Many happy singles want to create a Golden Girls living situation in their golden years. This episode examines one of the best television shows for singles – and one of the best shows ever. Peter McGraw is joined by guest co-host Jen O’Donnell to talk to Danielle Soto, an expert on the Golden Girls. They discuss the broad appeal and cultural significance of the show and end with a round of Golden Girls trivia.
Listen to Episode #97 here
The Golden Girls
This episode examines one of the best television shows for singles, if not one of the best shows ever. I’m joined by Jen O’Donnell and we talked to Danielle Soto, an expert on The Golden Girls. We discussed the broad appeal and cultural significance of the show and ended with a little bit of Golden Girl’s trivia. It’s a lot of fun.
You may have noticed that the Solo has moved to a bi-weekly schedule. I’m giving myself some extra time to plan a reboot of the show and look for a new format after the new year. In the meantime, please go to PeterMcgraw.org/solo to join our Slack channel to tell me what you like and don’t like about the show. It will be helpful as I contemplate changes.
One last thing, did you know that 75% of new readers come from search? To that end, rating and reviewing the show on iTunes is critical to helping new people find Solo. If you haven’t already, would you be willing to review the show? It helps a lot. Thank you, good Solos. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.
Our guest is Danielle Soto, also known as Dr. Cheesecake. Danielle is a stand-up comedian, writer and podcast host. She hosts the Dr. Cheesecake Podcast in which her guests explain a problem in their life and Danielle solves it using an episode of The Golden Girls. She also writes, produces, and hosts Golden Girl’s trivia once a month in West Hollywood. Welcome, Danielle.
It’s so nice to be here.
We’re joined by a new guest cohost, Jen O’Donnell. Jen is a Creative Executive who has worked in development for television production companies in Los Angeles, creating and producing documentary series, reality docuseries, game shows and a variety of unscripted TV formats. She listed a whole bunch of very fancy networks she has worked with. She is also a stand-up comedian and also hosts and produces The Ladies Room, a women’s stand-up comedy show with a monthly residency at Westside Comedy Theater in Los Angeles. Welcome, Jen.
Thank you so much. My only regret is not providing cheesecake. I feel like that would have made it special. These two, I do a little mic check and ask my guests what they had for breakfast. Let’s say these two don’t need cheesecake now, knowing what they had for breakfast.
We didn’t have cheesecake yet.
I didn’t even make the Funfetti cake that I ate for breakfast. I couldn’t be sadder.
Danielle said she had Funfetti cake for breakfast and I immediately said, “You must be single.”
A couple of people don’t have fun like that.
I am thrilled to be here. A little background if it’s not obvious why we’re having an episode on The Golden Girls. Do you think it needs to be explained why I chose The Golden Girls?
I don’t think so. It’s like, “I get it. Of course, Golden Girls.”
If anyone has seen the show, it’s about four women who live at a house together in Miami. They are in their golden years. They are all grandmothers and they still have very active sex and dating life.
What brings them to all live together? That’s the key. These are not four single women in their golden years living in a community. They are living in the same house.
For the four women, for anyone who doesn’t know, I’m going to start very broad and bring it in more specifically. The show premiered in 1985. The pilot was written by Susan Harris, who was previously a writer on Maude, which started Bea Arthur. She was also a writer on the television show, Soap. It was directed by Jay Sandrich, who directed many episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Also, a very strong single female character.
The pilot episode is the three women. Dorothy played by Bea Arthur, Rose played by Betty White, and Blanche played by Rue McClanahan, living in Rue McClanahan’s house, which she previously had with her husband, who had since passed away. In the pilot, Sophia, played by Estelle Getty, arrives on their doorstep. She is Dorothy’s mother.
She comes in and says, “The nursing home that I lived in burned down, and now I’m going to live with you.” There’s this amazing line in the pilot that they were sounding the fire alarms, “Do you know what that does to hearts that only beat a few times a week?” That’s it. There are four women living in a house together.
I did a modicum of research for this. I read somewhere that the pilot got a standing ovation from the audience, especially because of how shaky pilots are often.
Up until that point, the number one show on television was The Cosby Show and nothing was beating it. It was at the top of the charts, and then all of a sudden, four little old ladies came along and they destroyed it.
They are still aging so much better. I didn’t know that story about Sophia and the nursing home burning down and the idea that Blanche’s husband died. I didn’t realize how much tragedy the comedy came from, even in the premise of them being together.
There’s this nice balance between widows and divorcees.
There are three widows and one divorcee. Is that right?
That’s exactly right.
Divorcees, let’s dust off that old term.
Are we not supposed to say divorcees in your solo thought or development?
I don’t want to digress too much but it does strike me as quite gendered.
I would call a man divorcee.
I didn’t think that. I thought divorcee was a term for divorced women.
I can’t tell you how many times I will be in a conversation and use a word that people are like, “A) Nobody uses that word anymore, or B) That’s only in Boston and nobody says that aside of us.”
You did say wicked earlier.
Let’s hold that. I may end up figuring this out and clarifying it. I had always thought divorcee was gendered for women. There’s a lot of gendered language around singlehood and much of it skews very negative for women.
In order to basically put us in rank and file.
I’m on the lookout for it but I could be wrong.
There are three widows in the pilot. We find out that Estelle Getty’s character, Sophia, is a widow. I’m going to focus on the character names for simplicity. Blanche, Rose and Sophia are widows, and then Dorothy is divorced from this total, as they say, Ayats. He is the worst. He cheated on her left, right, and sideways but they have two kids and grandchildren together, so he keeps popping up throughout the series.
It’s this fun thing that people with a difficult ex can relate to and find humor from because, so many times, the relationship that people maintain with their ex-husbands or ex-wives is very painful. There’s a lot of anger there but it’s nice that Dorothy and Stan have this dynamic where they still have a love for each other, even though they don’t want to be together despite a few episodes where they wonder, “Do we belong together?” Ultimately, no.
It’s probably good to see one of them is single by choice in a way. I don’t know exactly with Dorothy’s storyline if she was the one who initiated the divorce. Do you know?
He left her for a flight attendant named Chrissy but he keeps trying to win her back over the series and buys her gifts.
She does have choices. There are moments where it’s like, “Could I make this work?” She chooses instead to live with her group.
There are a few episodes where the women walk away from something possibly fun and enjoyable because they know that ultimately, this is not the life that they want. They are good role models.
This show has seven seasons. Why would such a wonderful show like this end?
Bea Arthur was done doing it. Bea Arthur did not want to do another season of The Golden Girls. She was ready for it to end. The three other actresses signed on to do a spin-off called The Golden Palace, where they buy a hotel and run it with Don Cheadle and Cheech Marin.
This sounds like a terrible idea.
It’s real. It’s not the Golden Girls and a lot of Golden Girl friends are like, “Golden Palace.” It’s not a bad show. It’s got its moments for sure.
It’s not a fever dream from eating old Funfetti cake.
If anyone is going to have such a thing, it would be me.
I have to ask this before we get into the real meat of the show and I sent this to you. I sent a few notes and I was like, “What’s up with Bea Arthur?” She seems like this divisive character when it comes to the show.
Are you asking about Bea Arthur, the actress?
Yes. We’re blaming her for the end of this seven-year run.
Seven years is a perfect length of a show to me. For a show like that, I would take more episodes. She is a former Marine, right?
She was a driver in the Marines.
That would be my theory that she does what she wants to do and that’s it.
I know that she chafed at some of the jokes that came at her expense at some point that I heard. This is what Wikipedia tells me. That’s all I know beyond that.
I’ll start from the top. The pilot was written and it was being shopped around Hollywood. In the pilot, the part of Dorothy says a Bea Arthur type. Bea Arthur’s manager called her and said, “I hear you’re doing a new pilot.” She was like, “I am not doing a new pilot. I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She sent the script and she doesn’t want to do it. She has already done Maude. She did her sit-com run. Maude was a spin-off from All In The Family. She was good. The creators of the show asked Rue McClanahan, who had played Vivian on Maude with Bea Arthur. They were old friends and had worked together, “Please call Bea Arthur and ask her to be on the show.”
It sounds like the role was written for her.
Rue McClanahan calls Bea Arthur and she goes, “Betty White is going to be on the show. I’m going to be on the show. It’s the best pilot you will ever read. Are you crazy? You have to do this show.” Betty White had come off of Mary Tyler Moore playing Sue Ann Nivens, who was a big, giant slut. Rue McClanahan had played Vivian, who was this ditzy character.
Bea’s response was, “Rue, I have no interest in playing Maude and Vivian meets Sue Ann Nivens. I don’t want to do the show.” Rue goes, “No, you got it all wrong. I’m going to be the nympho. She is going to be the dummy.” They switched it. Bea Arthur goes, “That’s very interesting.” She went into barely an audition. She had the part.
They found Estelle Getty, who was coming off-Broadway. She was in Torch Song Trilogy and she had played this overbearing mother-type. It’s perfect for Sophia. Even if you’ve never seen an episode of The Golden Girls, but you see that Sophia character, you know instantly something fresh is coming out of that mouth. It’s so iconic.
She roasts people and it’s so funny.
Bea Arthur didn’t initially want to do the show. She did seven seasons of the show. There’s also a lot of talk about her attitude towards Betty White on the show. Fans know that Bea Arthur and Betty White didn’t get along. There are rumors that Bea didn’t like Betty. From what I’ve heard from writers and directors on the show, it wasn’t so much that they didn’t like each other’s personalities but Bea Arthur was a stage actress. She was trained in theater. In between takes, she would stay in character, whereas Betty White was an entertainer. She comes off of the game show, Password, and all those. In between takes, she would talk to the audience, fool around and throw props. Bea didn’t like Betty’s style.
I’m sure if people are not aware of, say, you’re in the audience or even in the production crew and you don’t quite understand that dynamic or difference, they could be totally respecting the way that they work and it’s fine. Twenty people would leave that studio audience and be like, “What was going on there?”
Also, it has become so easy to like Betty White.
Her character is set up for that, in general.
She got to the end and was like, “I’m done.”
It was hard to get her to do a seventh season. She did the seventh season, and then that was it. Now, we have one season of The Golden Palace with Don Cheadle and Cheech Marin.
The Golden Girls show is a staple of our culture.
I’m not being critical of her. Also, I would rather something end early than end too late. There’s no jumping the shark when it comes to The Golden Girls. To be honest, probably part of the reason why it’s adored is you watch it now. All seven seasons are good. You never get to a point where you’re like, “Ugh.” It also probably left you wanting a little bit more.
What I love about The Golden Girls too is you’re saying the jokes stay relevant. It’s still funny after all this time but it was also ahead of its time in terms of social justice issues. They still apply now, which is sad in some ways that we haven’t made more progress but it’s also inspiring that we were always aware that certain things were unfair. There were injustices.
They taught us that through this vessel of comedy really well, which is a great way to learn about what’s going on in the world when you’re not being lectured. That’s what I love about these old television shows. Why I’m such a big fan of the Norman Lear era television is because they taught us about stuff. They taught us about racism, sexism, homophobia, even trans rights back in the day. It’s wild but never at the sacrifice of the comedy. It always remained funny.
Let’s talk a little bit in terms of these shows holding up to preview. We watched a couple of episodes and we’re going to talk about them. They do hold up. As an aside, it’s the only show that my grandmother regularly watched. It was a focus of, when we visited, that was a show that we always made sure it was on because it was a show that grandma wanted versus what grandpa wanted.
I love that and it’s so nice. I always hear people tell me, “I have great memories of watching the show with my grandmother or mother.” It’s such a staple of our culture.
It’s a show that the whole family can watch. Let’s talk about the cultural significance of The Golden Girls. I want to get into some of the social justice stuff that you were talking about, where it comes up on Solo and it comes up a lot in my conversations since I’ve started this project. If you’re a Solo reader, if you’re single and you think you’re going to remain single for a long time, perhaps forever, invariably, the topic of like, “What about when you’re old comes up? Aren’t you going to have someone who is going to take care of you, whether it be children or a partner?”
Some of that thinking is incredibly fallacious. Counting on your kids is a risky bet, and then counting on a partner, especially if you’re a woman, given the demographics of women outliving men. Even if your plan is to have a family in order to take care of you, it’s not always a good thing. If you’re going it solo, then you certainly need to have a little bit of a plan. I’m already formulating a bit of a plan if I’m lucky enough to get there in the older years.
I’ve already chosen which bridge I’m going to jump off to.
Mine involves getting euthanized in Switzerland, looking at the Alps.
We’re going to do it live on television because I already promised my exclusivity.
There is a Golden Girls episode about assisted suicide. I’ll throw that out there.
What ends up happening a lot is people say, “I like a Golden Girls scenario where my friends and I rent condos in the same building.” They described some assisted living, community living, co-living or co-housing situations in which they are all together there. Clearly, because they say a Golden Girls scenario, they have a model from this show that I don’t know if it exists anywhere else, at least not at that time.
I’m sorry to say this and it’s so dark but when you talk about people having children and getting married to have some security in their old age, it’s like, “That’s not how death works.”
Also, it’s the wrong set of motivations but you would be surprised.
I believe you absolutely. You can get married at 30. Your husband can die at 32. You do not know. That’s not security.
When I think of the cultural significance of seeing women who are older live together, and have choices, and have the life that they want to have community, it’s so powerful. When they talk about a Golden Girl scenario, for a lot of people, the idea of being single, alone or solo and for a good reason because there are not enough resources and examples, think it’s scary and nobody wants to be alone.
Even in terms of marriage and this idea that you are having this backup like a partner, family or network, even structurally, it’s all built for it. Church and state are like taxes get married. A community gets married. It’s structurally like, “This is the model. Going against it is difficult, especially so when there are no examples that are prevalent.” Golden Girls, for some reason, has been the only touchstone to that.
The only other show that comes to mind that is similar and this is because it is based off a lot of influence from The Golden Girls, is Hot in Cleveland, which was with Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and Betty White. They live in a house in Cleveland together and it’s four ladies living in a house together. It’s the same deal.
The male version of this is The Odd Couple.
Also, Perfect Strangers. Weren’t they both single?
They were younger, though. At least The Odd Couple, those guys were in their 50s.
The other cultural influence it has and was explained to me by people who worked on the show. It had never even occurred to me but there’s a huge gay following of The Golden Girls. Gay men love this show. It’s because, according to the creators, it’s this idea about the chosen family. Many gay men, sadly, are rejected by their biological families because they don’t agree with the lifestyle or “choice.” They find friends who become like siblings, their moms or dads. That’s important to them. That structure is a good role model for knowing that your friends can become family.
It’s why it was such a popular trivia night in West Hollywood.
I immediately went to West Hollywood. I didn’t even consider another location for Golden Girl’s trivia.
For people who aren’t familiar, West Hollywood has a huge gay population. It’s the only place I feel attractive. Let’s lean into the co-living part of it a little bit. I want to cover some of the other things. That matters of what Jen was talking about how people see the risk of being single. The risk is prominent, “How are you going to take care of yourself and all these things?”
It’s interesting. There’s such an asymmetry because people don’t, in my opinion, consider the risks of partnering up enough, like how devastating that can be to your wealth when it comes to divorce, for example, to the amount of abuse that happens within relationships and even the fact that people take off.
For women, in particular, marriage is a raw deal. Ultimately, your partner is the one that’s most likely to kill you statistically. In terms of sharing household duties, not enough people consider it, which is what you’re saying. There is so much more camaraderie and troubleshooting with people who have the same problems that it’s almost like the choice to opt-in to that community.
The worst part of picking a partner that you’re not compatible with or you don’t belong with is that it shuts you out to the right people. It completely puts up a roadblock. I would rather be single, do my own thing, have my own fun, spend time with my friends and family and gain emotional support from all those people than be with someone. Just to have someone to bring to a wedding? Come on.
Danielle is young. She sounds like an old lady at this moment but she is a young woman.
That is too good.
She is wearing all of The Golden Girls’ names on her shirt.
This is a gift from my friend Joe and Rakel. Thanks, guys.
This co-living situation is interesting. I have a good friend. It was always more his backup plan than mine, which was that when we got to a certain age, we were going to buy a duplex. He would stay on one side. I would stay on the other side. He has now since remarried.
You can’t have two people living in a duplex.
I don’t think she is probably on board with that plan but I love this idea of them giving people a model to live together. One of the things about the show is it’s a vibrant household. It’s filled with energy and things happening. They are living rich lives.
They are having an enriched experience together.
That’s the inspiration for Golden Palace because they were like, “Let’s open a hotel. Our house is a hotel already.” I can’t tell you how many episodes there are where two of the girls have to sleep in the same bed because, “Uncle Angelo is in town or my best friend Jean came to town.” They are always hosting. There are always things happening.
In that episode of cheaters that you had us watch, I thought it was interesting.
This is season 5, episode 22. Danielle gave us homework. That’s one of the episodes.
I thought both choices of episodes were brilliant.
I was unfair to you all because this is the second part of a two-part episode. In season one, Dorothy dates this man and she is falling for him. His name is Glen O’Brien and he is the gym teacher at her high school. She is a substitute teacher. She starts dating him and she likes him. She is like, “This could be the one,” and then she finds out he is married. She continues to see and date him. That’s that episode.
Four years later, they bring back Glen O’Brien, the character, not the actor. The character of Glen O’Brien comes back because he has since got divorced. He calls up Dorothy and he is like, “I’m single now.” It’s this question of like, “Do I go back to this guy who cheated on his wife with me? I did have a good time with him.”
The other Golden Girls had strong opinions about this.
Rose is like, “Don’t do it. Keep your self-respect.” Blanche is like, “Self-respect is for losers like Rose.”
I laughed so hard at that. I was like, “She is mean.”
Honestly, that is how I live my life. Anytime I have to make a difficult dating decision, I’m like, “Self-respect is for losers like Rose,” then I do whatever I want. Do I spoil the end of the episode?
At the end of the episode, she decides to walk away because she doesn’t feel like this is the right move for her. She is afraid maybe she will never be able to trust him.
It’s also season 5 and she is not ready to go until season 7 anyways.
I did think it was interesting. I was imagining the writer writing the scene when she goes to his apartment. He is divorced. His apartment is modest and clean but not much. It’s very like a bachelor pad, a temporary zone. It did strike me as interesting. The whole idea and what she ended up determining was that he wanted to be with somebody. He did not want to be alone and it didn’t matter that it was her. It was like, “I need to not be in this crash pad, temporary place. I need to be with somebody.”
You nailed it. She even says to him, “Maybe you’re only being with me because I’m at the top of the list. If that’s the case, then I shouldn’t be on the list at all.”
Thinking about, “Had he had a duplex scenario with a friend or friends to live with.” It’s because I had the lens of this conversation, I thought about him as a solo or as not wanting to be alone. The choices that he made for that compared to what she had, which was something that she didn’t want to walk away from and compromise on.
It was a B-plot within the cheater scene.
It was so good. I loved this plot so much.
Even in terms of what you’re saying too of the social justice but also the vessel of comedy for lessons, this was a funny PSA for elderly scams and teaching how it works but also that you should come forward and not be ashamed because that’s how you’ll stop it from happening. I was like, “They’re geniuses.”
Tell the audience what happened.
I’ll get the scam a bit wrong. What’s hilarious is that Rose is the one who is like, “This is the scam,” which the irony of it is brilliant. She is like, “Of course, they work in twos. You’re dumb.” A guy pretends to find a wallet. There’s $2,000 in there.
In 1990, it was like $100,000.
It’s a few months’ rent. It’s a couple of hundred and then it ends up being $2,000 because they go to the bank and put up enough money.
They all put up $2,000 of their own money to show good faith, which was advised by a shopping nun.
We should ask someone what we should do, “Let’s ask this nun.”
She is putting it in a bank. She is like, “We’ll open an account together, and then you can all put in your money.” When they took out the money, it was pieces of paper. They got scammed.
They didn’t realize that the nun and this guy with the wallet were working together.
There’s a tiny thing missing here. It was like, “What do we do with this?” The idea is, “We should put an ad in the classifieds. If no one claims it, then we can split the money.” It’s this idea of like, “Let’s all put money into this account. That way, we’re all on the same page.”
When you talk about people having children and getting married, just to have some security in their old age, you want to tell them that’s not how it works.
“At least, we’ll make some interest in the meantime.”
The nun says that.
They go, “We should give it to the lost and found.” They are like, “You’re going to give that money to a guy who gets paid $4 to watch an umbrella?”
It’s all very reasonable things that you would say. It’s brilliant because my grandparents, at one point, were almost victims of a scheme. It happens so often. There’s a lot of shame involved if you don’t talk about it. If you do, there’s a lot of power to be had because you’re going to stop it and make people aware of it.
There’s a group at my synagogue called the Wisdom Circle. It’s a group of people in their 80s and 90s. They get together for tourist study but sometimes they do events, such as trivia with me. I have hosted trivia for people in their 80s and 90s. It was so fun. They also did a day where a group came and performed skits about con artists and scammers.
One of the ways that elderly people often get scammed is on dating sites. They are on there looking for a partner and then people go, “I would love to talk to you on my phone but I can’t pay my phone bill. Can you send me some money?” They do it and the person disappears. That’s very sad. It’s too easy to get caught up in it.
Before we get to the next episode, some of the other topics that they tussled with besides the whole idea of the show, you talked about euthanasia.
There is an episode where Sophia goes out with her friend. They had come back from a funeral and it was this woman’s absolute best friend. Sophia was trying to be a good friend to her and support her through this grieving process. They go to dinner and this woman is in a great mood. She is like, “Why do you feel so good? That’s awesome.” She goes, “I’ve decided to kill myself and I want you to be there when I do it.”
Sophia goes home and she is thinking about it. Ultimately, the decision that she comes to is like, “She is going to do it, whether I’m there or not. Why should she be alone?” The night that it’s supposed to happen, Sophia insists that this does not go down like, “You can come over every week. I’ll spend more time with you. I’ll make sure you don’t feel lonely. If I’m not home, you can always talk to Rose.” She convinces her to continue her life. It’s a touching moment but again, it’s still funny.
Grace and Frankie is a pretty good modern example. Grace and Frankie only triggered it because they had a euthanasia episode. It wasn’t Grace or Frankie but they had a close friend who did end up going through with it. It’s an interesting evolution conversation-wise. Grace and Frankie hit me. That at least is something that stands out as the closest modern example of this.
That’s a good point. I’ve thought about that. That’s a Netflix show, right?
Yes, you can watch it on Netflix.
For The Golden Girls, the social justice issues that they tackled, some that come to mind are assisted suicide, gay marriage, HIV and AIDS, gambling addiction, pill addiction, age discrimination and sexual harassment. It was so ahead of its time.
One, in particular, a racism episode sticks out with Blanche being from the South and her being coming to terms. I don’t remember the episode that well but it was an episode.
I’m not allowed to talk about it anymore but there’s an episode of a certain show where Blanche is excited about the Confederate flag. Someone who works at the hotel with her is Don Cheadle. That’s a different show. There’s an episode where Dorothy’s son brings home his fiancé and she is an older Black woman. It’s not so much that Dorothy is upset that she is Black. The age gap is what gets her. There’s also an episode where Blanche is applying to be part of the Sisters of the Confederacy. This is my favorite episode of The Golden Girls.
She is applying to be a Sister of the Confederacy or Daughters of the Confederacy and she has to go through her lineage. Dorothy is helping her and she is like, “This is so archaic. Why are you doing this? Who cares?” She goes, “I’m 100% Southern.” They are going through this family tree and they find that her great-great-grandmother was born North of Atlanta in Buffalo. She is like, “What?” She goes, “Also, did I mention her last name was Feldman?” She is like, “I can’t be Jewish.” She still tries to get into the Confederacy. They won’t have her. She is like, “You small-minded peckerwoods aren’t real Southerners.” It’s so good and funny. The entire episode is perfect.
It’s interesting because it makes her become an outsider to understand. It’s an interesting journey. Again, it’s ahead of its time because those conversations weren’t being had.
This is a great segue into the next episode that I wanted to discuss, which you gave us as homework, season 6, episode 10, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun… Before They Die. One of the things that struck me about these episodes, and then in general perusing, is how much sex was a topic within this show, which goes against a lot of stereotypes. It’s great fodder for comedy but also, it’s realistic in the sense that just because people get to a certain age doesn’t mean that they don’t stop having those drives, motivations and experiences.
To use protection, that’s a big part.
There’s an episode where they buy condoms.
Before we tee up what happens in this episode, I’m curious why was this one assigned to us?
It was so hard to pick because there are endless episodes that would have been perfect. The reason I went with this one is that it’s particularly funny. Season six is my favorite season because there’s a lot of advice being given throughout the episode. I feel like that is such an overwhelming part of being single that you get so much advice, whether it’s unsolicited or solicited. Whenever people hear that I’m single, it almost feels like that’s their cue to be like, “Here’s what you do.” I didn’t ask for this.
Throughout the episode, Blanche is giving the other girls a lot of advice because she feels she is very experienced in the realm of dating, which she is. Her reputation speaks for itself. The thought of like, “Am I dating because I don’t want to be alone? Do I miss hearing I love you? Is it that I like this person? Am I trying to get my rocks off?”
Also, there are all these games you have to play when you’re single. In the episode, Rose is being coy with her boyfriend and not being her authentic self. A lot of times, that is advice given to me like, “Be yourself.” I’m like, “It’s working.” To be like, “You can’t text back too soon. You got to let them lead the way. Men like to chase,” then it’s like, “Can you be into me and I’m into you? We get in this hot tub and then X, Y, Z goes down.”
What happens in this episode?
In this episode, let’s start with Sophia. Sophia has a date with this man. His name is Tony. He is a dreamboat and she likes him so much. He has a nice apartment.
What is he about? You’re like, “This guy has a globe.” That’s a worldy man.
Glen O’Brien, not a great apartment. Tony Delvecchio, great apartment. Tony Delvecchio is a dreamboat. She is into him and Blanche is like, “I think you should sleep with him.” Dorothy is like, “No, my mother does not need to do that. Get to know him maybe 3 or 4 months.” She is like, “Look who has given a ride? You’re giving away time here.”
I wrote this down because it died. She is like, “This will get you laid in no time.” She is like, “It’s good because that’s all the time we have.”
Blanche starts giving her advice about what to wear and how to approach the date and all this just to get Sophia laid. Meanwhile, there is a drought in St. Olaf. If you don’t know the show, you have no idea what I’m talking about.
I found that confusing because I don’t watch the show.
Rose is from a town called St. Olaf, Minnesota. It is a town of idiots. Everyone in the town is stupid. Things make no sense.
It’s the opposite of Lake Wobegon.
I don’t know what that’s from.
Lake Wobegon is a place where everybody is above average, good-looking and smart.
Encyclopedia salesmen carry 52 copies of the encyclopedia and Dorothy is like, “Why do they carry 52?” She is like, “For balance.” She is like, “Why don’t they carry thirteen in each hand?” She is like, “I have to make a phone call.” Everyone is so dumb. There’s a drought in St. Olaf. To fix it, they ask every St. Olafian to be celibate until the rains come except for Ulf the Umbrella King because he has suffered enough.
Rose has a boyfriend named Miles, who is in many episodes. She is going to be honest with him that she can’t have sex. Blanche is like, “No, don’t tell him you can’t have sex. Use it to your advantage. Get him to be obsessed with you. He is going to do your laundry and all these things for you. It’s going to be beneficial to your relationship to play around the fact that you don’t want to have sex.” Maybe not the best advice for Rose but nevertheless, Blanche thinks she is an expert and that’s what happens in the episode. Sophia goes off with Tony Delvecchio and sleeps with him in his beautiful apartment, and then he doesn’t call her.
She says to him, “I love you.” He says, “Thank you.” She gets agitated by this.
He says, “I care for you.” She says, “That’s something you say to a goat.”
I appreciated that moment in time because he was being authentic and honest. He could have just said to her, “I love you.”
Lie and then drop her, so it’s not awkward at the moment.
She feels ghosted because he doesn’t call and follow up. She is trying not to call him or she is like, “I’m going to go to his apartment.” Blanche is like, “Don’t do that. Don’t look desperate.” Many people can relate to what’s going on here that if you like someone, you’re trying to move a little too fast and then you scare them off.
Not being authentic about what page you’re on, perhaps.
You get excited sometimes, especially when you’re single and maybe you don’t want to be single or it can be tough out there. Finding a good match or partner, and then someone at first blush seems so great. It’s natural to get a little bit zealous.
Also, confusing sex and the enjoyment of sex with affection and love.
Some people think sex and love go together hand in hand and some people believe that they can be separated.
To all the single men out there, I am not one of those people, “Call me 617-875.”
Which of the two are you not?
I can separate them. I don’t say I love you in bed with men.
One of the things about that show and even other show’s episodes and you had asked earlier is this term slut that comes up, whether it is as a punchline or in some other way, is there something special about that word with regard to The Golden Girls?
I don’t think it’s negative. There’s a wonderful episode where Rose reveals that she’s had 56 boyfriends in her life. Everyone is like, “What? You had 56 boyfriends before you got married? That’s a lot. We never knew that about you.” They called Rose a big slut and Blanche gets offended. She goes, “I’m the biggest slut.” She is hurt. She likes being the slut. That’s her claim to fame that she is a slut. I don’t think it’s a negative thing but they also use it to poke fun at her.
She also has power over it, too. She is choosing to use and say it. That’s powerful. I wrote myself a note that said, “Count boyfriends.” That’s something I’m going to do before I get married. At one point, Sophia, when she is in bed with Tony, he goes like, “Where did you learn that?” She is like, “I live with a slut.” I died. It was so funny.
Who taught a nice, young Sicilian woman to do all those things? She is like, “I live with a slut.” There’s an episode where they meet Burt Reynolds. He walks in the door and goes, “Are these the roommates you told me about?” Sophia is like, “Yes.” He goes, “Which one is the slut?” At the same time, all three go, “I am.” It’s incredible. Also, in my memory going through, I don’t recall a time where a man called one of the women a slut. That’s important.
I love co-opting language and that’s an important thing. You can rub it off its power in that way. Anything else that stands out to either of you about that episode besides overall how entertaining and funny it was?
The cadence of the jokes as a person who writes comedy, it blows my mind every time. Even when you were talking about the unsolicited advice and people giving advice, Blanche goes like, “When I say jump, you say, on who?” It’s like a set up punch. It’s so funny. It paints such a picture of what an enriched life could be.
It breaks so many stereotypes. I had mentioned my grandmother and how much it was an important show for her. In many ways, as I sit here and think about this, how much their lives are in contrast to what her life was like. She was married. She was a grandmother. She was with her husband still. She is not obvious to you, but to me, the sweetest woman in the world. There’s nothing bad about her. She is so pure, wonderful and supportive. It’s interesting to see this. She is an old woman and a little bit frail. As I said, sweet and passive are also in this patriarchal structure.
She had a life that was probably, at a lot of turns, chosen for her or this was the best option at that time.
My grandfather, I adored the man. He was overall a good husband, given the norms of the time. He was a wonderful father and grandfather. In many ways, he was a father to me. To see in contrast to this woman who was passive, I don’t want to use the word weak but as I said, frail and so on, contrasted with these women on the screen were robust, big and funny.
That’s what I was going to ask. Do you think that she viewed it as a fantasy almost of what life would be?
I don’t know. It’s interesting because I never talked to my grandmother about those things.
You knew her as a grandmother. You didn’t know her as a woman.
I knew more about my grandfather. We would go off and do things alone sometimes. I didn’t have that sense of her beyond that limited role. It’s an important role but limited in terms of the full scope of her being.
It is weird when you grow older and realize your parents are humans. You realize their flaws and hopefully forgive them for those but the grandparents, because of the age gap, never got to the point where my grandparents were imperfect. I still see my grandmother, even I was thinking about her now. The description you gave of your grandmother could be mine. She was so sweet, kind, the best heart, the nicest, sweetest, most loving person. I’m like, “What was going on in her personal life? What was happening when she was dating?” I never got to know her in that light.
I have to thank you both because it’s helping me reframe a few things. For me, it has been a gift to be able to know things about my grandparents that maybe wouldn’t have been shared with me otherwise. I’ve always looked at it as like, “That’s a struggle to get to know a whole person but it’s also a gift.” Even thinking with Golden Girls watching it, it has been a while for me to watch it. Post-COVID gave it some new relevancy to me as far as it being aspirational and how lucky you could be to age like that. It was special to watch in that. I was like, “They are the OG pod.”
You have to live what you preach.
There would have been an episode on them all getting their vaccines. There’s some debate about vaccines.
I used to cry every day on my birthday and it wasn’t on purpose. I didn’t schedule it. It would be like something would happen and I would feel bad and cry. I stopped doing that when a close friend of mine passed away at the age of 24. Ever since then, I stopped crying on my birthday because I’m like, “It is a gift to get older. I am so lucky to be here still.” Also, how can I have Golden Girls as my favorite show and be sad about getting older? That makes no sense.
You have to live what you preach. You got to practice what you preach. If I’m going to tell people like, “These are women who still have a sex life, have friendships, volunteer, have communities, hilarious,” they are my role models. I stopped crying on my birthday because it’s one year closer to being a golden girl.
One thing that makes Danielle famous is that she does Golden Girls trivia once a month in West Hollywood. You don’t have to live in West Hollywood to enjoy it. Are we going to do three rounds of Golden Girl’s trivia?
Sure. Do you want me to do it off the top of the dome?
You should do it off the top of your dome.
It’s great seeing you use fun slang.
Dome is a funny word.
That’s a Boston thing. People always call me on my Boston slang. I’ve never heard it called dome anywhere else. It’s also a slang word for oral sex.
Chances are, I’m going to strike out totally on this. Let’s phrase it as a question. If we can’t answer it, you can answer it. It will give the readers a moment to pause if they want and think if they have the answer.
Question number one, in what city do The Golden Girls live?
I know there’s an imaginary street, Franklin Street.
Richmond Street, but good job knowing that it is a fictional street in Miami. It’s not a real street.
I love the Miami vibe, aesthetic of their apartment, Wicker and pink. It’s all great choices.
I hate that aesthetic.
I don’t know if you saw Blanche’s bedroom at any of these episodes but it’s covered in banana leaves and so is my apartment.
If it wasn’t in Miami, it would need to be in Sarasota or Fort Lauderdale.
That adds to the aspirational element of retiring to Florida. That makes it a little more aspirational. It’s a destination and this is where they are living out.
Question number two, which European country is Sophia originally from?
I know that she is Italian, specifically Sicilian.
Can we do a couple more and you can ramp it up in terms of the challenge?
I can do one specific about the episodes you watch. How many children does Dorothy have?
I have two.
I have three.
The correct answer is two. Sophia has three children, so good on you, and then Dorothy has two.
Do the kids show up ever? Do they come in and out of the show?
Michael is a Jazz musician and Kate is an interior designer.
I’m glad you didn’t ask those trivia questions because I would have been like, “I do not know the professions.”
Speaking of professions, where does Blanche work?
A hair salon.
It’s an organization. You park your car outside of it and then you walk in the door and clock in. It’s like a nonprofit or something. No?
The correct answer is an art museum.
Neither of us was close. I don’t even know why I thought hair salon.
I was maybe confusing some of her charity work with what she did.
That’s probably where you were going.
I went with that because she cares about her looks and she is the most put together in that way.
Here’s an easy one. What is the name of Sophia’s retirement home?
I don’t know.
Shady Pines. There’s a common catchphrase of Dorothy’s where she goes, “Shady Pines, ma.” It’s a threat, “Behave yourself, Shady Pines.”
Before we close, I want to ask a question. This is both of you A) Danielle because you’re an expert on this and then B) Jen, because you know TV so well. Why has the show never been rebooted?
I have some theories.
We’re rebooting everything. Malcolm in the Middle is coming back.
Admittedly, I did a little bit of research.
I did not prep either of them on this question.
You threw this out to me at one point. It came up in a conversation and I had guessed. I bet that it’s in the works. That was my guess because one thing is that you have to do it right. It’s going to take time and the right attachments.
The fans have no interest in a reboot. We would riot. It would be catastrophic. The only way I would ever want to see a reboot of The Golden Girls is if it’s done with drag queens.
During COVID, there was a Black cast, Gina Prince-Bythewood.
I watched that.
Was that fun?
It was fun.
It’s Tracee Ellis Ross.
She played Rose. They read a script and an episode. That was written by Stan Zimmerman.
I couldn’t find who wrote it online. Gina Prince-Bythewood is the Director, but I didn’t know if they wrote the original script.
It was on Zoom. They did a table-read. It was an episode. It was called The Flu and that’s the one they did. It was written by Stan Zimmerman, who was a guest on Dr. Cheesecake. Speaking of Stan, he wrote a pilot that is so funny and I hope it gets made. It’s called Silver Foxes. It’s about four gay men who live in Palm Springs together.
I came across a TikTok that I love. They are called The Old Gays.
I follow them. They are incredible. I sent that to Stan. There was Hot in Cleveland, which was similar. I don’t think the fans want a reboot of The Golden Girls. Maybe like a one-off like they did with All in the Family. They did a live episode of All in the Family.
It is something that needs the ingredients of a bit of time. I will also say I found this online. I’m not saying that this is visually in development but I know that at least a dozen hours of meetings have been had. Jennifer Anniston says, “Give it some time and then Lisa, Courteney and I could reboot The Golden Girls and spend our last years together. You’re going to hate this on Wicker furniture.” I wouldn’t be surprised and maybe with some time.
I don’t hate that as much as I thought I would.
I would like that more than I liked Friends, which doesn’t hold up as well. The writing and topics aren’t that strong.
I love the ’90s television. Do you know what absolutely holds up? The Nanny. It’s so good. This Mary Tyler Moore holds up as a single gal.
We always want to know. We want to hear more from them every time.
We need role models. This show is designed to expose people to real role models, people who are living remarkable lives as solos but in the meantime, people have to rely on fiction. This is a wonderful show. Jen, I want to thank you for joining us and doing your homework even better than I did. Danielle, thank you so much for doing this. This is exciting and fun. We should thank the most important people here, Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia, and the work that they have done as fictional characters to inspire people to think about other ways to go about living as they get older.
They’re some funny elderly women doing some heavy lifting for us.
I’m so grateful to be on this show. I’m happy to meet you. I wanted to say thank you to both of you for having me and letting me talk about my favorite thing in the world. I feel like I shouldn’t have listened to an episode before I got on here because now I’m your fan. I hope I wasn’t too star-struck, but it was terrific. I’m happy to be a part of this. Thank you.
- Jen O’Donnell
- Danielle Soto
- iTunes – Solo – The Single Person’s Guide to a Remarkable Life
- Dr. Cheesecake
- The Ladies Room – Instagram
- Stan Zimmerman – Previous episode on Dr. Cheesecake
- The Old Gays – TikTok
About Danielle Soto
Danielle Soto is a stand-up comedian, writer, and podcast host. She hosts the Dr. Cheesecake Podcast, in which her guests explain a problem in their life and Danielle solves it using an episode of The Golden Girls (and a slice of cheesecake, of course). She also writes, produces, and hosts Golden Girls trivia once a month in West Hollywood.
About Jennifer O’Donnell
Jen O’Donnell is a creative executive who has worked in development for television production companies in Los Angeles: creating and producing documentary series, reality docuseries, gameshows and a variety of unscripted TV formats. She is a stand-up comedian who also hosts and produces The Ladies Room, a women’s stand-up comedy show with a monthly residency at Westside Comedy Theater in Los Angeles.
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