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10 Facts You Might Not Know About “The Golden Girls”
Read Time: 7m
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Original photo by Credit: Album/ Alamy Stock Photo

At a time when youth seemed to carry the banner for pop culture, a show about seniors couldn’t have gone more against the trends. But with its witty characters living their best lives despite hitting retirement age, the NBC sitcom The Golden Girls was an instant hit, becoming the No. 1 show in the Nielsen ratings in its first week in September 1985.

Called a “geriatric comedy” by the Associated Press, the secret formula was in the relatability of the storylines and the sharply written script about the friendships between four women living together in Miami Beach. The all-star cast was made of faces already familiar on the small screen, including Maude costars Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan as tough-as-nails Dorothy Zbornak and flirty Southern belle Blanche Devereaux, respectively, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s Betty White as innocent, ditzy Midwesterner Rose Nylund. Stage star Estelle Getty rounded out the group as Dorothy’s mother, the ever-blunt Sophia Petrillo.

The seven-season show has continued to transcend the generations, particularly finding a fan base among the LBGT community. Here, we travel down the road and back again to unveil 10 facts about the groundbreaking television show.

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The Show Was Given a 13-Episode Order Before There Was a Script

A Golden Girls script signed by Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White.
Credit: Astrid Stawiarz/ Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

During NBC’s promotional program for the 1984 season, Night Court’s Selma Diamond was introducing Miami Vice in a comedy sketch and joked, “‘Miami Nice?” It must be about a bunch of old people sitting around playing pinochle.”

The idea stuck with NBC president Brandon Tartikoff, and when producers Paul Witt and Tony Thomas came into his office to pitch a new show a few weeks later, he passed on their idea but instead gave them an assignment: “Take some women around 60. Society has written them off, has said they're over the hill. We want them to be feisty as hell and having a great time.” Witt responded that NBC would never put it on the air. Fully confident the show would be a success, it was given a 13-episode commitment before there was even a script.

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White Was Supposed to Play Blanche and McClanahan Was Originally Rose

Close-up of Betty White.
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Best known at the time as the “neighborhood nymphomaniac” Sue Ann Nevins from the classic 1970s sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show, White was “thrilled at [the idea of playing] Blanche,” who was reminiscent of her previous character. Meanwhile, McClanahan was sent the script under the assumption she would audition for Rose. While she loved the script, McClanahan told her agent, “I can’t play Rose, I’ve got to play Blanche.” However, she was told Blanche was going to White, so she should focus on Rose.

During the casting process, director Jay Sandrich decided to switch things up and had the women read the opposite roles. “She did a beautiful, funny job,” McClanahan said of White’s on-the-spot role reversal. And White says of McClanahan being the perfect fit for Blanche: “[She took it] out into orbit where I never would have had the guts to go.”

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A Gay Cook Named Coco Was Part of the Ensemble

Close-up of Charles Levin, actor on The Golden Girls.
Credit: RGR Collection/ Alamy Stock Photo | still not from Golden Girls series

The essence of The Golden Girls’ premise is female empowerment. Yet there was still a bit of hesitation over a cast of just women. So in the pilot episode, there was another character: a gay housekeeper named Coco, played by Charles Levin. He was a “​​friend-slash-manservant,” as The Atlantic put it.

In the premiere, Coco offers them tea, makes enchiladas rancheros, and at one point, Sophia sums him up as “the fancy man in the kitchen.” Nevertheless, it was quickly decided that his presence wasn’t needed, and Coco vanished by the second episode.

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Blanche Had 165 Relationships

Scene from TV series The Golden Girls.
Credit: United Archives GmbH/ Alamy Stock Photo

The women were never shy to share tales of their sexual endeavors. Refinery 29 completed a study of all seven seasons and tallied up their escapades. Blanche — to no one’s surprise — topped the list, having been with 165 men. She declared in season six that she has been in 143 relationships, and the website factored in her late husband plus 22 other unspecified men.

In a distant second was Dorothy — whose on- and off-again relationship with Stan drove much of the storyline — with a count of 43. Rose came in third with 30 men, even though she was the first to be seen in bed with a man on the show. Sophia’s total count is 25, including her supposed secret first husband, Julio Iglesias.

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None of the Women Were Like Their Characters

A view of The Golden Girls cast members.
Credit: United Archives GmbH/ Alamy Stock Photo

While the line between their characters and their real-personalities was blurred to the public, McClanahan says none of them were anything like their characters. “Betty, probably least of all … Betty has nothing but brains,” she said. McClanahan believed Getty was perhaps closest to Sicily-born Brooklynite Sophia, “although she was not at all pushy and vitriolic — Estelle was just funny. She was ‘Jewish New York’ funny.”

As for Arthur, McClanahan said Dorothy’s failures in life were the polar opposite of Arthur’s successes, saying she has a “very funny take on people and quick-witted.” For her part, the Oklahoma native is quick to point out her character is from Atlanta and she’s not, implying they have nothing in common.

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The Cast Once Performed for the Queen Mother

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, waves to the crowd who have gathered at Clarence House.
Credit: Hilaria McCarthy/ Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II’s mom, the Queen Mother, was such a fan of the show that she had the four leads perform at the London Palladium in 1988 during the Royal Variety Performance. The cast performed two of their kitchen table scenes and made sure to censor a few things to not offend the royals in attendance.

That said, the Queen Mum did have a sense of humor. One joke that was left intact was Dorothy asking Blanche how long she waited to have sex after her husband died, with Sophia wittingly interjecting, “Until the paramedics came.” The response made the often-reserved royal laugh out loud.

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More Than 100 Cheesecakes Were Eaten During the Show

A whole New York cheesecake with a slice cut out.
Credit: Daria Saveleva/ Shutterstock

On the show, there were very few problems that a slice of cheesecake couldn’t solve, from small scuffles to big life crises. Throughout seven seasons, more than 100 cheesecakes were eaten during the ladies’ late-night kitchen table commiserations.

However,  if you look closely, you’ll notice that Dorothy rarely takes a bite. In real life, Arthur reportedly hated cheesecake.

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There’s Another Theme Song Verse About Aging

Scene from tv show The Golden Girls.
Credit: Moviestore Collection Ltd/ Alamy Stock Photo

As one of the most recognizable — and beloved — theme songs in television history, “Thank You For Being a Friend,” performed by Cynthia Fee, captures the enduring value of friendship through its lyrics, especially with its memorable lines like, “If you threw a party, invited everyone you knew / You would see the biggest gift would be from me / And the card attached would say, ‘Thank you for being a friend.’”

But the songwriter who also originally performed the song, Andrew Gold, thought the 1978 song was a “little throwaway thing” he wrote in about an hour. Years before the show came along, he also had another verse in there that oddly hit the show right on the nose. “And when we both get older, with walking canes and hair of gray / Have no fear, even though it’s hard to hear. I will stand real close and say, ‘Thank you for being a friend.’” As appropriate as it was for the premise, that verse never made it onto the show.

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White Was the Oldest of the Ensemble — And Lived the Longest

A view of the cast members of The Golden Girls.
Credit: Album/ Alamy Stock Photo

Despite Getty’s character being the oldest of the bunch, White was actually the eldest of the four actresses. She was 63 when The Golden Girls began, about four months older than Arthur. Getty’s character would have been 79 when the show started, but she was actually 62 at the time of the first show. McClanahan was the youngest of the bunch.

In 2008, Getty was the first Golden Girl to pass. She was followed by Arthur in 2009, McClanahan in 2010, and White in 2021, just weeks shy of her 100th birthday.

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Each of the Four Stars Won an Emmy Award

Rue McClanahan, Estelle Getty and Betty White at the Emmys.
Credit: Ron Galella via Getty Images

The show was an Emmys darling from the start, eventually accumulating 68 nominations and 11 awards, with each of the four leads taking home a trophy at one point. Arthur, McClanahan, and White all received Best Actress nods in 1986, with White winning the honors. The following year, it was McClanahan who clinched the title, and then in 1988, it was Arthur’s turn —  as well as Getty’s, who earned the Supporting Actress honor. During her speech, Arthur noted that her thank-yous were from “the four of us” since “we’ve all won.”

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8 Presidential Myths, Debunked
Read Time: 6m
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Original photo by lucky-photographer/ iStock

One thing’s for sure: U.S. Presidents are the stuff of legends. However, just because personal tales about the leaders are passed down from generation to generation doesn't mean the stories are rooted in truth. In fact, many of the stories are so outlandish that it’s amazing people believed them in the first place.

From flammable teeth to ridiculous bathtub debacles, we take a look at the eight of the oddest presidential myths out there — and set the record straight.

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Myth: George Washington Had Wooden Teeth

Replica of a set of dentures made for George Washington.
Credit: Science & Society Picture Library via Getty Images

Cherry tree aside, one of the most chewable facts is that the nation’s first President had a mouth full of wooden teeth. While it seems like an odd story to be linked to the founding father, a deeper dig gets to the root of the issue. Washington did indeed have terrible teeth, so much so that he had multiple dentures made. Those mouthpieces were made out of ivory, gold, lead, and even human teeth, but never any wood. Wood was not used by dentists at the time, because not only could wooden dentures cause splinters, but wood is also susceptible to expanding and contracting due to moisture — not ideal for something that lives in your mouth.

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Myth: Thomas Jefferson Signed the Constitution

The signing of the United States Constitution in 1787.
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It seems incomprehensible that a big-name founding father like Thomas Jefferson missed out on signing the U.S. Constitution, but he never inked the deal. He was actually absent during the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787, as he was across the Atlantic Ocean in Paris, France, as the U.S.’s envoy.

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Myth: Abraham Lincoln Wrote the Gettysburg Address on an Envelope

Lincoln making his famous 'Gettysburg Address' speech.
Credit: Library of Congress/ Archive Photos via Getty Images

There’s no doubt that the 16th President was a brilliant orator. But the idea that he haphazardly scribbled one of the most important speeches in American history on the back of an envelope during a train ride sounds a little far-fetched. In reality, Abraham Lincoln toiled away at different versions of the Gettysburg Address, which he gave on November 19, 1863. Not just that, it was anything but a solo project. He collaborated with several associates on it — and there are even five original copies of the speech, not one of them on an envelope.

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Myth: William Howard Taft Got Stuck in a Bathtub

President William Howard Taft makes a point during an election speech.
Credit: Bettmann via Getty Images

One of the stranger presidential myths might be chalked up to potty humor. Somehow, 27th President William Howard Taft became associated with an embarrassing incident around getting stuck in a bathtub. While it’s true that he was larger in stature, weighing in at 350 pounds, he never had to be rescued from a tub.

That said, there is a reason he’s associated with baths. During his presidency, a super-sized porcelain tub that was 7 feet long, 41 inches wide, and a ton in weight was installed in the White House. It was so massive that four grown men could fit inside. In another bath incident after his presidency, he filled a tub at a hotel in Cape May, New Jersey, a little too high and when he stepped into it, it overflowed to the point that the guests in the dining room below got a bit of a shower.

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Myth: The Teddy Bear Got Its Name After Theodore Roosevelt Saved a Real Bear

A Teddy Bear describing the origin of the toy and US president Theodore Roosevelt.
Credit: Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Theodore Roosevelt had long been a hunter, but didn’t exactly show off his best skills on a bear hunt in November 1902. Everyone else in the group had had a fruitful hunt, so to help Roosevelt, the guide tracked a 235-pound bear to a watering hole, clubbed it, and tied it to a tree so the President could claim it. As the story goes, Roosevelt refused to shoot the bear.

The incident made its way to the Washington Post, which published a satirical cartoon about the President sparing the bear. New York City store owners Morris and Rose Mitchom saw the cartoon, were inspired by the President's act of heroism, and created stuffed animals in his honor, appropriately naming them “Teddy’s bear.”

The problem? Roosevelt didn’t shoot the bear, but he didn’t save it either. He saw that it had been mauled by dogs so savagely already that he asked for the bear to be killed with a hunting knife. Given the dark nature of this true tale, it makes sense that the details are often ignored when talking about this beloved childhood toy.

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Myth: John F. Kennedy Won the Election Because of the TV Debates Against Richard Nixon

John Kennedy delivering an address.
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The televised broadcast of a 1960 presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon is often said to have clinched the victory for JFK, who many found to be more photogenic and charismatic. But when you truly look at the election numbers, it didn’t really have that big of an effect on the results. The candidates were pretty much neck-and-neck throughout the campaign, even appearing to be tied in the polls before and after the four debates. Kennedy seemed to have a slight boost after the first one on September 26, but then Nixon hit it out of the park on the others, especially with his foreign policy take during the final one. In the end, Kennedy won the election by a mere 119,000 votes.

Kennedy and Nixon’s September 1960 debate is often credited as the first televised presidential debate, but that is also a myth. In 1956, a televised debate aired during the run-off between Republican President Dwight Eisenhower and Democrat Adlai Stevenson. However, neither of them attended, and sent surrogates in their place. Eisenhower sent Maine senior senator Margaret Chase Smith, while Democrats went with Eleanor Roosevelt, and it aired on CBS’ Face the Nation.

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Myth: Zachary Taylor Was Poisoned

US President Zachary Taylor dies at home, surrounded by his wife and son and his colleagues.
Credit: MPI/ Archive Photos via Getty Images

Just over a year and four months into his term, 12th President Zachary Taylor fell ill and died while in office. For years, many thought that he may have been the first President to be assassinated, since it was rumored that he was poisoned. Despite his death in July 1850, it wasn’t until 1991 that Kentucky scientists definitively concluded there was no arsenic in his blood. Another story, that he died of eating cherries in iced milk, unfortunately may have more truth to it. After leaving the Washington Monument dedication in 1850, he had that combo as a snack and likely came down with severe gastroenteritis — an inflammation of the digestive system — dying five days later.

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Myth: Gerald Ford Was a Total Klutz

President Ford smiles as he acknowledges the reception given to him at a convention.
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Throughout Gerald Ford’s presidency, many joked that his Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, was only a banana peel away from the presidency, since the 38th President was so often caught being clumsy. He tumbled down ski slopes, slipped in the rain, and fell coming out of Air Force One, so much so that he was spoofed by Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live. But in actuality, Ford was quite an athlete in his younger days. He was a football star at the University of Michigan, where he earned his letter for three years. He even tackled future Heisman Trophy winner Jay Berwander in 1934. During his White House years, he also swam and skied regularly, and played tennis and golf, so perhaps all that falling was just to add to his relatability.