The Ultimate Guide To The Golden Girls For True Fans
Yes! It’s what we’ve all been waiting for: everything you ever wanted to know about The Golden Girls in one place. Right here! The show had so many quirks during its seven seasons on air. For example, ever wonder why all four of the girls never sat together in the kitchen? Or why Bea Arthur wouldn’t go to lunch with the other girls without Betty White? Well, we have all the answers coming up, so read on. Get ready to take a trip down memory lane. We must warn you: you’ll want to go back and binge watch all seven seasons of The Golden Girls again! Have Fun!
1. Rose, A Norwegian American
Actress Betty White’s character, Rose Nylund, was a Norwegian-American whose family came from a small farming town in Western Minnesota called St. Olaf. White speaks Norwegian at various points throughout the seven-year run of The Golden Girls. Pretty impressive, right?
Well, Betty White didn’t really speak Norwegian, nor did she learn it. She was actually speaking gibberish and subtitles were used as a comic device. St. Olaf, however, is a real city in western Minnesota that was named after Olaf, a Norwegian King. In 2000, the population of the city was 332.
2. All That Food
It’s been over 25 years, so you might have forgotten, but the girls were always eating on the show. And their go-to food was cheesecake! The girls ate over 100 cheesecakes over the 180-episode run of The Golden Girls.
It really is a wonder that the girls, Blanche, Dorothy, Rose and Sophia, were able to keep their bodies in such divine states considering all the calories they were forced to consume during filming. Just to put some icing on the cake, Bea Arthur hated cheesecake in real life.
3. Dorothy’s Choice
The lovable character of Dorothy, played by Bea Arthur, almost wasn’t played by her at all. The creator of the series, Susan Harris, wanted a different actress. Can you imagine the dynamic of the group without Bea Arthur in it?
Susan Harris actually wanted actress Lee Grant to play the role of Dorothy. Grant had previously been the star in a different sitcom of Harris’ called Fay. But the actress, however, was just not into playing the role of a grandmother so she turned it down.
4. NBC and Bea Arthur
Creator of The Golden Girls, Susan Harris, initially wrote the role of Dorothy with Bea Arthur or a similar actress in mind. Harris previously had worked with Arthur on a number of Maude episodes but NBC wasn’t big on the idea.
The president of NBC was against the idea of Bea Arthur for the role of Dorothy because of her “Q” rating, meaning that audiences found the actresses recognizable but not lovable. That had a lot to do with her role on Maude and her liberal tendencies on the show.
5. The Final Push
Apparently, Bea Arthur wasn’t too excited about the possibility of playing the role of Dorothy. She felt that she would simply be recreating her character from Maude and that she had already been there and done that. But it turned out to be an offer she couldn’t refuse.
Her former Maude co-star Rue McClanahan actually ended up giving her the final push that she needed to take on the part and give The Golden Girls a try. McClanahan reportedly called Arthur and asked her “Why are you going to turn down the best script that’s ever going to come across your desk as long as you live?”
6. Huge Success Everywhere
The Golden Girls was so wildly popular that it keeps getting better with age. During the show’s seven-year run, one fan loved the show so much and was so respected that she got her own live performance. That super fan was none other than Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
The former Queen of England was such a fan of the show that she requested a performance by the cast and she got it in 1988. “It was very exciting,” Betty White recalled fondly. “The Queen was lovely. We were told not to address her unless we were addressed. She was up in a box and she came down on stage after with Princess Anne.”
Over the seven-year span of The Golden Girls, the scriptwriters changed multiple times. This led to a few storyline inconsistencies with the girls’ background stories and character quirks. For example, in the pilot, Blanche was introduced as Blanche Hollingsworth.
The issue was later addressed and Blanche just wrote it off as being her maiden name. The ages and number of Blanche and Rose’s children also changed around depending on the writing team. In one episode Rose had LOTS of kids, then a later episode says she only had three.
8. Estelle Getty’s Age
Estelle Getty played the role of Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls. Her character was mother to Bea Arthur’s character, Dorothy. But in real life, the two could never be mother and daughter due to their real ages.
In real life, Estelle Getty was one year younger than Bea Arthur. Now that is some Hollywood magic! From watching the show it is impossible to believe that fact. It took quite a bit of makeup to make Getty look so old on the show.
9. Stage Fright
The Golden Girls was filmed in front of a live studio audience, something that most of the more seasoned actresses were used to, but not Estelle Getty. She was the least experienced of the actresses and suffered from extreme stage fright.
Getty would frequently freeze on stage and forget her lines. Apart from her stage fright, it didn’t help that she was on set with such legendary actresses. She reportedly never felt that she was as good as her co-stars and also felt like a “fraud.”
10. Blanche’s Roots
Blanche Devereaux is a smooth-talking Southern belle, but she wasn’t Southern at all in the original script. It was actually Rue McClanahan’s idea to give the character her Southern charm. And boy, did she ever win over audiences everywhere.
The character of Blanche is a Southern belle hailing from the Atlanta, Georgia area. She grew up on a plantation and her family was quite wealthy. She moved to Miami with her husband and together, they had six children.
11. Exact Opposites
Bea Arthur’s character, Dorothy Zbornak, was as straight-laced and uptight as they come. She was known for her very dry sense of humor, deep voice and demanding nature on stage. In real life she wasn’t like that at all.
Rue McClanahan, co-star and personal friend of the actress, revealed in an interview that Arthur was actually the opposite of her character Dorothy. According to McClanahan, Arthur was very “eccentric, witty and funny.” Read on to find out some more interesting facts about The Golden Girls cast.
12. Blanche’s Favorite Episode
During The Golden Girls’ seventh season Blanche became super popular at her favorite pick-up joint called The Rusty Anchor. At the height of her popularity, Blanche decided to woo the crowds by giving an unforgettable performance of the song “I Wanna Be Loved By You.”
In true Blanche Devereaux fashion, everything went wrong during the song. And that was on purpose. A choreographer was brought to the show to make sure it all went as un-smoothly as possible. Actress Rue McClanahan loved the scene so much she later stated that it was her favorite scene out of her entire time on The Golden Girls.
13. Italian or Jewish?
On The Golden Girls, Bea Arthur and Estelle Getty were mother and daughter, and their family was Italian. But in real life both Arthur and Getty were Jewish, making it a little more difficult to relate to their on-screen characters.
Getty reportedly requested multiple times that the characters be changed to Jewish instead because it would have been more natural. “She would have felt so much more comfortable than trying to be Italian, although it worked,” Rue McClanahan later remarked.
14. Never Four Sitting Together
If you were paying close attention you might have noticed that all four of the main cast members of The Golden Girls never sit at the dinner table at the same time. No, it wasn’t because of any internal fights in the group.
The reason why they’re never seen sitting together was to avoid having one of them turn their backs to the audience. That’s a big “no, no” in the acting world. Never turn your back to the audience!
15. The One In The Middle
You may have noticed that the majority of the time that The Golden Girls cast were standing, Dorothy was sitting. Or that when three of them were seated side by side, Dorothy would almost always be in the middle. There’s a good reason for that.
It was all due to Bea Arthur’s height. She was 5 feet 9.5 inches tall and towered over the other girls. So, she had to be strategically placed in certain scenes as to not overpower the staging by mistake.
16. Complete Identicals
According to actress Rue McClanahan, she was like her character in almost every way possible. She said this in a somewhat joking way…so who’s to know for sure? McClanahan did go through six different husbands during her 76-year life
“People ask me if I am like Blanche and my standard answer is: ‘Get serious! Look at the facts, Blanche is a man-crazy, glamorous, extremely sexy, successful-with-men Southern belle from Atlanta, Georgia—and I’m not from Atlanta!'”
17. Passing The Time
Filming a sitcom is a time-consuming endeavor and actors and actresses frequently find themselves having free time while on set and needing ways to pass the time. Rue McClanahan and Betty White became very close and found a way to pass the time together.
The two would play word games together to pass the time in between filming. White was once a regular on game shows, both hosting and as a competitor, and simply loved playing little word games.
18. Estelle Getty Landing The Role
Estelle Getty was only 62 when she landed the role of Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls. While she did have acting experience prior to the show, she had much less than the other girls. So how did she land the role?
Getty showed up to the audition dressed as a little old lady. Apparently, that, along with her acting skills, landed her the role of a lifetime. Her portrayal of Sophia won her Primetime Emmy, a Golden Globe and an American Comedy Award.
19. A Different Dorothy
One of the possible actresses considered to play the role of Dorothy was acting legend Elaine Stritch. During the audtion, Stritch apparently improvised her lines and also dropped the “F” bomb and it turned out to be quite a surprise for all present.
The producers weren’t happy with the audition and decided that the actress wouldn’t be fit for the role. “I blew a multi-million, zillion dollar, international, syndicated, residual-grabbing, bopparoni, smasharoni, television situation comedy entitled, ‘The Golden Girls’!” the actress later said.
20. Betty White’s Favorite Episode
It must be hard choosing a favorite episode out of 180 episodes, though actually, it’s probably hard just trying to remember them all. But Betty White has stated that her favorite episode is “A Little Romance.” In the episode White’s character, Rose, doesn’t want to introduce her new boyfriend to the gang.
And why not? Because he was a little person named Dr. Jonathan Newman, a psychiatrist. White added that every lame short joke in the book was used during the episode but that it was all in good fun and everyone had a laugh.
21. Estelle Getty’s Makeup
Can you guess how long it took the makeup department to make Estelle Getty look so old? During the first season of the show, it took them around 45 minutes to age her up so much.
To make matters worse, actress Estelle Getty got a facelift in between the first and second seasons of The Golden Girls. It made her look younger and gave the makeup department a bigger challenge to get her looking so old.
22. Fear Of Death
For a series centered around four senior “girls,” one of them had a serious fear of death and all things related to mortality. But you wouldn’t have known it was based on her acting. Estelle Getty, known as Sophia Petrillo, was terrified of death.
She might have played the oldest character on the series but she wasn’t the oldest in real life. Betty White holds the title for being the eldest Golden Girl in the bunch. Getty had difficulty with any reference to death in the script.
23. Disappearing and Reappearing Siblings
Another inconsistency on the show was with the characters’ siblings. In one episode Dorothy only had one living sibling and this was also confirmed by her mother Sophia. Then in a later episode the sister, Angela, is replaced by a brother named Angelo.
There was also an inconsistency in the timeline of how long the girls had been living together. In Season 3, the girls state that they had been living together for five years. Then suddenly in Season 7, they say they had been living together for seven years. By all calculations, it should have been nine.
24. The Wardrobe
The girls on The Golden Girls were always dressed to the nines and looking divine. In fact, one of the actresses loved her wardrobe so much that she made it part of her acting contract to keep all of her clothes. Can you guess which one?
Rue McClanahan, or Blanche as we all know her, had it in her contract that she got to keep all of her character’s clothes from the show. It was reported that the actress had around 13 closets full. That’s a lot of shoulder pads. Someone should start a football team.
25. Based On Reality
One of the episodes (well, a two-part episode) called “Sick and Tired” was based on the creator’s real-life struggle with an illness called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. In the episode, Dorothy struggled to find a physician that would take her seriously.
In actuality, the syndrome is still often ignored in women. Symptoms of the syndrome include shortness of breath and chest pain. A study done in 2011 showed that up to 62% of doctors referred men to cardiologists when such symptoms arose, but they only sent around 30% of female patients with the same symptoms.
26. Dorothy’s Style
Dorothy Zbornak’s style on The Golden Girls is actually a nod to the actress herself, who would refuse to wear anything uncomfortable. As a tall woman, almost six feet tall, Bea Arthur refused to wear heels and preferred pants and a long jacket to a dress.
The directors kept those elements in the show. You wont find Bea Arthur wearing any heels, or rarely even dresses, during the show’s seven-season run. Kudos for keeping it comfy, Bea! If only this would be adopted by more style icons.
27. That House
It probably won’t surprise you, but that gorgeous Miami home wasn’t actually in Florida. The four bedroom, four bathroom house is actually located in Los Angeles, California. You can find it at 245 North Saltair Avenue, but these days it’s a bit hidden by foliage.
In the show the home’s address was supposedly at 6151 Richmond Street in Miami, Florida. The real estate records show that the house is 2,901 sq. feet and was valued at around $3 million when it was last on the market.
28. Being Typecast
Legendary actress Betty White was fearful of being typecast with her character on The Golden Girls. Prior to the show she had been typecast as somewhat of a wild girl, such as with her character Sue Ann on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Betty White was originally cast for the role of Blanche, playing right into her typecast. But she wasn’t going to have that. She convinced the producers, and McClanahan, to switch roles. And we couldn’t imagine the girls any other way.
29. Looking Fabulous
Bea Arthur’s character, Dorothy, was always looking fabulous and wore striking accessories. But by the end of the day, she was always complaining that her ears were numb. That’s because she was always wearing clip-on earrings.
In all 180 episodes, Dorothy was wearing clip-on earrings. So why wouldn’t she just break down and get them pierced? Because that was her style. Well, if you would have asked her, she would tell you that she just that she likes to be comfortable. That meant no piercings and no heels.
The Golden Girls were very popular, not only among older women but also with teenage girls. They even received numerous fan letters from young girls asking if they could come live with the Golden Girls cast in their Miami home.
For the first six seasons of The Golden Girls, the show ranked in the top ten of most watched shows. In the last season of the show, it came in at number 30. The finale was viewed by 27.2 million viewers, making it the 17th most watched TV series finale of all time.
31. The Last Name
Bea Arthur’s character is named Dorothy Zbornak. Ever wonder where such an odd last name came from? No, it wasn’t from her fake on-stage ex-husband. Arthur actually took the last name from stage manager Kent Zbornak.
Zbornak and Arthur had worked together on a previous project and she just fell in love with the last name. In The Golden Girls, however, Dorothy’s ex-husband was a freeloading cheater….hopefully Kent didn’t take that personally.
32. Educating The Masses
The Golden Girls being used as a platform to educate audiences is no surprise, but popularizing words? Check! “What’s a lanai?” as Sophia would say. The Golden Girls popularized the word “lanai”, which is commonly used in Florida and Hawaii.
For one it made the show sound more authentic (they were supposedly in Florida, remember) and they even took the time to explain the meaning of the word to Sophia. The meaning of lanai is an open-sided veranda or porch.
According to Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur was so eccentric and loved her set schedule and routine that she would only go to lunch with the other girls if Betty White was going too. The two were as close as best friends could be.
All of the cast members on The Golden Girls got along with each other and the main cast were all very close. After seven years spent together on set you had better hope you get along with everyone. They did just that.
34. Hand Me Downs
That kitchen might have looked familiar, and there’s a good reason for that. It was actually a hand-me-down from another sitcom created by Susan Harris. The set was the exact same set used for the sitcom “It Takes Two.”
“It Takes Two” only lasted for one season and starred Richard Crenna, Patty Duke Astin, and a young Helen Hunt. While it’s unfortunate that It Takes Two was unsuccessful, we can all be thankful for their contribution of that lovely kitchen.
35. The Drinking Game
If you’ve been inspired to re-watch the series, you might as well add a fun game into the mix. Yes, there is a Golden Girls drinking game and it is hilarious. You pick a character and you take a drink after every time they zing someone or get zinged, also when Blanche mentions Big Daddy or Rose says something in Norwegian.
You also must drink when Sophia says “picture it” or Dorothy gives advice. AND if they eat cheesecake, you have to finish your entire drink and get another one! Have fun! Oh, and make sure to write a letter to get The Golden Girls on Netflix or Hulu!
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