It Was 30 Years Ago Today

Picture it:  NBC, 8pm, 30 years ago.  We heard that now famous theme song, “Thank You For Being A Friend” for the first time when the pilot episode of “The Golden Girls” premiered on September 14, 1985.  History and legends-not to mention a strong craving for cheesecake-was born.

How do I love these women?  I cannot even count the ways.  Three decades later, they remain my surrogate mothers/grandmothers.  As the saying goes, nearly everything I needed to know about life I learned from the Golden Girls.

The Golden Girls                                                                                          Photo courtesy of NBC.

They taught us all that life didn’t end at age 50 or older, or when your husband died and your kids left home.  That you stayed active, tried new things (remember Rose’s self-esteem class “You’re Special”, or performing in community theater, or when she took classes to learn Spanish, or when she finished high school in night class with Dorothy as the teacher), you always volunteered, you embraced gay rights (true, Blanche had a hard time when her brother came out, but it was when he was 45 years old & divorced, so it was understandable that she was a little thrown.  But she eventually accepted it) and you always practiced safe sex.

A few years ago, the Jelly Belly Candy Company launched a contest to the public to pick a new jelly bean flavor.  My suggestion?  Golden Girls Cheesecake, of course.  It did not win.  😦

The kitchen table or the couch from the set should be in the Smithsonian.  It is as important to television history as Archie’s chair or Fonzie’s jacket.  If it wasn’t, would Lego be “toying” with the idea of a Golden Girls set?  (Sorry, I had to!!!)

We must give props to Susan Harris, the creator of this iconic show.  Not to mention all the producers, writers, directors, guest stars (hello, George Clooney!) and everyone else who had a hand in the magic.  And can you picture someone else in the role of Dorothy?  Well, Elaine Stich was contacted first to audition for that part.  Picture that.

Recently one of my cousins, who is as insane about the Golden Girls as I am, sent me the following picture of a bumper sticker she spotted on someone’s car:

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If that is not a solid way of life, I do not know what is!!!

Their friendship was phenomenal.  It turned them into family which led them to fight over men (Sophia & Blanche over Fidel), dresses (Dorothy & Blanche, then Blanche & Sophia) sisters (Dorothy & Blanche telling Rose her sister was nice when all the while she was backstabbing Rose), kids (Dorothy & Rose when their children slept together after Blanche sent them on a date) and food (Rose’s chipped beef vs. Sophia’s marinara sauce).

I also loved how they reeled each other in when they each ran off the rails with comebacks delivered to perfection that have become classic comedy moments.

Dorothy to Blanche:  “Pull yourself together.  You’re in a psychiatrist’s office!”

Sophia:  “My heiny’s asleep.”  Dorothy:  “Fine.  We’ll keep our voices down.”

Sophia, in response to Dorothy’s threat to beat her mother at cards:  “Ooooh,  I’m so scared my dentures are chattering!”

Blanche’s date:  “Can you believe they gave us the same table?”  Blanche:  “Well why would they seat us separately?”

Rose via Dorothy to Blanche:  “You’ve been under more drunken sailors than a nautical toilet.”

Dorothy:  “I never heard of anyone named Mammy before.”  Rose:  “What about Mrs. Eisenhower?”  Dorothy:  “Mammy Eisenhower?  I think only the Nixon kids got to call her that.”

Blanche to her daughter Becky, who was in labor & wanted to stop pushing and hold the baby in:  “No, it’s a bad look.  Now you know I’ve never been real strict with you, Becky, but you have to.”

Blanche to her gentlemen caller in the wheelchair, who turned out to be married:  “I thought you were noble.  It never occurred to me you could be a jerk in a wheelchair!”

It was fitting Dorothy was a teacher because she mastered the art of tough love.

To Rose, who was scared to be intimate with her new boyfriend:  “If you take a chance in life sometimes good things happen, sometimes bad things happen.  But if you don’t take a chance nothing happens.”

Her advice to Blanche about giving her grandson chores:  “You do what is best for David, not what is easiest for you.”

Dorothy to Blanche’s grandson who wants to leave because he has “all this crappy stuff to do,”

“Life is full of crappy stuff to do.  It’s everywhere so you better get used to it.  The President has crappy stuff to do.”   I learned a lot about life from my grandmother, but Dorothy’s words in this scene are probably the greatest definition of what life is all about in the history of ever, in my very humble opinion.

And when things get really bad for me, I take solace in the fact that I am not in Blanche’s shoes (“I lost Anderbo and her beau!”)  🙂

This was excruciatingly hard, but I narrowed down my top 10 shows from seven seasons and 180 episodes.

  1.  Room 7 (Season 7).  Why?  “I see London, I see France, I see Blanche’s underpants.”  And Sophia jumping off the roof.
  2. Mary Had A Little Lamb (Season 5).  Why?  I desperately wanted to be Mary-not pregnant-but taken in by those wonderful women when my life was falling apart.  In the unedited version of the episode, we learn Mary spent the nights with the GG’s after visiting her dying mother in the hospital.  What a haven that girl found.
  3. Beauty & The Beast (Season 7).  Why?  One line:  “What the hell goes on at night in this house?”  Runner up:  “I remember spending that quality wharf time with my Grandma.”
  4. Isn’t It Romantic (Season 2).  Why?  Blanche’s irate reaction upon learning that Dorothy’s lesbian friend Jean prefers Rose over Blanche.  Simply priceless.
  5. Goodbye, Mr. Gordon (Season 7).  Why?  Rose tells her co-workers and all of Miami on her morning TV show that Dorothy & Blanche are lesbians.  And Sophia asking mean questions from the audience to rub salt in the wound.
  6. Dorothy’s New Friend (Season 3).  Why?  Blanche & Rose resorting to childhood antics like giving Dorothy the silent treatment when they are jealous of her relationship with a snooty author.
  7. To Catch A Neighbor (Season 2).  Why?  George Clooney.  And Rose upset that they would miss watching the movie “In Cold Blood”, inciting Dorothy to hit Rose over the head with a TV Guide.
  8. Old Boyfriends (Season 7).  Why?  One, when Sophia refers to Dorothy as her lesbian lover.  Two, when Sophia refers to herself as an unsuspecting cutie being lured into a web of sex games.  Fantastic!!!
  9. Grab That Dough (Season 3).  Why?  Blanche’s description of herself (“An artist with an incredible body, runs her own museum, speaks Chinese…”) and Sophia telling Dorothy she was the biggest disappointment since the AMC Pacer.
  10. End Of The Curse (Season 2).  Why?  Rose:  “We had a pig on the farm who got pregnant, and we never knew who the father was.”  Dorothy:  “Oh my God, Rose, what did you do on Father’s Day?”  Plus the visit to the psychiatrist’s office.

As a Springsteen fan, the references to him were an added bonus and showed just how cool and current these ladies really were.  In “The Truth Will Out” (Season 1), Rose’s granddaughter, Charlie, is telling her grandmother about her boyfriend, who reminds her of Rose’s late husband.

Rose:  “Does he look like Grandpa?”  Charlie:  “No, he looks like Bruce Springsteen!”

In The Competition episode (Season 1), Dorothy said no to Sophia’s request for money to buy airline tickets.

Sophia:  “I can’t believe you’re denying your own mother!”  Rose:  “Denying her what?”  Dorothy:  “Springsteen tickets.”

The only episode I cannot watch over and over again is the final one.  Despite the fact that these women live on in repeats several times a day (thank you Hallmark, Logo and TV Land), it is still too painful for me to accept the fact that their story ended, even if it was in a wonderful way like Dorothy finally finding happiness in love.  The end of the Golden Girls was like leaving the gang in Oz all over again.  Sigh 😦

Four years ago, I was lucky & blessed to see Betty White in person at a book signing.  I had the chance to tell her that being introduced to her was like meeting one of the Beatles, and that she and the three other Golden Girls were my surrogate mothers.  She patted my hand and gave it a squeeze.  Life does not get much better than that…..unless I am watching an episode of the Golden Girls.

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COPYRIGHT 2011 BY Michele Antonio

Thank you, Ladies, for being so much more than my friends all these years.  You are beloved!!!

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