If you flip through the channels tonight, chances are you’ll catch a series about four feisty older women tackling love, sex and friendship in the big city. (Sorry Carrie Bradshaw, but we’re not talking about that show.)
When “The Golden Girls” premiered over 30 years ago, on Sept. 14, 1985, audiences were introduced to Southern belle Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan) and her roommates Rose Nylund (Betty White), Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) and Dorothy's mother, Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty).
This classic American sitcom, which was nicknamed “Miami Nice,” racked up 68 Emmy nominations and 11 wins throughout its run. Since then, it has continued to garner high praise — in fact, it's currently listed as #69 on Deadline's ranking of the "101 Best Written TV Series of All Time." And while White is the only living Golden Girl left, the show’s legacy certainly lives on, bringing laughs to both old fans and new.
So now, because we all have “Thank You for Being a Friend” stuck in our heads, we’ve rounded up 10 unique facts about “The Golden Girls.” See how well you really know this fabulous foursome:
#1. Estelle Getty's massive transformation to become Sophia Petrillo
Getty, who was younger than both Bea Arthur and Betty White, underwent a three-hour transformation to become the 80-year-old sassy Sicilian. “When she first sits down in the chair, she’s just Estelle, a nice, lovely lady,” said makeup artist Maurice Stein in the February 1988 issue of Orange Coast Magazine. “But as the makeup goes on, she becomes this snappy old lady, wise-cracking and crusty. She seems to slum down in her chair and really get into character. By the time she gets up from her chair, I have Sophia on my hands.”
#2. A British royal was a fan
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was such a fan of the series that she requested the cast give a command performance on Nov. 21, 1988. However, the racy dialogue the show was famous for had to be toned down a notch. “We’ll do about seven minutes from the show, but we’ll have to censor a few things for the queen,” said Arthur at the time.
#3. One Golden Girl hated cheesecake
Not all the girls love the sweet stuff. While it was reported that the characters allegedly consumed more than 100 cheesecakes during the seven-year run of the show, one of them detested the dessert. “In real life, Bea hates cheesecake!” said her webmaster Kevin Buckstiegel while she was promoting her one-woman show in 2006. According to “The Dead Celebrity Cookbook: A Resurrection of Recipes From More Than 145 Stars of Stage and Screen,” Arthur’s take on breakfast was actually a vegetarian one featuring roasted mushrooms.
#4. Home was California, not Miami
Blanche and her roommates may have called Miami home, but their ranch-style property was actually located in California. A house at 245 N. Saltair Avenue in Brentwood was used as a model for the girls’ dwelling. Los Angeles magazine revealed that an exact replica of the home’s façade was later built on Residential Street at Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) in Orlando, and was used for exterior images during the series’ later years. The street and its sets were torn down in 2003 to make room for a stunt show, but the private Brentwood residence is still standing. And in case you’re wondering, the girls’ address, 6151 Richmond Street in Miami, isn’t real.
#5. St. Olaf is sort of real
While their Miami residence doesn’t exist, Rose’s infamous St. Olaf does … sort of. There is no such Norwegian town in Minnesota, but a St. Olaf Township does exist in the state. There is also a St. Olaf College located on St. Olaf Avenue in Minnesota, which was founded by Norwegian immigrants in 1874. It offers a "robust program in Scandinavian culture, including Norwegian language classes, Nordic film studies and Viking history courses.”
#6. Elaine Stritch rejected a leading role
When Susan Harris wrote the pilot script for “The Golden Girls,” she described the character of Dorothy as a “Bea Arthur type.” However, the role may have gone to actress Elaine Stritch — had she not screwed up her audition by throwing out an F-bomb. “Who really gave a s--- about playing some old broad who settles in Miami with two other old broads and their mother?” she later joked in her one-woman show.
#7. Blanche's accent changed in the series
Fans of “The Golden Girls” may notice that Blanche, originally from Atlanta, Georgia, did not have much of a Southern accent in the pilot episode. That’s because director Jay Sandrich told McClanahan to instead rely on her “regular Oklahoma accent.” However, when director Paul Bogart later came on board, he wanted McClanahan to use the Southern accent. Later, McClanahan revealed she created an exaggerated take on a sultry Southern accent — one she thought might easily lure men. “It’s funny,” said McClanahan. “[Blanche] didn’t think she was funny, but I thought she was funny.”
#8. Rue McClanahan launched a lingerie line for real-life "needy sexy people"
Perhaps McClanahan was inspired by a third-season episode called "My Brother, My Father" — in which Blanche pretended to collect lingerie for "needy sexy people" — when she started her own clothing line on QVC. In McClanahan’s 2007 memoir, “My First Five Husbands … And the Ones Who Got Away,” she remembered launching “A Touch of Rue.” “I selected fabrics I loved and designed Blanche-inspired garments with my own practical spin, making the exquisite Blanche creations wearable in real life and available at affordable prices." (According to her, the silky gown-peignoir sets “sold out in minutes.”) As for Blanche’s actual couture? McClanahan was allowed to keep about 500 of her “Golden Girls” costumes, which were stored in her New York apartment.
#9. A Floridian term became popular
“The Golden Girls” introduced viewers across the nation to a word Floridians were already very familiar with: "Lanai." A lanai is described as an enclosed porch within a more tropical setting, featuring casual tables and chairs. In the season 2 episode, “A Piece of Cake,” Sophia learns about it for herself along with the viewers:
Dorothy: We’re having a surprise birthday party for Blanche. Why don’t you go out to the lanai and mingle with the guests?
Sophia: OK! What’s a lanai?
Sophia: Well, excuse me, Krystle Carrington!
#10. Bea Arthur may not have been so "Miami nice"
Dorothy frequently picking on Rose may not have been an act. In real life, Arthur had an “intense dislike” for White. According to White, Arthur found her to be a “pain in the neck” because of her constant cheery attitude. McClanahan believed their opposite takes on acting may have been a contributing factor, too. “Bea came from a New York stage point of view,” explained McClanahan. “She always had what we call 'the fourth wall.' And Betty came from a television point of view. She would flirt with the audience, and pull her skirt up and say, ‘Hi sailor.’ But Bea never acknowledged the audience.” McClanahan also admitted that Arthur never actually revealed why she couldn’t get along with White.