The Golden Age
"The Golden Girls" blended heartache with witticisms, life lessons and friendship with jibes. The four stars emerged as well-rounded and believable women, which was one of the many reasons that all four actresses were named Disney Legends. Here, in honor of Bea Arthur's birthday, are 20 of the most memorable moments from the classic TV show.
Sonny & Cher — Season 5, Episode 18
You haven't heard "I Got You, Babe" until you've watched Dorothy and Sophia sing while dressed as Sonny & Cher for a Shady Pines mother-daughter beauty pageant. Their costumes are spot on, the height differential is hilarious, and Dorothy's flinging her long black (bewigged) hair over her shoulder à la Cher is not to be missed.
The Slut — Season 7, Episode 13
"The Golden Girls" was refreshingly honest about the sexual needs and desires of older women, and bawdy as can be while celebrating the girls' wanton ways. But when Blanche and Dorothy discover that Rose had 56 boyfriends—in one year—Dorothy dubs Rose the sluttiest woman in the room. Blanche is shocked—to lose her title. Dorothy (pointing first at Blanche and then at Rose): "The Slut is dead ... Long live the Slut!"
Gay Clay — Season 6, Episode 14
Blanche's gaydar is out of whack: Her brother Clay is gay, which she has trouble accepting. "I don't really mind Clayton being homosexual," she declares. "I just don't like him dating men." In speaking about his fiancé, Clay says, "I'd do anything for Doug, and he'd bend over backwards for me." Dorothy immediately grabs her outspoken mother and clamps her hand over Sophia's mouth. Who needs words in a moment like this?
Rose's Little Date — Season 1, Episode 13
Rose dates a little person (and an M.D., no less), but is nervous about introducing him to her housemates. It doesn't help matters that Dorothy and Blanche have prepared a dinner of shrimp and short ribs. Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan won an Emmy for writing this episode.
Lesbian/Lebanese — Season 2, Episode 5
Dorothy's friend Jean is an out-and-proud lesbian, quite daring to show on '80s television. Jean falls for Rose, which leads to a scene in Dorothy's bedroom (and bed!) wherein Blanche is befuddled by the terminology. Blanche: "Isn't Danny Thomas one?" Dorothy: "Not Lebanese, Blanche! Lesbian!" When she finally gets it, Blanche sputters: "To think Jean would prefer Rose over me, that's ridiculous!" Terry Hughes won an Emmy for directing the episode.
A Night in Jail — Season 2, Episode 2
Burt Reynolds guest-stars as himself. When one of his movies premieres in town, Dorothy, Rose and Blanche go glam for the after-party where they hope to meet Burt himself, but end up being arrested as hookers. Their night in jail is classic, as is Sophia's line when she arrives to bail the three out: "I can't believe these dumb cops would think people would want to pay money to sleep with you!"
Henny Penny — Season 6, Episode 26
Any time you can watch singing barnyard fowl on stage—Dorothy, Rose and Blanche as Turkey Lurkey, Henny Penny, and Goosey Loosey—grab the chance. Blanche shakes her tail feathers and underscores the "loose" in Goosey Loosey. The sky is falling!
The Flu — Season 1, Episode 21
There's not enough Kleenex or cough syrup when Rose, Blanche and Dorothy come down with the flu, all at the same time. Whether stuck on the couch together or gowned at the Friends of Good Health's award banquet pretending they aren't in bad health, the women prove that friendship outshines germs—and that sneezing, like banana peels, is still darned funny.
Sophia's Mother — Season 3, Episode 25
In a flashback to Brooklyn in the '50s, Bea Arthur plays her own grandmother, and Estelle Getty is Sophia as a younger woman, trying to convince her mother-in-law to move in with her family. Young Dorothy rolls Grandma into the apartment. Young Dorothy: "Okay, Grandma. Here we are." Grandma Petrillo: "I'm in a wheelchair. I'm not blind. I can see where we are, and it could stand a good vacuum." Wisecracking obviously runs through the Petrillo DNA…
The Pizza Commercial — Season 4, Episode 20
Dorothy and Sophia are asked to star in a pizza commercial, but Dorothy the Grammar Queen actually corrects the script. When the director angrily demotes her from "daughter" to "waitress," her wordless response is priceless. When Sophia finally tastes the (awful) pizza, she spits it out, then quits the commercial. "There's two things a Sicilian won't do," she says. "Lie about pizza and file a tax return."
Debbie Reynolds — Season 6, Episode 17
With Dorothy set to remarry Stan, Blanche interviews potential roommates. Debbie Reynolds guest-stars as Truby, a quippy sexy senior who's more than a match for the girls. Truby: "My husband passed just last summer." Rose: "Passed what?" Seconds later, Blanche asks Truby her age. Truby: "Oh…'bout as old as you are." Blanche: "To lose a husband that young!"
Alzheimer's — Season 3, Episode 1
How do you win an Emmy? For Estelle Getty, it meant getting serious. In this episode, Sophia befriends an elderly man, Alvin, on the boardwalk. She soon realizes, however, that he is slowly descending into Alzheimer's. When Alvin no longer recognizes her, then stops coming to the boardwalk altogether, it's heartbreak, not zingers, for Sophia. Fun fact: Even though Getty played Dorothy's mom, she was actually a year younger than Bea Arthur.
Pretend-Married to Stan, Season 3, Episode 17
How do you win an Emmy? – Part Two. For Bea Arthur, it meant pretending to being still married to Stan Zbornak. Of her acting career, Arthur said: "After being in the business for such a long time, I've done everything but rodeo and porno."
Rose's Curse — Season 1, Episode 15
How do you win an Emmy? – Part Three. For Betty White, it meant having great sex at night and finding the man dead in the morning. Rose fears she's cursed, as her beloved husband Charlie also died in bed with her. White excelled as the ditzy Rose; she was originally slated to play Blanche, "the sexy one," but she'd already portrayed the lascivious Sue Ann Nivens on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," while Rue McClanahan had previously played the naïve Vivian on "Maude." After both were hired, White and McClanahan effectively swapped parts.
Little Sophia — Season 3, Episode 6
Sophia tries her hand at ventriloquism with "Little Sophia." Turns out Little Sophia is just as uncensored as Big Sophia. Fun fact: Estelle Getty received the most fan mail of the group.
Menopause — Season 2, Episode 1
How do you win an Emmy? – Part Four. For Rue McClanahan, it meant learning she wasn't pregnant, she was in menopause. And of course, Blanche being Blanche, she reacts in ways both petty and poignant. Fun fact: All four of the "Golden Girls" stars won Emmys for their roles; it was one of only three TV shows where all the leads did so. (The other two: "All in the Family" and "Will and Grace.")
Rose's Teddy Bear — Season 3, Episode 1
Who would have thought that Rose hid a streak of ferocity? Blanche accidentally gives Rose's teddy bear Fernando to a seemingly sweet young girl named Daisy, but Daisy won't return the bear without serious payola. Will Rose and Fernando be reunited? "Just cut the crap," Rose snaps at Blanche, "and get the damn teddy bear!"
"What'll I Do?" — Season 7, Episode 19
Bea Arthur revealed herself as quite the chanteuse. In the early days of her career, she sang on the New York stage in "The Threepenny Opera" and "Fiddler on the Roof." But it's still a surprise when Dorothy slips into Irving Berlin with "What'll I Do?" As with her turn as Yente the Matchmaker on Broadway, Arthur steals the show.
"Condoms! Condoms!Condoms!" — Season 4, Episode 15
In a flashback, the girls stock up on supplies before Valentine's Day. Blanche: "We are going away on a romantic cruise to the Bahamas... In this day and age it might be a good idea to take along some protection." Rose: "What kind of protection?" To clue her in, Dorothy waves vaguely at a nearby shelf, prompting a series of guesses from Rose: "A Nestle's Crunch? ... An enema bag?... Dentu Grip?" Dorothy: "Condoms, Rose! Condoms! Condoms! Condoms!" And you thought "protection" meant sunscreen.
Dorothy's Prom — Season 6, Episode 22
Hal Linden guest-stars as John, the boy who stood up Dorothy years before on prom night, so crushing her self-esteem that she married Stan Zbornak. Now grown, John returns to Miami and takes Dorothy to prom.
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