The Golden Girls was, and is, a hugely popular show that debuted on NBC in the ’80s. The series followed a group of four women that shared a retirement home in Florida. These snarky yet adorable senior ladies shared much more than just a home, they had a bond that was truly unique. Sometimes they found themselves in some pretty questionable situations, but ultimately they always had each other’s backs. No matter what they were facing, they could overcome any obstacle – usually over cheesecake.
The show starred four amazing actresses, among them, was the beloved Betty White. The first four seasons of The Golden Girls were written by Christopher Lloyd, the producer of today’s hit show Modern Family. The series ran for a total of seven seasons and had a fanbase that totaled up into the multi-millions. It was as endearing as it was hilarious, and it is still shown today via reruns on television and social media all over the world.
Estelle’s Stage Jitters
Estelle Getty played the beloved and hilarious Sophia Petrillo on The Golden Girls. If you’ve ever seen Getty in her legendary role, it may interest you to know that behind those brilliant performances, the actress was just a bundle of nerves.
That’s right, Estelle Getty got really anxious before filming. We’re all super glad that in the end, Getty nailed it.
The Set Had Been Used Before
Everyone who has tuned in to an episode of the show is familiar with that kitchen set. What many people don’t know is that the set was actually used for another hit show in the ‘80s - It Takes Two. When that series came to an end, The Golden Girls got it.
After a total ‘make-over’ it became the kitchen that we know and love.
Bea Sincerely Disliked Her Character’s Sense of Fashion
Bea Arthur played the funny and blunt Dorothy Zbornak. While there were perhaps some similarities between the character and the real-life Bea, one thing they did not share was a sense of style. In fact, Bea, whose ears weren’t pierced at the time, wore gigantic clip-on earrings in nearly every scene.
Arthur complained that the large accessories hurt her earlobes, saying that they could get pretty uncomfortable when filming for hours on end.
But Rue on The Other Hand…
While Bea wasn’t a fan of her costume wardrobe on the show, Rue McClanahan was simply delighted with hers. In fact, Rue, who famously portrayed Blanche on The Golden Girls, took all of her's home!
McClanahan even had the stipulation added to her contract.
The Ladies Almost Had a Butler
In the first-ever episode of the show, the girls had been blessed with a live-in chef and housekeeper. Unfortunately, the creators of the show decided against the continuing with the character, and he never appeared again.
No worries, the ladies seemed to do perfectly fine without him!
They Covered Hot Topics
When one thinks about The Golden Girls, they may just imagine four carefree women enjoying their retirement and discussing things like men, and tea. The Golden Girls actually dove into some pretty deep thorny topics, such as equal marriage rights and pregnancy.
Given the time it was aired, a lot of people viewed the show as rather controversial.
Can you close your eyes and picture Blanche, played by Betty White? Well, you almost wouldn’t have had to. Betty was originally cast as Blanche, and Rue as “Rose.”
However, since those roles were much like the ones that they had each played in the past, they grabbed at the chance to expand their acting horizons.
Bea Was Tough to Work With
As is the case with so many people in Hollywood, Bea Arthur was said to be incredibly hard to work alongside.
In fact, she was so tough to get along with that every single actress on the show ended up cutting her loose.
But She Advocated for Civil Rights
Of course, in her professional life, she was seen as extremely difficult to deal with, but that doesn’t mean that she was a bad person. Bea devoted her free time to advocating for the rights of groups like women, the homeless, and the LGBTQ community.
Bea even had it written into her will that a huge portion of the money from her home and savings should be sent to those that she advocated for.
She Advocated for Animals Too
The actress also devoted time to assisting PETA in advocating for the rights of animals. We guess it’s fair to say that Bea may not have been sunshine and unicorns to her coworkers, but she certainly seemed to have a huge heart.
We sure are glad to know that Bea did so much in her lifetime.
Betty Also Advocated for Animals
97-year-old Betty White also did her fair share of fighting for animals. Even if the girls had some tension between them at times, they definitely shared a love for their furry and feathered friends.
In fact, both Betty and Bea often raised funds and donated to animal rights organizations. Despite the on set disputes, it sounded like those two made a great team.
Betty White’s Acting Career is One for the Record Books…Literally
Betty White was successfully acting in television for nearly seven decades, getting her first stint in the spotlight as far back as the 1950s. The late Betty White warmed the hearts of millions over the span of her lengthy career.
This even landed her in the Guinness Book of World Records as the person with the longest career in television!
Estelle Advocated for LGBTQ Rights
Estelle Getty got deeply involved with advocating for gay rights after she lost both a nephew and multiple friends to AIDS.
Getty raised a lot of money for the cause and donated money on many occasions, all for the purposes of researching HIV and AIDS.
Betty Was a Gameshow Girl
When Betty White would get breaks in the middle of shooting her Golden Girls scenes, she and the other stars from the show would play a lot of games, especially puzzle and word games.
White took her gaming one step further than the rest of the cast when she started to appear on televised game shows, such as Password. It was on that very show that she ended up meeting her future husband.
Estelle’s Secret Facelift
Estelle Getty’s makeup artists had their work seriously cut out for them when transforming Getty to look like the mother.
The actress was actually younger than one of her on-screen “daughters.” Getty didn’t make things any easier for them when she decided to go rogue and get a facelift between shooting seasons one year.
Emmy Nominations Galore
The Golden Girls saw over 60 Emmy Nominations during their seven seasons on the air. The show also won two years in a row for the Outstanding Comedy Series category, starting in 1986. There were many more nominations for the actresses as well.
The show clearly held a high standard from start to finish.
Something for Everyone
Each of the four main actresses on The Golden Girls won an Emmy for their respective roles on the show. Estelle Getty was nominated on seven separate occasions, that’s one nomination per season of the show!
Rue McClanahan and Bea Arthur racked up quite an impressive list of nominations themselves, each having four of their own.
The Show Goes Global
The Golden Girls was not only an enormous success in the United States, but it also gained millions of fans all around the world. In fact, the show was aired in over 60 countries, including Russia and England.
Reruns of The Golden Girls are still being aired in countless countries and even dubbed in different languages.
They Had a Royal Fanbase
Apparently, Queen Elizabeth II absolutely loved the show and was probably one of their biggest fans! At one point, she even invited the girls to England to perform for herself and the rest of the Royal Family.
Needless to say, the actresses agreed and traveled all the way to London. They must have put on a terrific live show for Britain’s favorite family.
Bea Hated Cheesecake
The cheesecake was a staple in the show and was eaten countless times when the girls needed to get down and have serious chats. There were many scenes like this, like the time Sophia wanted to move out of the house.
When asked about all the cheesecake scenes in one of the many interviews, Bea actually admitted to hating it. That is some good acting!
Betty Speaks in Tongues…or Norwegian
During one scene, Betty White’s character Rose had to speak Norwegian, which she did pretty well, or so it seemed. But as it turns out, White just dropped some gibberish on everyone, but since no one else spoke Norwegian in the room, it went completely unnoticed!
Somebody who spoke Norwegian probably watched the show at some point and did notice, though.
Bea Wasn’t Going to Play Her Role at First
The Golden Girls could have looked a lot different had things gone according to the original plan. Bea Arthur had actually initially turned down the role and the other actresses were all supposed to play different characters.
According to several insiders, Bea didn’t like how similar all of the characters were to the ones they had played on both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Maude.
The Girl’s Loved to Play Together
Seriously! Betty White absolutely adored spending her time playing word and puzzle games, hence her appearance on countless game shows over the years! Betty’s enthusiasm for it all was quite infectious and eventually, Rue also wanted in on the fun.
The two women between filming would play together. We are sure this created quite an interesting bond.
Betty White is a Time Traveler
Betty White’s character, Rose Nylund, was the youngest of the four women in the household. However, Betty was actually senior to the rest of the actresses in real life and has even outlived all of her costars.
Still alive and well today, White is 97 years young!
Hey, Where’s my Chair?
Of the four main characters on The Golden Girls, only three of them had a seat at the kitchen table. But why?
As the kitchen was basically the main set of the show, producers had their angles all picked out and didn’t want any of the women to have their backs to the lens.
Real Life Inspiration
A lot of people did and still do relate to The Golden Girls. Men and women from all over the United States retire in Florida. It’s really no surprise that the characters and settings are inspired by actual people. Brandon Tartikoff, a producer from the network, used to visit a family member that lived in a similar situation.
After he witnessed the hilarious banter and the strong bonds, he knew he’d found some real television gold.
There seemed to be a bit of confusion about what the full names of some of the characters were over the years. For instance, Blanche was named as “Blanche Marie Hollingsworth” in one episode, but in a later episode, it was implied that her name was “Blanche Elizabeth Devereaux.”
It was never revealed why it was altered over time.
The President of Disney Demanded Changes
Michael Eisner, former president of Disney adored the whole idea behind The Golden Girls when it was first pitched to him. The big-time producer, however, had some changes in mind and felt that the addition of some young blood might help it appeal to a younger crowd. To meet his demands, Sophia was written in, as well as Dorothy.
Eisner loved it, and he gave them the green light.
Don’t you love it when TV shows have inside jokes and references? The Golden Girls did just that. In one of the episodes, Blanche watches the soap opera, Another World. This was a show in which Rue had actually appeared as a guest star quite a few times.
The creators of the show thought that fans would get a real kick out of this. It also helped characterize the actresses quite a lot
Golden Girls: An All-Male Show
Fans and audiences alike were in for quite a surprise, when in 2003, an all-male cast put on a live off-Broadway rendition of the show. Susan Harris, one of the original creators of the legendary series was reportedly unimpressed.
In fact, she started making phone calls, calling for the immediate cancellation of the production. Her wish was granted, and the men were forced to cease their efforts.
Kind of Racist?
Writers have in the past admitted that Sophia had some racist tendencies, but they attributed her outbursts to a stroke that she’d had a few years back.
The show’s creators thought that it would be okay to let her deliver some of the controversial lines, as long as it could be blamed on her condition.
Rose Nylund Makes Her Rounds
Everybody treasured Betty White’s character, Rose Nylund. In fact, Rose was so loved that she was constantly invited to do random appearances and cameos on an array of different shows. In 1988 she appeared on “Empty Nest,” and in “Nurses” at the end of 1991. She also guest-starred on the CBS show “The Golden Palace” in 1992.
Betty White was clearly the world’s favorite Golden Girl.
The Southern Belle Accent
Everyone adored Blanche’s sweet southern accent, it also seemed very genuine, especially as the show progressed and she grew into her role. However, Rue McClanahan threw the accent in on her own. One day, she just started using it and producers asked her to keep it up.
Her accent added a “southern belle” aspect to Blanche that everybody just fell in love with. Can you imagine Blanche without that accent?
Where Art Thou, Dorothy?
Producers were thrown into a frenzy when Bea Arthur, who they’d originally hoped would fill the role of Dorothy, turned them down. They were launched into search mode, trying to hunt down someone who could bring to life the character that they’d envisioned. They were becoming discouraged and couldn’t seem to find anyone to fit the bill.
However, Bea made everything right when she suggested that White and McClanahan switch roles. They agreed and she then jumped back on board!
“Mom” Was Younger than Dorothy
Estelle Getty was made up to look older than her actual age for the purpose of playing “Mom” on The Golden Girls. In fact, “Dorothy” was actually Estelle’s senior by an entire year.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate Estelle Getty’s makeup artists.
And the Emmy Goes To...
Each of The Golden Girls won an Emmy during their seven years on the air. In fact, Getty was nominated for seven of them. The show had an enormous fanbase, among it was even The Royal Family. Of course, this was all reflected in the numerous Emmy nominations that they had racked up over the years.
It really was the show that brought everybody together.
They Had Millions Upon Millions of Viewers
Fans were seriously in love with their Golden Girls. In fact, audiences were so thrilled by the show that the fanbase reached a record of twenty-five million people! The number of viewers remained steady throughout the running of the show.
The fans were loyal and stuck with the series throughout its seven-year duration.
Betty White: Last Woman Standing
Betty White lived an impressive life and at 99 was last living member of the cast of The Golden Girls. In 2008, Estelle Getty passed away from a type of Dementia, followed by Bea Arthur who, in 2009, sadly passed away from cancer. In 2010, Rue McClanahan tragically left us too.
White is pretty active to this day and still makes the odd television appearance.
Bea Arthur Was a U.S. Marine
Before becoming a famous actress, Arthur had a very different job—a truck driving Marine! Arthur volunteered for the United States Marine Corps and was one of the first members of the Women’s Reserve before World War II.
She served as both a typist and a truck driver and according to The Smoking Gun, she listed hunting with a “.22 caliber rifle and a bow and arrow,” among her active hobbies on her volunteer application.
The House's True Location
Although the show is said to be set on 6151 Richmond Street in Miami, Florida, in reality, the home featured throughout the series is actually on 245 North Saltair Avenue, in a neighborhood called Brentwood in Los Angeles.
According to real estate documents, the 2901-square-foot house has four bedrooms and four bathrooms and it's valued over $3 million. The famous house is still there but is now surrounded by high walls and foliage to discourage curious fans from snooping around.
The Famous Hand Bag
According to The New York Post, while to prepare for her audition, Estelle Getty found Sophia’s infamous straw handbag as was shopping for props in L.A.
Years after the show ended the purse was sold at auction for $10,000. Who has it and can I buy it from you?!
Believe it or not, Golden Girls action figures were unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con! Seems like their fanbase must still be vibrant!
If you'd like to own this iconic collection it'll cost you nearly $115. But true Golden Girl fans would be willing to pay much more. That's actually a bargain.
Betty White's Favorite Episode
Betty White said that one of her most favorite episodes was "A Little Romance".
In this episode from the first season, Rose is reluctant to introduce the ladies to her new boyfriend, psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Newman, because he is a little person. White said that despite the fact that “every ‘short’ joke in the book” was used, none of the humor was truly hurtful.
Rue McClanahan's Favorite Episode
McClanahan's favorite episode was Journey to the Center of Attention. It aired in an episode in season seven, in which Dorothy uncharacteristically becomes popular at The Rusty Anchor, Blanche’s favorite place for meeting members of the opposite sex.
At McClanahan's request, the producers hired choreographer Gregory Scott Young to carefully stage the scene where Blanche sensually sings “I Want to Be Loved by You” on top of a grand piano while encountering one fail after another.
Bea Arthur's Favorite Episode
Arthur once stated that one of her favorite scenes was with Getty in which they dressed as Sonny and Cher and sang “I Got You, Babe." She reminisced in an interview with the Archive of American Television saying "Oh God, it was fun,".
Do you remember this episode? What was your favorite episode?!
Dorothy's Borrowed Last Name
Dorothy borrowed the show's stage manager, Kent Zbornak's, last name. He worked on set for the entire duration of the series.
Susan Harris had worked with Kent on Soap in 1977 and fell in love with his surname.
Getty Was Afraid of Dying
Estelle Getty had a serious phobia about death. This became a definite handicap when starring in a show centered around four senior women.
Knowing this it's pretty amazing how to Getty's character Sophia always seemed very nonchalant and effortlessly undisturbed in all of the funeral home and death scenes. What convincing acting skills.
Is There a More Epic "Girls Night"?
We mentioned the Queen was a fan of the show but she wasn't the only royal to love the Golden Girls. The Princess of Wales, yes, Diana(!) and rockstar, Freddie Mercury, used to watch the show together.
According to the UK-based comedian, Cleo Rocos, she once spent an afternoon drinking champagne while watching reruns of the show with the pair with volume down and improvising lines with "a much naughtier storyline." Some would die to see any footage of that!
The Episode Based on Harris' Life
The two-part episode entitled “Sick and Tired” was autobiographical about the show's creator, Susan Harris. It was centered around her real-life struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome. Dorothy’s struggle finding a doctor who would take her symptoms seriously is still relevant for many women today.
In fact, a 2011 study showed that 62 percent of doctors referred men to cardiologists when they complained of chest pain and/or shortness of breath, while less than 30 percent did the same for their female patients. Instead, the doctors advised the women to “take it easy” and prescribed them anti-anxiety meds.
Dorothy Couldn't Walk in Heels to Save Her Life
Ever noticed how Dorthy, as stylish as she was, always sported flat shoes? Well, the nearly 5-foot-10-inch actress once told an interviewer how when she was younger she dreamed of wearing heels, but that would have meant towering over most of her dates in high school, then later over the fellow actors she worked with.
But by the time “heightism” was no longer a huge concern hers, she discovered that she couldn’t even balance properly or walk in a pair of one-inch heels.
McClanahan Convinced Arthur to Pursue Her Part
It's said that Rue McClanahan gave her reluctant Maude co-star the final push, convincing her to give The Golden Girls a chance.
According to McClanahan herself, she phoned Bea Arthur and asked her incredulously, “Why are you going to turn down the best script that’s ever going to come across your desk as long as you live?”
NBC Didn't Want to Cast Bea Arthur
Initially, Susan Harris wrote the role of Dorothy with Arthur in mind, having worked with the amazing actress on several episodes of Maude. However the NBC president at the time, Brandon Tartikoff was against the idea, claiming that Arthur’s “Q” score (a rating system of a performer’s audience appeal) was low— meaning she was recognizable, but not exactly “loveable,” thanks to Maude’s rather liberal beliefs.
Interestingly, the broadway legend, Elaine Stritch, was a contender for the part, but she ruined her chances when she tried improvising her dialogue and then dropped the “F” bomb during her audition.
The Golden Girls Introduced Some Floridian Lingo
The show introduced a new word to its viewers. Most non-Floridian viewers probably weren't familiar with the term lanai. Which, architecturally speaking, is a porch or veranda with a cement floor and an awning, sometimes enclosed by screens. Of course, we can always count on miss Sophia to simplify matters.
Remember this scene? "Dorothy: We are throwing a surprise birthday party for Blanche. I want you to go out to the lanai and mingle with the other guests. Sophia: Check! ...What's a lanai? Dorothy: The porch! Sophia: Excuse me, Krystle Carrington!"
Many of the stars of the Golden Girls had already worked with each other previous to the show.
Rue and Betty both co-starred in the show Mama's Family, While Bea Arthur and Rue had both previously co-starred together on Maude.
The Classic Theme Song
The producers of the show originally wanted to use Bette Midler’s song, "Friends," as The Golden Girls theme song. However, it was too expensive so they settled with "Thank You For Being A Friend." (Thankfully!)
“Thank You for Being a Friend,” was originally written and recorded by Andrew Gold. For the show, they chose to go with Cynthia Fee who's the person voice you hear.
Getty Wanted to Stay True to Her Heritage
McClanahan once said in an Interview that Getty, a Jewish woman, tried to make her character Sophia's background more similar to hers. “She kept saying, ‘Can’t we make these characters Jewish?!’ She would’ve felt so much more comfortable than trying to be Italian,” she recalled. “Although, I mean, it worked.”
Bea Arthur, Getty's daughter in the show was also Jewish. So that could have been cool if they got to portray an authentic Floridian, Jewish, mother-daughter duo, but the show producers just weren't into it.
Actors That Have Made an Appearance on the Show
Many of your favorite actors have guest-starred on the Golden Girls show including Leslie Nielsen, Caesar Romero, Sonny Bono, George Clooney, and even Quentin Tarantino on the show, he played an Elvis impersonator on Golden Girls. You have to look it up, it's rather entertaining.
And let us not forget the episode Mario Lopez played when he guest-starred on the show. He played one of Dorothy’s students whose family was facing a threat of deportation.
The Real Inspiration Behind the Show
The idea of a show revolving around older women came about after network executives watched an NBC skit featuring Doris Roberts and Selma Diamond.
Both were starring on NBC shows at the time (Doris was then-starring in Remington Steele, and Selma was on Night Court) and were asked to do a skit where they mishear the name of Miami Vice as Miami Nice, and they then imagine that the show was about a group of old retired people.