Betty White and Bea Arthur Were Not Friendly
Apparently, Betty White was as sunny on set as the character she played on television. And much like Dorothy, Bea Arthur was not amused. At a 2011 talk, Betty White said that whenever she was too happy on set, it would make Bea super angry.
It appears that Arthur thought of herself as a more "legitimate" actor than White, since she came from a Broadway/theater background, while White found fame through game shows and sitcoms. But despite the animosity that sometimes sprung up between the two, they clearly didn't let it influence their impeccable and hilarious chemistry on screen.
Cheesecakes For All
Over the seven seasons of filming, the cast consumed over 100 cheesecakes. And while those Golden Girls LOVED their midnight cheesecakes, Bea Arthur was not a fan.
During a 35th anniversary celebration for the show, producers Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan revealed that Arthur was a true pro and they didn't even know she hated it. "Bea hated cheesecake — if you watch it carefully, you see her moving it around on the plate a lot but it’s not that often that she puts it in her mouth. We didn’t know!"
Officer Clooney to the Rescue
George Clooney was a guest star on the show once, playing a police officer who investigates the ladies’ next-door neighbors. According to a 2016 issue of the New York Post, Clooney’s agent requested the role for his client so his health insurance wouldn’t lapse.
Clooney later revealed that he had a blast doing the show, saying, "I mean when you're a young actor you just want a job. I got a call that they said, 'Do you want to do The Golden Girls?' and I was like, 'Are you kidding?' I got to work with Bea Arthur and Betty White. That was the time of my life, it was so much fun."
A.C. Slater Made an Appearance, Too
Long before he danced into our hearts as A.C. Slater on Saved By The Bell, Mario Lopez did a guest spot on The Golden Girls. He plays one of Dorothy’s favorite students who happens to be an undocumented migrant and gets deported.
Like many of the other stars who appeared on the show, Lopez says that he loved his time on the set of The Golden Girls. He even revealed that the ladies gave him several tips as a young actor that helped him to improve his craft and career into what they are today.
Estelle Getty Committed a Faux Pas
During the first season’s summer hiatus, Estelle Getty went and got herself a face lift. The makeup department was not happy about this seeing as how they already had to spend more than an hour making her appear old enough to be her younger cast member’s mother.
Getty was apparently troubled at the thought of growing older and dying, which is unfortunate, considering the show is about a group of aging women. She allegedly was very uncomfortable when episodes or jokes dealt with death, but despite her fears, she managed to still give a hilarious performance every time.
Everyone on Set Had Trouble with Bea Arthur
Many cast members have described Bea Arthur as “eccentric,” but others describe her as a terror. Bea almost got one cast member fired for chewing gum on set. She became an outcast on the set, with the other Girls refusing to have lunch with her sometimes.
Filming the show apparently really wore on Arthur more than the rest of the cast, and that could have something to do with the jokes. Unlike Betty White (who wasn't as dumb as her character Rose) or Rue McClanahan (who wasn't as promiscuous as her character Blanche), many of the jokes about Arthur's character Dorothy centered around how big and ugly she was.
Bea Arthur Almost Didn’t Take the Role
She was worried that by taking the role of Dorothy alongside Betty White and Rue McClanahan, she would be more or less reprising her role from Maude. However, Rue McClanahan gets the credit for convincing Bea to join the show after she explained that they’d all be playing different types of characters.
While we understand her reservations, it obviously was a great decision for Arthur to join the cast of The Golden Girls. Can you imagine the show without Dorothy's merciless sarcastic barbs? It would have been missing something special that only Arthur could have provided.
Bea Arthur Once Trolled a Fan
Once upon a time, TV Guide wrote a piece on the Girls that asked if the show was still as good at that time as it had been in its first season. One Betty Johnson of Sioux Falls, Iowa stated that she didn’t think that Bea Arthur’s character was interesting.
Bea Arthur read the article, got ahold of information, found Mrs. Johnson’s phone number, and by the end of the phone call, was singing a completely different tune. That might have been a bit of overkill on Arthur's part, but it makes sense considering she was just as big a character in real life as on screen!
Sophia’s Purse Was Predestined
Before Estelle Getty went to her audition for Sophia, she went shopping for props. The signature straw purse Sophia carries on the show reportedly came from the Los Angeles Fairfax District, where Estelle stopped on her way.
It may look like a hilarious relic of the 1980s, but Sophia's purse has some serious staying power. You can still find replicas of her iconic wicker purse for sale online to this day. It seems like The Golden Girls never really go out of style!
The Golden Girls Was Inspired By a True Story
NBC Exec, Brandon Tartikoff had visited his elderly aunt and was amused by the love-hate relationship between her and her elderly neighbor. He took the idea to Susan Harris, who became the creator of The Golden Girls.
Obviously, the show had to flesh itself out a bit more beyond the original story, but what would have happened without these real-life quarreling neighbors? A world without The Golden Girls is most definitely not a world we would like to live in!
Sophia Was Only Supposed to be a Recurring Role
Estelle Getty was originally a housewife with no background in television but did get her start on stage in Harvey Firestein’s Torch Song Trilogy. The producers thought Getty was so good as wise-cracking Sophia, they made her a permanent character, instead.
While Blanche, Rose, and Dorothy may have been the OG Golden Girls, the show would have been nothing without the permanent addition of Sophia. The hilarious (and sometimes touching) mother-daughter interactions between her and Dorothy were more than enough to make Getty worthy of full-time status, but her chemistry with the entire cast was fantastic as well.
Quentin Tarantino Got His Start on the Show
Quentin Tarantino’s first paying gig was as an Elvis impersonator on Golden Girls. Even though the show didn’t quite give him the break he needed, he has always credited the show with helping to make Reservoir Dogs as the funds he received for residuals went towards production for the film.
Tarantino did pretty well financially for such a minor gig, saying, "It became a two-part Golden Girls. So I got paid residuals for both parts. And, It was so popular they put it on a Best of The Golden Girls, and I got residuals every time that showed. So I got paid maybe, I don’t know, $650 for the episode, but by the time the residuals were over, three years later, I made like $3,000. And that kept me going during our pre-production time trying to get Reservoir Dogs going."
Rue McClanahan Was Actually Handcuffed to a Radiator
In the episode titled “Room Seven,” Blanche handcuffs herself to a radiator in protest to stop her grandmother’s home from being torn down. Apparently, just as the crew was about to break for lunch, the prop master’s handcuff key broke and McClanahan was stuck!
Considering Blanche's "adventurous" nature in the bedroom, this is most definitely not the only handcuff reference that pops up in the show, but it is probably the most family-friendly use of handcuffs for Ms. Devereaux! And it's the only time she found herself actually trapped by them!
The Cast Performed a Live Show for the Queen Mother
Seriously. The British Queen Mother was such a huge fan of the show, she requested that the cast and crew put on a live show in 1988 as a part of the Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium.
It's mind-boggling to think that someone as important as the Queen spent her days watching '80s sitcoms, but when the Queen makes a request of you, you absolutely oblige! Later in a biography, Betty White revealed that they even got to meet the Queen after the performance but were instructed not to address her directly.
Betty White Was the Oldest Golden Girl
Despite playing the youngest as Rose on The Golden Girls, Betty was actually the oldest. Although she was only a few months older than Bea Arthur and about two years older than Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan was actually the youngest, at 12 years younger than Betty.
Ultimately, Betty White ended up outliving the rest of the cast. Getty was the first to pass in 2008, while Arthur died in 2009 and McClanahan in 2010. White died in 2021, just days short of her 100th birthday.
Rue McClanahan Got to Keep All of Blanche’s Clothes
It was actually written into Rue’s contract that she could keep all of her character’s clothes at the end of the show. In the end, what she took home filled up more than ten closets.
Blanche, and in many episodes, Dorothy too, had some of the wildest, most daring outfits on TV at the time. These days, many of those outrageous outfits look terribly '80s and dated, but some of them are so fashion-forward that they still look like you could see them on the runway today!
25 Million People Watched the Pilot
The first episode attracted over 25 million viewers, making it an instant success. It immediately beat out the current number one favorite, which at the time was The Cosby Show. Not too shabby considering it was a Saturday night debut.
During this time in history, Saturdays were big business in the television industry, and competing networks like CBS and ABC just couldn't keep up with NBC's ratings juggernaut. The Golden Girls kept those amazing ratings numbers high for pretty much the entire run of the show.
Estelle Getty Had Stage Fright
Due to being the most inexperienced on the set, Estelle Getty had crippling stage fright. It was so bad that the actress was afraid she’d flub her lines, so she scribbled them on anything she could find so that she wouldn’t forget them.
Later in the show's run, Getty had more tragic troubles on set than just plain stage fright. During her time on The Golden Girls, Getty began to experience the early signs of dementia, including forgetfulness. Things got so bad that, by the end of the show's run, Getty had to rely on cue cards to correctly deliver her lines.
The Set Was Recycled
Once there was a show called It Takes Two which featured a very young Helen Hunt. However, the series only lasted one season and when it was time to find a set for the Girls, they decided to transform it into an environment that fit for four older ladies.
While the show was obviously a hit because of the acting, it just wouldn't have been the same without that iconic set. Can you imagine The Golden Girls without the four of them lounging on the lanai or eating a slice of cheesecake in that adorably '80s kitchen?
They Originally Had a Butler/Cook
When the show first aired, the ladies had a gay butler who was heavily involved in all of their lives. However, the creators wrote the role out of the show after the character's sexuality caused some criticism.
It's always sad when a character gets axed after the pilot episode, but it was probably for the best. If there was already a fourth main character on the show, would there have been room for the iconic Sophia Petrillo to take her rightful place? The show would have been mighty different if the cook stayed around.
Bea Was a Huge Civil Rights Activist
Even though her costars and crew members describe her as eccentric or hard to work with, it turns out Bea Arthur had a huge heart for the underdog. She was heavily involved in work for the elderly, the Jewish community, and the LGBTQ community. As a matter of fact, she left money in her will for her various causes that she cared the most about.
And Bea Arthur wasn't the only one on set who felt deeply about important causes. Co-star Betty White was also a major activist in her own right. While White also supported gay marriage, she is more well known for her animal rights activism and worked closely with several organizations, including the LA Zoo.
Every Golden Girl Won an Emmy
While Betty White won hers first for Best Performance By A Lead Actress in 1986 for her portrayal of Rose Nylon, Rue McClanahan won hers in 1987, and Bea Arthur won hers in 1988. In addition, Estelle Getty won her Emmy for Best Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series in 1988, as well. All in all, The Golden Girls was nominated for a total of 68 Emmys and won 11 of them.
There are only three other shows in TV history where the entire main cast has won individual Emmys for their performances. These include Will & Grace, All in the Family, and Schitt's Creek. Shows with fantastic cast chemistry between all the stars are few and far between.
Betty White Almost Played Blanche
We know. We couldn’t imagine anyone else playing Rose’s role besides Betty White, but she was originally cast to play Blanche. However, the show’s creators thought the role too similar to one of Betty’s earlier popular roles and decided to cast her as Rose instead.
Show director Jay Sandrich knew this was for the best because Rose was a character that only White could perfect: "It probably wouldn’t have worked if anybody but Betty played Rose, because she is the one member of the main cast that didn’t have punchlines that she could just pass out."
Bea Arthur Liked to Be Barefoot on Set
She disliked shoes—apparently a lot. So much so, that she had it written into the show’s contract that she could walk around on set barefoot. The producers acquiesced, as long as she agreed not to sue if she was injured as a result.
Everyone in the cast and crew were well aware of Arthur's eccentricities, and honestly, this was probably one of her more charming quirks. At least if she was busy being barefoot, she wasn't quarreling with Betty White or getting someone fired for chewing gum! She was a complicated woman, to say the least.
"Thank You for Being A Friend" Almost Didn’t Happen
The producers were originally going to go with Bette Midler’s song “Friends” for the show’s theme song. However, they realized it would be too expensive and instead settled on "Thank You for Being a Friend" sung by Cynthia Fee.
However, Fee wasn't the original artist of the song, and it had a history long before The Golden Girls. The song was originally written and recorded by Andrew Gold, and it ended up reaching number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1978. Gold described the song as taking "about an hour to write."
Betty White Played With the Audience During Breaks
While filming, whenever there were breaks Betty White would come out and interact with the audience. Betty would always go out and smile and make friends with the audience—another trait that would get on Bea’s nerves, according to Bea’s son Matthew Saks.
We're not trying to claim that Betty White was a perfect saint that never did anything to Arthur, but if you're getting mad that a castmate is being friendly to the fans of YOUR show, it's clear who's in the wrong. We imagine that White's kindness was a big hit among the studio audience.
All of Bea Arthur’s Earrings Were Clip-ons
That’s right. All of those dramatic, huge earrings that were part of Dorothy’s trademark were all clip-ons. Bea Arthur’s ears were never pierced, so she would have to wear the clip-ons instead which sometimes made her earlobes numb by the end of the day.
However, the fabulous earrings were just one part of Dorothy Zbornak's amazing outfits on the show. She may have been a divorced substitute teacher, but Dorothy knew how to dress! Arthur's tall build was perfect for brightly colored, drapey blouses that absolutely screamed the '80s.
The Golden Girls Was One of the Only Shows to Tackle LGBTQ Issues
The show tackled the issue of LGBTQ rights before it was the P.C. thing to do. In one episode, Blanche’s brother tackles gay marriage. Of course, their original butler/cook was homosexual, as was one of Dorothy’s college friends.
The show actually covered an unusually large number of serious social issues, even considering that The Golden Girls came out during the golden era of "very special episodes." These topics included nuclear war, elder abuse, opioid addiction, suicide, sperm banks, and homelessness, just to name a few.
Estelle Getty Wouldn’t Do Certain Jokes
It’s no secret that some of the best jibes in the show come from Sophia’s streetwise mouth, however, Estelle Getty drew the line at some things. For instance, she refused to do jokes that made fun of someone for being overweight, bald, or gay and once she even refused a joke that had to do with domestic violence.
Even with these strict demands on jokes, Sophia still managed to be hilariously mouthy and opinionated on the show. She was never one to miss an opportunity to throw in an insult or smart remark. And, considering she looked like a sweet old woman, she usually got away with it too!
Before there was Dorothy and Blanche There was Maude and Vivian
That’s right. The spinoff show from All in the Family was Maude, and Bea Arthur was center stage. Playing a rather scatterbrained longtime friend of Maude’s, was Rue McClanahan in the role of Vivian Harmon. The show ran for six seasons.
Rue McClanahan was the first of this duo to be cast in The Golden Girls, and she was responsible for helping get Bea Arthur on board as well. Arthur was originally reluctant to play Dorothy, as she thought the character was too much like Maude. Before she finally took the job, the show briefly considered Broadway legend Elaine Stritch for the role.