‘The Golden Girls,’ 10 things you don’t know about the show

“The Golden Girls” have graced television screens dishing kitchen table gossip and heartfelt advice — usually over cheesecake –for more than three decades.

The television series about four women who were a tad beyond their 30s and shared a home in Miami was ratings gold. For six of the show’s seven seasons, more than 20 million people watched each episode, and the series ranked in the Top 10.

More than 26 million people watched the series finale when Dorothy married and moved out. In all, the show totaled 180 episodes.

“The Golden Girls” was an immediate hit with queer audiences, and the characters have been icons in the community. The series is in syndication on the Hallmark Channel and TV Land and available on Hulu.

Apart from keeping audiences in stitches, the girls had a social conscious with frank, open, and honest discussions about homelessness, mental illness, AIDS, aging, elder abuse. They showed that one’s sex life does not end at 40.

The girls also were friends with the gay and lesbian community. Blanche’s gay brother appeared in a couple episodes, and Dorothy’s college friend, Jean, falls for Rose.

“The Golden Girls” premiered Sept. 14, 1985. On its 33rd anniversary, we collected 10 facts you didn’t know about our favorite girls: Blanche Devereaux,  Rose Nylund, Dorothy Zbornak, and Sophia Petrillo.

The Golden Girls

Picture it, Sicily, 1925. “The Golden Girls” debuted Sept. 14, 1985, on NBC. The show was a favorite with gay and lesbian audiences, and the characters have become icons in the community.

Series creator Susan Harris

Susan Harris, the show’s creator and writer, also wrote and created “Soap,” the controversial ABC sitcom that was broadcast from 1977 to 1981. The series tackled topics taboo for TV at the time, including homosexuality with Billy Crystal starring as one of primetime’s first gay characters, Jodie Dallas.

Bea Arthur hated cheesecake

The ladies couldn’t get enough of the delightful treat. The quartet consumed more than 100 cheesecakes during the show’s seven-season run, even though Bea Arthur hated the stuff, according to The Huffington Post.

Made TV History

“The Golden Girls” and “All in the Family” are the only two shows in television history where each of the main characters won an Emmy Award.

Friend of the queer community

Bea Arthur was a champion for the homeless LGBT youth of the Ali Forney Center in New York City. In 2005, Arthur performed a one-woman show as a benefit. Arthur said she would do anything she could to help teens who were kicked out of their homes for being LGBT. When Arthur died seven years later, the Center  learned that she had bequeathed $300,000 to them in her estate. At that time, the Center pledged that their first building would be named in honor Arthur, which took place November 2017.

‘Batwoman,’ lesbian superhero, TV series in development

Rue McClanahan kept her wardrobe

Blanche Devereaux was a fashionista. Whether is was her sultry red wedding dress or the iconic flowing negligees, Blanche’s looks were always on point. McClanahan had a clause in her contract allowing her to keep Blanche’s clothes. McClanahan took home nearly 500 wardrobe pieces. McClanahan was overflowing with her character’s clothes and converted a kitchen in her Manhattan apartment into a closet to store those wonderful outfits.

The Golden Girls

“The Golden Girls” left audiences in stitches and had a social conscious, addressing topics such as AIDS, elder abuse, mental illness, and aging.

A fifth Golden Girl was a man

Coco Davis was part of “The Golden Girls,” but only for the pilot. Portrayed by Charles Levin, Coco was not only the girls’ gay cook, but also a friend who gave them advice and a shoulder to cry on. Coco was written out of the show when Sophia moved into the house after her retirement home, Shady Pines, burned down, and took over the cooking duties. Also, as the series grew, much of the show took place in the kitchen, and the girls gave each other advice, making Coco’s character unnecessary.

Royal fans

In 1988, the cast was asked to perform live for “The Royal Variety Performance” at the London Palladium. Some of the risque dialogue was cleaned up for the live performance because the members of the Royal Family had attended, but Queen Elizabeth herself laughed at one naughty line. Sophia listens to Dorothy ask Blanche how long she waited after her husband died until she had sex. In true Sophia style, she quipped, “Until the ambulance man came.”

Betty White was a gamer

Betty White loved playing games. Before “The Golden Girls,” she was a frequent guest on the game show “Super Password.” Word games were her favorite. She played games and riddles with McClanahan to pass the time.

Estelle Getty was not the oldest

Estelle Getty was actually a few months younger than Bea Arthur, her TV daughter, but Betty White, now 96, was the oldest cast member.

5 seasons was almost the end

Bea Arthur nearly brought the show to an early end when she wanted to leave the show after five seasons. Luckily, producers convinced her to stay for two more seasons before Arthur finally said good-bye to Dorothy. In similar fashion, Arthur’s earlier show, “Maude,” a series she starred on along with Rue McClanahan, ended when Arthur left.

Estelle Getty had stage fright

Although it’s hard to believe when watching Getty deliver her witty one-liners and cutting jokes, the actress suffered from severe stage fright, according to McClanahan. Getty was the most inexperienced actress on the show and  felt like a phony compared to her co-stars. McClanahan said Getty had a “black cloud” over her before taping and would often freeze on camera.

About the author

Beatriz E. Valenzuela

Beatriz E. Valenzuela is an award-winning journalist who’s covered breaking news in Southern California since 2006 and has been on the front lines of national and international news events. She also covers all things nerd, including comic book culture and video games. She’s an amateur obstacle course racer, constant fact-checker, mother of three, and lover of all things geek.

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