The Golden Girls debuted in 1985 and more than 30 years later the popular TV sitcom is still in syndication and attracting new fans.
The dynamic relationships between Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia, captured the imagination of older and younger audiences alike. The show’s stars proved that age is just a number and lewdness isn’t reserved for the young.
As is the case with many of the popular TV sitcoms we’ve covered, The Golden Girls was filled with fun and interesting facts.
Bea Arthur Was Nearly Ignored By NBC
Series creator Susan Harris wrote the role of Dorthy with Bea Arthur in mind after she worked with the actress on a few episodes of Maude. When Harris approached NBC executives with the idea, they thought Arthur was not “loveable” because of her liberal leanings on Maude. Executives wanted Broadway star Elaine Stritch for the role but her audition involved a lot of improvised swearing.
Estelle Getty Was Younger Than Her TV Daughter
Estelle Getty was forced to sit in a makeup department chair for 45 minutes each day during the show’s first season. Makeup artists were tasked with making Estelle look younger than her TV daughter, who was actually a year older than her in real life. When Getty showed up looking even younger in season two, they had to spend more time applying her makeup.
Getty Suffered From Horrible Stage Fright
When asked about her time on the show, Rue McClanahan said she noticed a “black cloud” that would appear over Getty’s head the moment dress rehearsal began on Thursdays. There were also allegedly many times when Getty would freeze on camera. During an interview in 1988, she admitted to being intimidated because she was working with Bea Arthur and Betty White and both were TV legends well before The Golden Girls started filming.
Queen Elizabeth Was An Avid Golden Girls Fan
Queen Elizabeth was such a massive fan of the TV show that she invited its stars to perform live during the Royal Variety Performance in London way back in 1988. The actresses, of course, accepted the huge honor and reenacted two of their kitchen table scenes. The women censored some of their dialogue but left in one poignant sex talk scene in which Dorothy asks Blanche how long she waited to have sex again after her husband died. Queen Elizabeth laughed as Blanche responded, “Until the paramedics came.”
The TV Series Could Have Featured Lee Grant
Susan Harris had a specific person in mind for the role of grandma. She originally approached Grant Lee but the idea was rejected. Lee didn’t like the idea of playing a grandmother. That’s when Harris transitioned to writing the role for Arthur.
Three Chairs At The Kitchen Table?
Four women. Three chairs? If you weren’t paying attention you may have missed the fact that a fourth chair was missing from the dining room of the Miami home they shared. A fourth chair was not added only because of the limitations imposed by shooting a multi-camera sitcom.
Fun fact: Bea Arthur was always given the center chair.
Table Placement Was Strategically Planned
Speaking of seats at the table, the show’s directors would place other characters around Arthur based on each situation. If a character needed to make the first exit, they would be placed further away from the action. When all four actresses needed to be seated, a stool was scooted to just inside the frame.
Bea Arthur Was Pushed By Rue McClanahan To Take The Role
Rue McClanahan co-starred in Maude with Bea Arthur and she was convinced her friend was the perfect choice for the role. At one point she incredulously looked at Arthur and said, “Why are you going to turn down the best script that’s ever going to come across your desk as long as you live?” Talk about the hard sell.
Doesn’t The Kitchen Set Look Familiar?
The kitchen on The Golden Girls is iconic, not only for the show but also for its first appearance in another short-lived Harris sitcom called It Takes Two. The Patty Duke and Richard Crenna led series was short-lived but the kitchen set became iconic because of its constant use on The Gold Girls.
Dorthy’s Last Name Was An Homage To The Show’s Stage Manager
Dorthy was working with Kent Zbornak on the set of Soap in 1977 and she fell in love with his surname. Kent would go on to be the stage manager for the entire run of The Golden Girls series and his surname because synonymous with Dorthy’s character.
Bea Arthur Wore Clip-On Earrings
The giant hooped earnings and other accessories worn by Bea Arthur were clip-ons. The actress loved the “dramatic effect” of the jewelry but she didn’t want to pierce her ears. Arthur later admitted that her ears would become numb by the end of a long shooting day.
Estelle Getty Had A Death Phobia
When you’re acting on a TV series about four older women the topic of death is going to come up and it came up regularly on The Golden Girls. Actress Stelle Getty had a massive phobia about death but she still managed to talk about the subject and appeared in various funeral home scenes.
Rue McClanahan Kept Blanche’s Clothes
Rue McClanahan wore custom made clothing while playing the role of Blanche and she kept all of the stuff she wore. Designers were brought in to make her clothing and her contract had a clause that sent her home with 13 clothes full of designer options.
Susan Harris Wrote An Autobiographical Episode
“Sick and Tired” was a two-part series that hit close to home for Susan Harris. The episode focused on her real-life struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome, and Dorothy’s struggle to find a doctor who would take her symptoms seriously. The episode focused on a major problem that still plagued millions of women annually.
Betty White And Rue McClanahan Were Avid Word Games Players
There’s a lot of downtime while filming a TV series so Betty White and Rue McClanahan passed the time by playing word games. They would play alphabet games throughout the entire filming of the series as they awaited their turn to appear on camera. Betty White was previously a fierce competitor on the series Password.
Viewers Were Introduced To A New Word And Concept
The Golden Girls incorporated Florida living into the series and one of those instances stuck with many viewers. The word “Lanai” refers to a porch or veranda with a cement floor and an awning that is sometimes enclosed by screens.
Blanche’s Florida Home Was Located In Los Angeles
The official address of The Golden Girls home was 6151 Richmond Street in Miami, Florida but the original exterior shots of Blanche’s house was taken from 245 North Saltair Avenue in Los Angeles, California. That home is now worth more than $3 million — thanks, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs!
The Golden Girls may no longer air new episodes and some of the show’s stars have left us, but it still lives on in syndication. If you’ve never watched the show, check it out, it’s still very relevant today.