30 ‘Golden Girls’ facts every true fan should know

NBC’s “The Golden Girls” ran between 1985 and 1992, gifting us with 180 episodes that were packed with life lessons and zippy exchanges between its unforgettable cast members. Thanks to reruns and the fact that Hulu streams all seven seasons, the fab foursome (Sophia, Dorothy, Blanche and Rose) are enjoying a second wave of fandom.

The sitcom broke from TV tradition with not just a female-led cast, but one dominated by older women. One impressive fact: all four lead actresses (Estelle Getty, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White) each won Emmy awards for their roles. But, we’re just getting started!

Grab a slice of cheesecake and indulge in 30 more facts that every “Golden Girls” super-fan should know.

There Was A Major Role Swap

Can you imagine Betty White as a sultry Southern belle? The producers originally had White picked to play Blanche Devereaux, but thought the character would be too similar to her role as the “neighborhood nymphomaniac,” Sue Anne Nivens, on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Instead, Rue McClanahan landed the role and White was cast as the endearing, albeit naive, Rose Nylund.

Photo courtesy of NBC

The Queen Loved The Show

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II was a fan of the Golden Girls and invited them to perform at the 1988 Royal Variety Performance in London. The cast accepted and re-enacted a pair of scenes, although censored themselves some for the show.

“We’ll do about seven minutes from the show, but we’ll have to censor a few things for the queen,” said Bea Arthur at the time. Get ready to grab your pearls and gasp because a quip about Dorothy’s lackluster sex life made it in, and the Queen reportedly laughed at it.

queen elizabeth photo
Getty Images | WPA Pool

The Girls Didn’t Hang Out Much Off Set

One exception: Estelle Getty had a birthday party every June and they’d get together, according to information mined by Glamour from an interview Rue McClanahan did with the Archive of American Television.


Estelle Getty Had Serious Stage Fright

So much so that she’d often freeze during the tapings, cast members recalled. She was the least-experienced actor in the main cast.

Photo courtesy of NBC

A Character Got Nixed

The original pilot included a gay male character played by Charles Levin. The character, a butler, was well-received by the audience, according to the Huffington Post, but was cut from the show because of time limitations.

Photo courtesy of NBC

Estelle Getty Wasn’t The Oldest Golden Girl

That esteemed title would go to Betty White, who, ironically, is the only one of the quartet still living. Getty played the sassy matriarch role, but she was actually younger than Bea Arthur, who was cast as her daughter. Rue McClanahan was by far the youngest cast member, being born more than 12 years before White.

Photo courtesy of NBC

Elaine Stritch Auditioned To Play Dorothy

The Broadway icon didn’t get the role, which eventually went to Bea Arthur, which makes sense considering the role of Dorothy was described as a “Bea Arthur-type.” When Arthur first read the script, she said she thought it was “brilliant,” according to her interview with the Archive of American Television. “I thought it was one of the funniest, most adult, hilarious, sophisticated, terrific, delicious things I had ever read.”

elaine stritch photo
Getty Images | Cindy Ord

Bea Arthur’s Ears Weren’t Pierced

Those statement earrings she was always wearing? They were clip-ons!

Photo courtesy of NBC

Estelle Getty Did Stand-Up Comedy

Getty’s character, Sophia Petrillo, was known to lob witty insults and deliver sharp one-liners. She was primed for it! In her late teens Getty performed stand-up comedy. According to NPR, Getty performed at a Catskills hotel in New York — but female comedians were a rarity at the time and she flopped.

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Betty White Loved Appearing On Game Shows

White was a fan of television game shows. In the 1950s, she competed on shows including “What’s My Line?,”  “Make the Connection” and “Password,” which is where she met Allen Ludden, her future husband and the host of the show, according to the Television Academy Foundation.

Photo courtesy of NBC

Bea Arthur Didn’t Like Cheesecake

Cheesecake was pretty much the fifth main character on the show. The Golden Girls ate a lot of it. But Arthur was reportedly not a fan of the dessert.

cheesecake photo
Flickr | stu_spivack

The Show Had A Cheesecake Chef

George Geary is the author of several books about cheesecake, including “The 125 Best Cheesecake Recipes” and “The Cheesecake Bible.” His other claim to fame? He made all the cheesecakes that were used for props on “The Golden Girls.” According to CNN, that could be as many as seven cheesecakes for a single taping!

Photo courtesy of NBC

The Cast Included Serious Animal Activists

Betty White, Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan were each passionate animal-rights activists.

White turned down a role in the Oscar-winning movie “As Good as It Gets” because there was a scene in which a character throws a dog down a garbage chute. In her book “If You Ask Me (and Of Course You Won’t),” White recalled saying: “I just can’t do that! I know it’s for laughs but given my feelings about animals and my work for animal welfare, I just didn’t find it funny.”

During their lives, Arthur and McClanahan worked with PETA.

betty white photo
Getty Images | Angela Weiss

Estelle Getty Was Especially Frugal

So much so that her Toyota Tercel was towed out of her parking space at the “The Golden Girls” production lot because security thought someone had stolen her space, according to her son Carl Gettleman. He relayed the anecdote at Getty’s funeral in 2008.

“The Great Depression left an indelible impression on mom,” Gettleman said, according to reporting from the Associated Press.

Photo courtesy of NBC

Bea Arthur And Betty White Clashed

Bea Arthur apparently wasn’t a fan of Betty White.

“She found me a pain in the neck sometimes,” White once said in an interview. “It was my positive attitude — and that made Bea mad sometimes. Sometimes if I was happy, she’d be furious!”

Perhaps we were over-estimating the power of cheesecake?

betty white bea arthur photo
Getty Images | Brad Barket

Estelle Getty’s Makeup Took A Lot Of Work

Adding 20 years or so was no easy feat! The show’s makeup crew routinely spent 45 minutes making Getty look older and transforming her into the sassy little lady that was Sophia.

Photo courtesy of NBC

It’s Just Betty

Betty White’s name isn’t short for Elizabeth; it’s simply Betty!

betty white photo
Getty Images | Frederick M. Brown

Bea Arthur Had An Interesting Contract Clause

Not only did Arthur not like cheesecake, she also didn’t like wearing shoes.

“She had it written into her contract that she was allowed to not wear shoes as long as she agreed not to sue the producers if she hurt herself,” Jim Colucci, author of “Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind The Lanai,” told Fox News.

Photo courtesy of NBC

Rue McClanahan Got To Keep Blanche’s Wardrobe

Speaking of contract clauses, McClanahan got to raid Blanche’s wardrobe closet! In all, she made off with 500 pieces. That’s a lot of sexy lingerie and shoulder-padded blazers!

Photo courtesy of NBC

Mario Lopez Was On The Show

You likely know him and his dimples best from “Saved by the Bell,” but before that, Lopez was a guest star in an episode from 1987. He played the role of a student being tutored by Dorothy.

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George Clooney Was Also On The Show

Clooney played a detective investigating a suspected jewel thief in a season two episode, “To Catch a Neighbor.”

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It Took Estelle Getty Three Auditions To Get The Part

Getty very nearly didn’t make the cut of “The Golden Girls,” according to NPR. She was in her early 60s and didn’t look old enough to play 80-year-old Sophia. When she arrived to her third audition, she wore dowdy clothes and told the makeup artist that her career was on the line if she couldn’t be transformed into an older woman.

Photo courtesy of NBC

Rue McClanahan Was Just As Sassy In Real Life

When Colucci was working on his aforementioned book, he showed up to interview McClanahan and she answered the door in a very Blanche way, according to Glamour.

“She answered the door fresh from the shower, in a bathrobe that looked like it was about to fall open!” the author said in an interview.

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Getty Images | Mark Mainz

The Table Was A Chair Short

When the ladies debrief over cheesecake, take note: there are only three chairs around the table. If there were four, someone would have had their back to the camera.

Photo courtesy of NBC

Dorothy’s Last Name Was Borrowed

Dorothy’s last name, “Zbornak,” was plucked from stage manager Kent Zbornak. Zbornak is still active in Hollywood, recently working as a producer on shows including “The Office” and Hulu’s “Casual.”

Photo courtesy of NBC

Betty White Holds A Guinness World Record

Having started her career in 1939, she’s spent almost eight decades in show business. In 2013, White was awarded the Guinness World Record for Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female).

betty white photo
Getty Images | Jesse Grant

Bea Arthur Didn’t Act Much After The Show Ended

She did appear as a guest star on shows including “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

bea arthur photo
Getty Images | Charley Gallay

Estelle Getty Hated Doing Death Scenes

When promoting her book “If You Ask Me,” Betty White dished that her co-star Getty despised death and funeral scenes.

“Death frightened her very much. It was almost a phobia,” White said.

Photo courtesy of NBC

It’d Take Nearly Three Days To Binge The Entire Series

Does this list have you wanting to re-watch some “Golden Girls” episodes or even binge-watch the whole series? It’s doable in a long weekend (provided you didn’t sleep!). It would take about two days and 18 hours to watch the entire series on Hulu.

Touchstone Television

The Show’s Opening Theme Was Sung By A Jingle Singer

“The Golden Girls” classic opening song “Thank You for Being a Friend” was sung by Cindy Fee, who was best known for singing TV jingles, like the one for Hoover vacuums (“Nobody does it like you”) and Pontiac Cars (“Get on your Pontiac and ride”), according to a history of the theme song that was published in The Atlantic.

The Song Wasn’t Written For The Show

Musician Andrew Gold wrote, recorded and released “Thank You For Being a Friend” as a single in 1978, discounting it as a “just this little throwaway thing.” He once said the song took an hour or so to write, according to The Atlantic.