NBC’s “The Golden Girls” ran between 1985 and 1992, gifting us with 180 episodes that were packed with life lessons and zippy exchanges between its unforgettable cast members. Thanks to reruns and the fact that Hulu streams all seven seasons, the fab foursome (Sophia, Dorothy, Blanche and Rose) are enjoying a second wave of fandom.
The sitcom broke from TV tradition with not just a female-led cast, but one dominated by older women. One impressive fact: all four lead actresses (Estelle Getty, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White) each won Emmy awards for their roles. But, we’re just getting started!
Grab a slice of cheesecake and indulge in 30 more facts that every “Golden Girls” super-fan should know.
There Was A Major Role Swap
Can you imagine Betty White as a sultry Southern belle? The producers originally had White picked to play Blanche Devereaux, but thought the character would be too similar to her role as the “neighborhood nymphomaniac,” Sue Anne Nivens, on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Instead, Rue McClanahan landed the role and White was cast as the endearing, albeit naive, Rose Nylund.
The Queen Loved The Show
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was a fan of the Golden Girls and invited them to perform at the 1988 Royal Variety Performance in London. The cast accepted and re-enacted a pair of scenes, although censored themselves some for the show.
“We’ll do about seven minutes from the show, but we’ll have to censor a few things for the queen,” said Bea Arthur at the time. Get ready to grab your pearls and gasp because a quip about Dorothy’s lackluster sex life made it in, and the Queen reportedly laughed at it.
The Girls Didn’t Hang Out Much Off Set
One exception: Estelle Getty had a birthday party every June and they’d get together, according to information mined by Glamour from an interview Rue McClanahan did with the Archive of American Television.
Estelle Getty Had Serious Stage Fright
So much so that she’d often freeze during the tapings, cast members recalled. She was the least-experienced actor in the main cast.
A Character Got Nixed
The original pilot included a gay male character played by Charles Levin. The character, a butler, was well-received by the audience, according to the Huffington Post, but was cut from the show because of time limitations.
Estelle Getty Wasn’t The Oldest Golden Girl
That esteemed title would go to Betty White, who, ironically, is the only one of the quartet still living. Getty played the sassy matriarch role, but she was actually younger than Bea Arthur, who was cast as her daughter. Rue McClanahan was by far the youngest cast member, being born more than 12 years before White.
Elaine Stritch Auditioned To Play Dorothy
The Broadway icon didn’t get the role, which eventually went to Bea Arthur, which makes sense considering the role of Dorothy was described as a “Bea Arthur-type.” When Arthur first read the script, she said she thought it was “brilliant,” according to her interview with the Archive of American Television. “I thought it was one of the funniest, most adult, hilarious, sophisticated, terrific, delicious things I had ever read.”
Bea Arthur’s Ears Weren’t Pierced
Those statement earrings she was always wearing? They were clip-ons!
Estelle Getty Did Stand-Up Comedy
Getty’s character, Sophia Petrillo, was known to lob witty insults and deliver sharp one-liners. She was primed for it! In her late teens Getty performed stand-up comedy. According to NPR, Getty performed at a Catskills hotel in New York — but female comedians were a rarity at the time and she flopped.
Betty White Loved Appearing On Game Shows
White was a fan of television game shows. In the 1950s, she competed on shows including “What’s My Line?,” “Make the Connection” and “Password,” which is where she met Allen Ludden, her future husband and the host of the show, according to the Television Academy Foundation.
Bea Arthur Didn’t Like Cheesecake
Cheesecake was pretty much the fifth main character on the show. The Golden Girls ate a lot of it. But Arthur was reportedly not a fan of the dessert.
The Show Had A Cheesecake Chef
George Geary is the author of several books about cheesecake, including “The 125 Best Cheesecake Recipes” and “The Cheesecake Bible.” His other claim to fame? He made all the cheesecakes that were used for props on “The Golden Girls.” According to CNN, that could be as many as seven cheesecakes for a single taping!
The Cast Included Serious Animal Activists
Betty White, Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan were each passionate animal-rights activists.
White turned down a role in the Oscar-winning movie “As Good as It Gets” because there was a scene in which a character throws a dog down a garbage chute. In her book “If You Ask Me (and Of Course You Won’t),” White recalled saying: “I just can’t do that! I know it’s for laughs but given my feelings about animals and my work for animal welfare, I just didn’t find it funny.”
Estelle Getty Was Especially Frugal
So much so that her Toyota Tercel was towed out of her parking space at the “The Golden Girls” production lot because security thought someone had stolen her space, according to her son Carl Gettleman. He relayed the anecdote at Getty’s funeral in 2008.
“The Great Depression left an indelible impression on mom,” Gettleman said, according to reporting from the Associated Press.
Bea Arthur And Betty White Clashed
Bea Arthur apparently wasn’t a fan of Betty White.
“She found me a pain in the neck sometimes,” White once said in an interview. “It was my positive attitude — and that made Bea mad sometimes. Sometimes if I was happy, she’d be furious!”
Perhaps we were over-estimating the power of cheesecake?
Estelle Getty’s Makeup Took A Lot Of Work
Adding 20 years or so was no easy feat! The show’s makeup crew routinely spent 45 minutes making Getty look older and transforming her into the sassy little lady that was Sophia.
It’s Just Betty
Betty White’s name isn’t short for Elizabeth; it’s simply Betty!
Bea Arthur Had An Interesting Contract Clause
Not only did Arthur not like cheesecake, she also didn’t like wearing shoes.
“She had it written into her contract that she was allowed to not wear shoes as long as she agreed not to sue the producers if she hurt herself,” Jim Colucci, author of “Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind The Lanai,” told Fox News.
Rue McClanahan Got To Keep Blanche’s Wardrobe
Speaking of contract clauses, McClanahan got to raid Blanche’s wardrobe closet! In all, she made off with 500 pieces. That’s a lot of sexy lingerie and shoulder-padded blazers!
Mario Lopez Was On The Show
You likely know him and his dimples best from “Saved by the Bell,” but before that, Lopez was a guest star in an episode from 1987. He played the role of a student being tutored by Dorothy.
George Clooney Was Also On The Show
Clooney played a detective investigating a suspected jewel thief in a season two episode, “To Catch a Neighbor.”
It Took Estelle Getty Three Auditions To Get The Part
Getty very nearly didn’t make the cut of “The Golden Girls,” according to NPR. She was in her early 60s and didn’t look old enough to play 80-year-old Sophia. When she arrived to her third audition, she wore dowdy clothes and told the makeup artist that her career was on the line if she couldn’t be transformed into an older woman.
Rue McClanahan Was Just As Sassy In Real Life
When Colucci was working on his aforementioned book, he showed up to interview McClanahan and she answered the door in a very Blanche way, according to Glamour.
“She answered the door fresh from the shower, in a bathrobe that looked like it was about to fall open!” the author said in an interview.
The Table Was A Chair Short
When the ladies debrief over cheesecake, take note: there are only three chairs around the table. If there were four, someone would have had their back to the camera.
Dorothy’s Last Name Was Borrowed
Betty White Holds A Guinness World Record
Having started her career in 1939, she’s spent almost eight decades in show business. In 2013, White was awarded the Guinness World Record for Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female).
Bea Arthur Didn’t Act Much After The Show Ended
She did appear as a guest star on shows including “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Estelle Getty Hated Doing Death Scenes
When promoting her book “If You Ask Me,” Betty White dished that her co-star Getty despised death and funeral scenes.
“Death frightened her very much. It was almost a phobia,” White said.
It’d Take Nearly Three Days To Binge The Entire Series
Does this list have you wanting to re-watch some “Golden Girls” episodes or even binge-watch the whole series? It’s doable in a long weekend (provided you didn’t sleep!). It would take about two days and 18 hours to watch the entire series on Hulu.
The Show’s Opening Theme Was Sung By A Jingle Singer
“The Golden Girls” classic opening song “Thank You for Being a Friend” was sung by Cindy Fee, who was best known for singing TV jingles, like the one for Hoover vacuums (“Nobody does it like you”) and Pontiac Cars (“Get on your Pontiac and ride”), according to a history of the theme song that was published in The Atlantic.