Things You Never Knew About The Golden Girls

Golden Girls is one of the most beloved and popular television series of all time. The show featured four older women, all living their lives together in Miami after leaving previous marriages and relationships.

The show was witty, hilarious, and featured some of the most comedic women known on television series of all time. Golden Girls is still wildly popular through syndication across various TV channels.

Living It Up With The Golden Girls

Throughout its long run, the show had plenty of secrets and fun trivia about the show itself and its characters.

Read on to learn fascinating things you might not have known about the Girls!

Getty Had Stage Fright

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Estelle Getty, who played Sophia, was known for having stage fright and would become terrified before every performance of the show they filmed. She claimed it was due to the fact that she had the least experience out of them and thought people would find her to be fake if they realized she wasn’t as talented as her co-stars.

The Set Was Recycled From Another Series

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The kitchen used for many famous scenes was not originally created for the show. It was first used before as a set for the series “It Takes Two.” It was given a makeover to fit the show. The set directors transformed the polka- dotted walls into a more tropical theme but kept the overall structure of the original kitchen exactly the same.

There Was Going To Be A Butler In The Show

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The first episode featured a man who was their butler and personal chef. He also happened to be homosexual, a scandalous character trait for television at the time. After the pilot episode, his character was written out. We wonder if it could be because he was homosexual, or if the writers just wanted to focus on the leading ladies. Either way, the show went on to be a huge success with his sudden absence.

The Show Could Be Controversial At Times

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The show often brought up issues like abortion, sex, gay marriage, and other things that were pretty controversial to talk about. In shows on television today, that can seem like a common occurrence, but at the time the show was airing, things like that weren’t often discussed on television — and were oftentimes even frowned upon.

They All Had Different Roles In The Beginning

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Before the show first aired, the leading ladies were actually originally cast for different roles than the ones they ended up playing for many years. Betty White was originally supposed to be Blanche, and Rue was going to be Rose. They had agreed to switch, however, in order to ensure they were playing different roles than they were known for.

Estelle Was Younger Than Bea

Estelle was actually the second youngest of the four women on the show, but played the oldest role out of the four leading ladies. She was a year younger than Bea but played her mother! She did an amazing job, however, and it was hard to tell due to all the makeup that costuming used to age her.

Betty White Is The Oldest Of Them All

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Although she played the youngest on the show, Betty was actually the oldest of them all! Betty White is 12 years older than Rue, a year and a half older than Estelle, and just a couple months older than Bea. Both Bea and Betty were born in 1922, meaning Betty White is just a few short years of being 100 years old!

No One Liked Bea

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Bea Arthur was described as sometimes being “eccentric.” This slightly made her an outcast among her co-stars. “If you were chewing gum on the set, she would try to have you fired,” said author Jim Colucci. They all admitted to not getting along with Bea at different points during the show’s run. The women even stated they refused to eat lunch with her at certain times during rehearsals.

Bea Arthur Hated Her Wardrobe

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Bea Arthur was often seen wearing large and chunky earrings, an effect from the show’s stylist to add interest to her character. However, Bea didn’t even have pierced ears! She would often discuss how she loved wearing the earrings because of the way they looked, but hated the pain and numbness caused after a long day of shooting.

Rue McClanahan Got To Keep Blanche’s Clothes

Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche, actually had it written into her contract that she got to keep all of Blanche’s wardrobe after the show. Throughout the series, she was able to fill over 10 closets just with the character’s glamorous clothing. We can’t imagine what the entirety of her closet looked like.

Bea Also Was Involved In PETA

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Aside from being a human rights activist, Bea was also known for having a large role in the fight for animal rights. She was a part of PETA, which stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. She was active in the group since 1987, so just like her character, she wasn’t afraid to voice her opinion on controversial issues in real life either.

Betty White Is Also An Animal Rights Activist

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Just like her co-star, Betty White was also known for being an animal rights activist. She has had a role in the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association since 1974. Also, at the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards, Betty was an award presenter for the 2011 ceremony.

Betty White Holds A Guinness World Record

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Betty White has received numerous awards for her long career, but her most recent recognition was for her overall television career. Throughout roles before, during and after “Golden Girls,” Betty White earned herself an award for having the longest career on television for a female entertainer. She is nearing 100 years old and has shown no signs of slowing down.

Estelle Was A Gay Rights Activist

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After her role on the show, Estelle had a homosexual nephew die of AIDS. Through his final years, Estelle helped him a lot financially and offered moral support as he went through the unfortunate illness. After his death, she was known for being a staunch gay rights activist and a major fundraiser for AIDS research.

Bea Was A Civil Rights Activist

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Before her death, Bea was known for being an advocate for many different causes. She was known for participating in civil right causes for the LGBTQ community, the elderly, Jewish, and women’s rights in general. After her death, she donated a large amount of money to help homeless LGBT youth.

Betty White Was On A Lot Of Game Shows

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Betty White was known for her love of game shows, and her talent on them! She often appeared on shows like “Password,” and was known for playing word games with her co-stars in between takes and during rehearsal. She loved the shows so much in fact, that she even married the host of the game show “Password!”

The Show Had Multiple Writers

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The show ran for a long time and featured numerous episodes per season, so it’s no surprise that the show had more than one writer to keep ideas and storylines fresh. This also probably accounts for numerous discrepancies throughout the series. Often times names would be different, or locations of certain things would be changed.

Estelle Getty Had a Face Lift

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In between two seasons, Estelle Getty had a face lift in order to make her look younger. This made the makeup artists and producers upset, since she had to play such an older role when acting as Sophia. Estelle had to endure a long time in the makeup chair to get her to look older, and the face lift made it even more challenging for everyone to age her using cosmetic products.

The Series Was Nominated for over 60 Emmys

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Throughout the run of the beloved show, the series was nominated for over 60 Emmys! The TV series also received numerous awards and nominations for other ceremonies and categories as well! It’s no surprise for such a popular and long-running show, and it really showed the star power than all its main players had.

Betty White Is The Only One Alive

Despite being the oldest of them all, Betty White is the only cast member of the main four who is still alive. Rue was the most recent to pass away in 2010 due to a brain hemorrhage. Getty passed in 2008 from Lewy Body Dementia, and Bea passed in 2009 from cancer. Please don’t leave us now, Betty!

The Queen Mother Was A Huge Fan

Queen Elizabeth II’s mother, The Queen Mother, was such a huge fan of the show that she invited the cast to perform in England. They got together and put on a stage production of the show in front of the Queen Mother and her family. The production included all four of the show’s leading ladies.

A Hatred Of Cheesecake… And Hundreds Of Them

Cheesecakes were a huge hit among the characters on the show. Bea Arthur has said she hated cheesecake but was on a show where more than 100 of the desserts were consumed. That’s a lot of food you don’t want to eat but it’s a great lesson for all of us to eat our fruits and veggies without complaint.

That’s A Whole Lot Of Emmys

Betty White and Estelle Getty took home seven Emmy nominations each and Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan only received four nominations a piece. All four actresses won Emmys for their performances. You won’t find many show’s that have received that type of consistent nominations and wins.

Excuse Me — Do You Speak Norwegian?

Rose is supposed to be speaking “Norwegian” on the show but she actually just babbles a bunch of gibberish in real life. When seen with subtitles it adds an entirely new level of humor to the TV series. With her accent and pronunciation, the lines come off as genuine.

Bea Arthur Originally Fought Against Joining The Show

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Bea Arthur thought joining the show would be redundant because she and Rue McClanahan were seen as largely reprising their roles from “Maude.” She also thought Betty White was more or less in her same role from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” She only joined the cast when McClanahan told her that she and White had decided to swap roles. it didn’t help that Arthur was not too keen of White. “Bea had a reserve,” admitted White. “She was not that fond of me.”

One Table And Three Chairs?

If you look at the kitchen table you’ll notice there are only three chairs and the show features four lead characters. The show’s producers never wanted one of the actresses to have their back to the camera. They also felt that the table would become too crowded if they all sat around the table at the same time.

Is There More To The Door?

Over the years, many fans have noticed and wondered whether the small exclamation point that is carved into the front door (seen here to the left of Dorothy’s hairdo) has any significant meaning. It’s been rumored for years that Bea Arthur herself carved the punctuation into the door on the first day of filming as a kind of good luck symbol for the show. However, it’s also been said that the carving was actually just a flaw in the wood of the door and had no significance.

Alphabet Wars!!!

Betty White was a top competitor on the game show “Password” and she found a kindred spirit in Rue McClanahan. Between takes on the show the women would play word games together. Some games were on the open market and some of the games they made up on their own. Their games could go on throughout a full day of filming.

Inspiration From The Show Came From Real Life

NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff was visiting his elderly aunt and witnessed how she and her next-door neighbor, who was also her best friend, interacted with each other. The two elderly women would constantly bicker with each other but they also shared a lot of love in their relationship. “The Golden Girls” were born out of that interaction.

What’s In A Name, Really?

The episode titled, “Wham, Bam, Thank You Mammy,” revealed Blanche’s name as “Blanche Marie Hollingsworth.” In a later episode her name is randomly changed to “Blanche Elizabeth Devereaux.” There is no explanation for this sudden change in the characters name.

Eisner Demanded Changes Before The Show Was Picked Up

Disney President Michael Eisner loved the idea of “The Golden Girls” but he felt that a younger female should be added into the show so it could appeal to a younger audience. He asked Susan Harris to add another angle and she soon added the character of Sophia. After Dorothy was added Eisner loved the show and gave the go-ahead to start producing the TV series.

An International Sensation

The show wasn’t just a huge success in the United States, it was a top-rated TV series in 60 countries. Remakes of the show also aired in England, Russia, and Greece. It remains a hit in syndication even more than 30 years after it first hit the airwaves.

Is That A Gun In Your Pocket?

If you play close attention to the show’s plot lines you’ll quickly notice that the women often encounter a male part and then react in some very funny ways. The member might be featured in the form of an adult-themed cake or maybe it would make an appearance in a piece of artwork.

That’s Out Of This World

There’s a great shoutout to Rue McClanahan during one episode of “The Golden Girls.” Blanche wants to watch the soap opera “Another World,” a TV show where McClanahan played Caroline Johnson during several appearances. It really helped to personalize the show for fans of the actresses.

The Off-Broadway Production Full Of Guys

An off-Broadway production of the show titled “The Golden Girls: Live!” started showing in 2003. The show’s original creator Susan Harris, demanded the production be stopped. It only lasted for a few months and the entire cast consisted of male actors. Perhaps “The Golden Guys: Live!” would have been a better choice.

A STROKE Of Genius

Sophia was given all of the racist lines on the show. They thought it would be safer to give her the lines because her character had a stroke earlier in life. That stroke apparently made it hard for her to control the things she was saying. It was a simple but effective tool for the sake of a few easy laughs.

Everything Came Up Roses For Betty White

Betty White played Rose Nylund on a number of occasions. Her character appeared on “Empty Nest” in 1988, “Nurses” in 1991, “The Golden Girls” in 1985, and “The Golden Palace” in 1992. Some characters simply don’t fade into the background like others do, and Rose Nylund was one of those who managed to live on.

That’s A Whole Lot Of People

The first episode of “The Golden Girls” attracted an amazing 25 million viewers. The TV series beat out such strong series as “The Cosby Show.” It claimed the number one spot and managed to keep rolling high in the ratings for more than half a decade.

Another Really Cool Emmy Fact

“The Golden Girls” was one of just three TV shows to win Emmys for all of its main characters. The only other shows to manage that feat were “All in the Family” and “Will & Grace.” It might not be the most impressive feat though, as the “Mary Tyler Moore” show won Emmys for six different characters who were part of a much larger cast.

The Southern Accent That Didn’t Exist

Blanche was not supposed to have a southern accent. Rue McClanahan liked the idea of bringing that aspect and she decided to run with it. The show’s producers ended up liking the southern charm her accent brought to the show and it was allowed to remain as a part of her character.

Nobody Could Beat Arthur Out For The Role

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Bea Arthur wasn’t going to appear as Dorothy but the show’s producers knew they wanted a “Bea Arthur-esque” actress to play the part. After attempting to recruit the right female for the job, the famed actress agreed to take on the role and the rest, as they say, is history.

Bae Wasn’t Fond Of Betty’s Happiness

Betty White and Bea Arthur were best of pals on screen. Off the screen, Arthur had some vendetta against White. “She found me a pain in the neck sometimes,” said White. “It was my positive attitude – and that made Bea mad sometimes. Sometimes if I was happy, she’d be furious!”

More Anger From Arthur To White

Yes, it is true that they all won awards for this show, but Bea Arthur wasn’t content with the order of which the actors received the awards. Betty White was the first to win and it was reported that Arthur was “angry” about that. What else could she possibly make her upset?

Bea Arthur Was A Loner… Or Was She?

The anger may have been rooted from Bae Arthur’s introverted ways. Her adopted son, Matthew Saks, said his mom “wasn’t really close to anybody. I’m not saying she was a loner, but she just liked to go home and read the paper.” Being that way can come off differently to others who don’t understand.

Early Dementia for Estelle

We mentioned earlier that Estelle had a huge case of stage fright. Something else that was holding her back was her memorization skills when it came to the script. “People wonder if her dementia was beginning, even back then,” says the author of Golden Girls book Jim Colucci.

From the Source Herself

Actresses Beatrice Arthur, left, Rue McClanahan, center, and Betty White arrive at the TV Land Awards on Sunday June 8, 2008 in Santa Monica, Calif. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
Actresses Beatrice Arthur, left, Rue McClanahan, center, and Betty White arrive at the TV Land Awards on Sunday June 8, 2008 in Santa Monica, Calif. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)

“Bea and I didn’t have a lot of relationship going on,” McClanahan said in an interview. “Bea is a very, very eccentric woman. She wouldn’t go to lunch [with me] unlessBetty [White] would go with her.” It just appears that any rift stemmed from Bea.

Convinced by an Unlikely Source

As you know, Bea Arthur didn’t want to do the show. She had many reasons why but it took for an unlikely ally to convince her to do it. McClanahan said, “I called her 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?’”