speak Norwegian
Rose Lindstrom Nylund, like many Americans, was proud of her European ancestry. She was known to blurt out a line or two of Norwegian when exasperated, but Betty White didn’t know a single word. To simulate someone clearly lying about their heritage, she just made vaguely Europe-ish noises with her mouth.
The kitchen felt too small for a reason
Blanche’s kitchen housed countless iconic Golden Girls moments, but why would a house with four women who all love sitting down only have three seats? Cue X-Files music… or not! This was intentional, as having one of the characters sit with their back to the audience would be awful television and a waste of some terrifically animated actresses.
Bea Arthur’s decision ended the show
While fans and critics remained consistently in love with the show, Arthur felt the quality had started declining by their seventh long season on the air. She was the first to decide to leave, and it was decided that the entire show should end on a high note, in keeping with the joyous spirit of the Golden Girls.
Elaine Stritch auditioned for one of the Girls
While the cast all seemed like perfect picks, things were nearly very different. Stritch, an Emmy and Tony award-winning actress, read for the part of Dorothy. She had just finished work on the hugely popular British sitcom Two’s Company, which may have sharpened her edges a little, as she recalls dropping an F-bomb in her audition.
White originally wanted to play Blanche
Honestly, who doesn’t? The outfits, the accent, the endless innuendo, it was clear which Girl had the most fun. Sadly her role on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as Sue Nivens was too similar, and the writers wanted their horny older woman to be distinct. As a result, White was cast as Rose, and her future bestie, Rue McClanahan, was given Blanche.
The four were originally three
Sitcoms get plenty of revisions during their production, but Estelle Getty was so funny in pre-screening that they invented a new main character for her. Sophia Petrillo was never supposed to be a regular feature, just one of those parents that pop in for episodic high jinks once every few seasons. Test audiences wanted much, much more of her though.
Estelle bought that straw purse before her audition
If nothing else, Golden Girls is a wonderful source of fashion inspiration. The costumes were integral to the appeal, and many of the pieces have their own interesting stories. Sophia’s signature, somewhat disgusting but chic purse, was bought by Estelle while shopping for props on her way to an audition. What a thrifty Queen.
Princess Diana and Freddy Mercury loved the show
Her relationship with the actual royals was rocky, to say the least, but The People’s Princess got along famously with the other Queen. According to a book written by British comedian Cleo Rocos, before a night of fun at a London gay bar, the pair sat drinking champagne in front of Golden Girls reruns. They lowered the volume and improvised their own much spicier storylines.
Estelle annoyed the make-up team
After the tremendous success of the first season, Estelle Getty had a facelift. No shame in that! She’d finally got her TV sitcom bag. The issue was that Sophia was supposed to be Dorothy’s mother, and Getty was much younger than Arthur. This meant the already heavy make-up job to age her up was now much more difficult.
Bob Hope played himself
The show was famous for its celebrity cameos. It’s a real-time who’s who of faces from the 50s through to the 80s, and one of the most iconic appearances came from Bob Hope. The episode, You Gotta Have Hope, focused on Rose’s search for her real father, who she was convinced was the legendary entertainer.
Mario Lopez guest starred as a child
Over the 180 episodes the show amassed, many centered around the big discussions of the day. The 1987 episode Dorothy’s Prized Pupil, had a young undocumented student tasked to write an essay on what it means to be American. The baby-faced child was none other than Mario Lopez, the future baby-faced star of Saved By The Bell.
George Clooney appeared on the show for insurance
Before he became one of TV’s hottest commodities in Grey’s Anatomy, Clooney played an undercover cop who crossed paths with the Florida ladies. His agent requested the role to keep Clooney active enough to qualify for medical insurance, but he loved his time on-set. He was shocked by what they could get away with saying on TV.
The show funded Reservoir Dogs
Now one of the most well-established directors in the world, Quentin Tarantino had a brief role on the show as an Elvis Impersonator. Because the episode was a two-parter and became famous, the residuals from the re-runs kept the director afloat while he was trying to produce Reservoir Dogs. This is a rare occurrence now, hence all the striking.
The show won 11 Emmys
It’s difficult to overstate the impact Golden Girls had on TV, but all the gold the women have had to cram into their closets is a good representation. They received 68 nominations, with each of the lead performers taking home a win for their work on the show, as well as the writers, directors, and lighting engineers.
The show had many LGBTQ characters
It makes a lot of sense that Golden Girls was such a progressive show for its era. It was already quite subversive with the age of its humor cast, so why arbitrarily stop there? Blanche’s brother Clayton appeared in a couple of episodes, one of which focused on him coming out as gay. While Blanche struggles initially, she accepts her brother for who he is.
Getty refused to tell certain jokes
These days Estelle Getty would be hounded as a member of the woke police but, even back in her era, she knew talented comedians don’t need to punch down. She said in an interview that she wouldn’t use humour that targeted people for their sexuality, or even physical characteristics like baldness or weight.
They used real handcuffs
In one of the final seasons’ more memorable episodes, Blanche handcuffs herself to a radiator to protest the destruction of her grandmother’s house. After finishing the scene, the prop master’s key broke trying to free her. Luckily, the Director soon came along with a spare which led to some mockery of the prop master, whom Rue kindly and quickly jumped to the defence of.
Bea Arthur was pretty badass
Before her stage career, Arthur enlisted in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve to serve her country during World War II. In 1943 she was assigned as a typist at their national headquarters but she wanted something slightly more action-packed. She requested a transfer and was soon driving supply trucks. By the War’s end, she reached the rank of Staff Sergeant.
There was a Golden Girls café in New York
Named Rue La Rue, the café and restaurant was started by Michael J. La Rue, a friend and benefactor of some of McClanahan’s belongings after her death. The idea seemed fine, with the walls covered in memorabilia and the menu packed with references and recreations of classic Golden Girls foods. Sadly it closed down, reviews mentioning that the cheesecake was subpar.
The first exterior shots are of California
Though the show is set in Florida, the house shown in the first season is actually in California. This is initially where they filmed Golden Girls, but its incredible popularity gave them access to studios across America. Parts were shot in Florida and the house used from season two onwards was part of the Disney World Hollywood Studios lot.
It was a hit from the very first episode
Many shows need a couple of seasons to find their footing, but Golden Girls was ready to shake up the industry in more ways than one. The premiere topped the Nielsen rankings, becoming the highest-rated opening episode in two years. It currently sits at a lofty 8.1 on IMDB.
The show had two spin-offs
Not many recall the Golden Girls expanded universe, though both shows had members of the original cast present. The Golden Palace follows Rose, Blanche Sofia, and Don Cheadle, as they try to renovate a hotel. Despite how amazing that sounds, it only lasted one season. Empty Nest follows an unrelated group in the GG neighborhood and somehow lasted seven years. But… where’s Cheadle?
People watched A LOT of Golden Girls during lockdown
During what was a dark and stressful time for the world, the Golden Girls became a shining light of hope. The series was up on Hulu and stats revealed that, during April 2020 alone, people watched almost 11 million hours of the show. Not even the flu episode stopped people from re-loving an old classic.
There was a subtle nod to Betty White’s husband
In one of the show’s fan-favorite episodes, Grab That Dough, the women get into trouble when their foul language doesn’t mix well with light Game Show banter. The host, played by Guy Corbin, makes a hand gesture to cut to a commercial break. This was a reference to Allen Ludden, a husband of White and popular 60s gameshow host, who would often do the same.
The original house still stands
The California home used for the original exterior shots is still around and valued at a whopping $3 million. The owner has since erected high walls and trees in order to maintain a sense of privacy and discourage the hordes of new Gen Z fans who want to film a TikTok dance in the garden.
The girls originally had a butler
The original pilot was supposed to feature a fifth roommate in the form of Coco, an openly homosexual man. The writers and producers loved the idea, and his role was written to be quite expansive. In practice, adding a house member who served drinks and cooked made the space too busy, and distracted from the focus of the four leads.