10 Facts You Might Not Know about The Golden Girls

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true you're a pal and a confidant

I'm not ashamed to say
I hope it always will stay this way
My hat is off, won't you stand up and take a bow

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you knew
You would see, the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say,
Thank you for being a friend

From 1985 to 1992, millions of people watched four television friends--Blanche, Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia--share their lives together on The Golden Girls. Here are a few facts that you might not know about the show.

1. NBC chief Brandon Tartikoff first conceived of the idea for the show after watching the 1953 movie How to Marry a Millionaire, starring Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall. He liked the idea of several women sharing an apartment while looking for love. Later, he visited an elderly aunt and watched her banter with a neighbor. The scene stuck with him. Tartikoff decided that the show would have a better chance of connecting with audiences if the women were much older.

2. The first title of the show was Miami Nice, a play on the title of the highly successful cop show Miami Vice. Producers decided that the title might confuse viewers who were looking for Miami Vice and so changed it to The Golden Girls.

3. Initially, the producers planned to have a young, male, gay houseboy as a character. He was named Coco after a dog owned by one of the producers. They cast Charles Levin for that role. Coco appeared in the pilot and audiences liked him, but the producers decided that there were too many characters on the show. So they cut Coco out of the pilot. This helped the directors cut the show from 28 minutes of filming down to the required 23 minutes.

4. According to Jim Colucci, the author of The Q Guide to The Golden Girls, the show developed a strong following in the gay community. Last month, BuzzFeed writer Louis Pietzman wrote that even 29 years after the premier of the show, it’s still popular. He explains:

The Golden Girls may not be as overtly gay as Looking, but remember, it took a long time for us to get a show on TV about gay friendships and dating. The four central women are our stand-ins, which is partly why we have so much fun trying to figure out which Golden Girl we are. They’re queerly coded — women who live together without men, who are even, in the hilarious episode “Goodbye, Mr. Gordon,” mistaken for lesbians. Their concerns are not unfamiliar to gay men: finding the right guy, getting older, and dealing with loss.

These issues can be frightening, but on The Golden Girls, they’re handled with humor. And perhaps more to the point, the series reinforces the lifelong bonds of chosen family above all. Therein lies the comfort — for Patrick, for me, for so many gay men from the mid-’80s till now. Men come and go. Good looks fade. But the friendships that matter — the nontraditional families we cobble together — are always there.

5. Sophia’s straw purse was one that Estelle Getty found and bought herself while preparing to audition for the role. After getting the part, she used it for all 7 seasons.

6. The producers originally planned to have Rue McClanahan play Rose Nylund and Betty White to play Blanche Devereaux. After testing, the producers decided to switch the roles.

7. Blanche is noted for a strong Southern accent. But actress Rue McClanahan, who was from Oklahoma, describes it as an Oklahoma accent. She writes:

But as we rehearsed the pilot, Jay Sandrich said to me, “No, no--I don’t want to hear a Southern accent.” He said he wanted to hear my regular Oklahoma accent, which he thought was Southern. Well, there’s no arguing with the director. (Colucci 80)

8. At the outset of the series, producers planned to have Sophia to be an occasional visitor to the 3 other women on the show while living at an assisted living facility. But early audiences loved her so much that the writers moved her into the house.

(Video Link)

9. The Golden Girls spawned 2 spin-offs. The first was Empty Nest, a show about a widowed pediatrician whose 2 adult daughters move in with him.

(Video Link)

10. The other spin-off was The Golden Palace. In this show, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia purchase an old hotel and renovate it. The show featured Don Cheadle and Cheech Marin in the regular cast. It was cancelled after only one season.

Colucci, Jim. The Q Quide to the Golden Girls. New York: Alyson Books, 2006. Print.
Huryk, Harry R. The Golden Girls: The Viewing Guide. Los Angeles: Harry R. Huryk, 2006. Print.

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