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7 Things You Might Not Know About The Golden Girls

Ed. Mental Floss mourns the loss of actress Estelle Getty, who passed away today after a long battle with Lewy Body Dementia. We all hope that she went to a better place than Shady Pines, and thank her for the many laughs she gave us over the years.

Have you ever threatened someone by simply saying "Shady Pines, Ma"? When you feel as jumpy as a virgin at a prison rodeo, is cheesecake the only remedy that will soothe your nerves? If so, you just might be a Golden Girls fan. The show originally ran on NBC from 1985 to 1992, and 15 years later, it still attracts an average of 16 million viewers weekly on Lifetime, despite being aired four times daily.

1. Where did the idea actually come from?

Former NBC wunderkind Brandon Tartikoff got the idea for the series while visiting an elderly aunt. His aunt's neighbor was also her best friend, and he was amused at how they constantly bickered with one another, but yet they always remained pals.

2. "Jealousy is an ugly thing, Dorothy. And so are you in anything backless."

Estelle Getty was 47 years old before she first appeared on stage, so it was no wonder that she felt intimidated by her veteran co-workers. Since Sophia was a last-minute addition as a regular character, who would've thought that she would ultimately become the most popular Golden Girl? Part of her charm was the stroke that had damaged the part of her brain that censored her speech, which allowed the writers to give her some classic cutting lines:

BLANCHE (trying to entice a suitor): I'm going to take a long, hot steamy bath, with just enough water to barely cover my perky bosoms.

SOPHIA: You're only going to sit in an inch of water?

Estelle seemed to fluff her lines more often than not, and had to resort to using cue cards or script pages taped to the kitchen table. Some of her co-stars felt a bit put out that they had to do so many re-takes because of Estelle, yet she was the cast member that received the most fan mail. As time went on, Estelle had some other odd medical problems that ultimately led to a misdiagnosis of Parkinson's Disease. Sadly, the medications she was given (in error) further exacerbated the problem. It wasn't until the mid-2000s that she was finally diagnosed as suffering from Lewy Body Dementia. Betty White kept in touch with Estelle described her current health situation as "a curtain wafting in and out" "“ she has her good days when she's active and communicative, and other days when she does nothing more than doze in her favorite chair.

3. Looking for Bea Arthur in all the Wrong Places

When casting the show, Lee Grant was first offered the role of Dorothy, but she refused to play a woman old enough to have grandchildren. Even though the original production notes describing Dorothy Zbornak listed her as "a Bea Arthur type," it took some time before the producers got the bright idea of actually offering the part to actress Beatrice Arthur.

A Golden Girls fact: Bea Arthur (Dorothy) was actually a year older than the actress who portrayed her mother on the show.

4. Why wasn't Betty White the sexy one?

This and the answers to more all after the jump...

Rue & BettyWhen Rue McClanahan and Betty White were first hired for the series, it was with the intent of Betty playing man-hungry Blanche, and Rue the naïve Rose. However, both actresses felt that those roles were too similar to characters they'd recently played: Rue's Vivian on Maude and Betty's Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. They asked the producers if they could switch roles, and after the first table reading it was agreed that the change was a brilliant idea.

5. What happened to the flamboyant cook?

Charles LevinThe pilot episode featured a flamboyantly gay cook named Coco (played by Charles Levin) who worked for the Girls. By the time the series was picked up, though, his part had been eliminated for two reasons. One was that the writers noted that in many of the proposed future scripts the main interaction between the women occurred in the kitchen while preparing and eating food, and a separate cook would distract from that camaraderie. In addition, the character of Sophia had originally been planned as an occasional guest star, but Estelle Getty had tested so strongly with preview audiences that the producers quickly made Sophia a regular character (and chief chef), which made Coco superfluous.

6. The Gay and Lesbian factor

A 2005 study by Simmons Market Research determined that more gays and lesbians watched The Golden Girls than the general population in any given week. Admittedly, the show touched on homosexuality more than once: Blanche's brother came out as gay in one episode, Dorothy's college friend was a lesbian, and then there was that time that clueless Rose was trying to prove herself on her first day on the job as a production assistant on a local Miami TV talk show"¦

7. "Cheesecake," and the real Golden Girls' appeal

A large part of the Golden Girls' appeal was that they were all women over age 50 who were still actively working, volunteering in the community, and, yes, dating and having sex. They showed the world that menopause didn't automatically equal resigning oneself to knitting afghans and baking cookies. This was brilliantly illustrated when the Girls were preparing to go on a Valentine's Day cruise with some gentlemen friends and Dorothy suggested that they should perhaps bring along some "protection." Of course, Rose got it all wrong

Now is your chance to come out and admit your Golden Girls love. What is your favorite St. Olaf story? How crazy do you go trying to match the internal architecture of their house with the outside shots? And please try and explain to me the varying number and ages of the Girls' children and grandchildren.

Past 'Confessions of a TV-Holic'...

When Sitcoms Go Global
5 Cases of Unwanted Fame
When Sitcom Stars Start Expecting
We Still Love Lucy
6 Backdoor Pilots (and why they belong at the back door)

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8 Surprising Facts About the Suez Crisis
Harry Kerr/BIPs/Getty Images
Harry Kerr/BIPs/Getty Images

Season two of The Crown opens on a full-blown catastrophe: 1956's Suez Crisis. This mass failing of diplomacy would diminish Britain’s world standing and severely damage relationships between multiple nations for years to come. It began with the seizure of the Suez Canal and ended with a UN ceasefire. But there was an entire secret invasion in between that. Here are a few key details on the very messy international affair.

1. GAMAL ABDEL NASSER USED A CODE WORD TO SEIZE THE CANAL.

Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918 - 1970) with British Prime Minister Anthony Eden (1897 - 1977) in Cairo, 1955
Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser with British Prime Minister Anthony Eden in Cairo in 1955, a year before the Suez Crisis.
Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Nearly 90 years after the canal opened, Gamal Abdel Nasser became president of Egypt. He spoke extensively about the canal and its creator, Ferdinand de Lesseps, in a July 26, 1956 speech. The Economist estimates he said the name “de Lesseps” at least 13 times. This wasn’t out of admiration. “De Lesseps” turned out to be a code word. Upon hearing it, Colonel Mahmoud Younes and his men seized control of the Suez Canal Company offices in Cairo, Port Said, and Suez. Nasser declared the canal theirs, which is what led to the Suez Crisis.

2. IT WAS ALL OVER A DAM.

Nasser had a specific reason for taking the canal: He wanted to construct the Aswan Dam to control flooding and drought in the region, but he needed money to do so. The United States and Great Britain had offered him a $70 million grant to begin construction on the project, but Nasser was also considering an offer from the Soviet Union. Both America and the UK were growing increasingly frustrated with Nasser. They were outraged over his dealings with communist nations of China and Czechoslovakia, and believed he was playing both sides of the Cold War to his benefit. Britain withdrew its offer first; America followed on July 19, 1956. Just days after Secretary of State John Foster Dulles made the announcement, Nasser seized the canal, intending to use its revenues to finance the dam himself.

3. FRANCE, BRITAIN, AND ISRAEL WERE NO FANS OF NASSER.

Picture released on November 1956 of French troops disembarking at Port Fuad, Egypt, during the Suez crisis
French troops disembarking at Port Fuad, Egypt, in November 1956.
AFP/Getty Images

The Suez Crisis forged an alliance between France, Britain, and Israel, who all despised Nasser. Sir Brian Urquhart, a retired UN diplomat, told NPR, “The one thing I think they all agreed on was the unspoken phrase regime change. They all wanted to see the last of Gamal Abdel Nasser as the president of Egypt.” But they all had separate reasons. By that point, both Britain and France were major shareholders in the Suez Canal Company. France also believed Nasser was assisting Algerian rebels fighting for independence from their French colonizers. By Urquhart’s account, Israel had the biggest grievance: Nasser would not allow Israeli ships through the canal, and his government was also sponsoring Fedayeen terrorist raids into Israel. With these motivations in mind, the three nations hatched a plan to invade Egypt and take the Suez Canal back from Nasser.

4. THOSE THREE COUNTRIES COLLUDED ON A SECRET INVASION.

In October of 1956, representatives from France, Israel, and Britain convened just outside Paris, in Sèvres. They reached an agreement, which would become known as the Protocol of Sèvres: Israel would invade Egypt first, providing Britain and France with an alibi. They would invade next, as supposed peacekeepers. These joint invasions would allow the allies to take back the canal and punish Nasser. Once the protocol was finalized, UK Prime Minister Anthony Eden ordered all evidence of the plot destroyed. But the details did leak, and the impact was catastrophic.

5. QUEEN ELIZABETH HAD RESERVATIONS ABOUT THE PLAN.

Queen Elizabeth II at Badminton House, Gloucestershire in 1956
Tidmarsh/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It’s difficult to pin down exactly what Queen Elizabeth II knew about the invasion, much less her opinion on it. Royal historian Robert Lacey has suggested that the Queen was not fully briefed on the Suez strategy. In Elizabeth the Queen, Sally Bedell Smith counters that the monarch had access to Suez documents through her “daily boxes” of important papers and correspondence. Regardless, it appears Elizabeth was not thrilled with the plan. Eden told Lacey that the Queen did not voice any disapproval, “nor would I claim that she was pro-Suez.” Elizabeth’s longtime courtier, Martin Charteris, put it much more bluntly: “I think the Queen believed Eden was mad.”

6. DWIGHT EISENHOWER WAS FURIOUS.

At least one person was openly livid about the plan: Dwight Eisenhower. According to J.P.D. Dunbabin, the American president anticipated some kind of invasion or strike after the U.S. elections. But when Israel took action on October 29, 1956, with France and Britain following just a few days later, he was blindsided. “I’ve just never seen great powers make such a complete mess and botch of things,” he said at the time. “I think that Britain and France have made a terrible mistake.” Eisenhower led the charge in squashing the invasion, pressuring the International Monetary Fund to withhold any loans to Great Britain until they agreed to a ceasefire.

7. THE SUEZ CRISIS SPURRED THE FIRST ARMED UN PEACEKEEPING MISSION.

United Nations troops enter Port Said, on November 15, 1956 during the Suez Crisis.
United Nations troops enter Port Said, on November 15, 1956 during the Suez Crisis.
AFP/Getty Images

UN Peacekeeping officially began in 1948, when a group of UN observers traveled to Israel to monitor a ceasefire between the new nation and its Arab neighbors, but the Suez Crisis marked the first armed UN Peacekeeping intervention. After Britain and France accepted a UN ceasefire on November 7, 1956, the UN dispatched a delegation to monitor the armistice and restore order. According to Urquhart, it was this mission that earned the group its nickname, the “blue helmets.” The UN had wanted to send the taskforce in with blue berets, but didn’t have time to assemble the uniforms. So instead, they spray-painted the liners of their plastic helmets blue.

8. THE CRISIS KILLED ANTHONY EDEN’S CAREER.

The Suez Crisis spelled the end for Anthony Eden. Soon after the ceasefire, he left Britain for three weeks to rest in Jamaica, on doctor’s orders. (He stayed at Ian Fleming’s Goldeneye estate.) When he returned, the British government was still reeling from the Suez Crisis. It was clear Eden would not survive the controversy. On January 10, 1957, he resigned with a report from four doctors stating “his health will no longer enable him to sustain the heavy burdens inseparable from the office of Prime Minister.” (Eden's reliance on Benzedrine has been a major plot point in The Crown, and many believe it's what clouded his judgment.) Eden would live for another 20 years, but the Suez Crisis was his legacy—one that defined his short term in office.

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11 Fast Facts About Cash Cab
Discovery Channel
Discovery Channel

Between 2005 and 2012, anyone hailing a taxi in New York harbored a secret wish: that they’d wind up in the Cash Cab. The mysterious vehicle was both a licensed city taxi and a mobile game show, one where passengers could win thousands of dollars just by answering a few trivia questions on the way to their destination. After five years away, it’s back on Discovery Channel with its original cabbie host, Ben Bailey. But before you slide into the Cash Cab seat once again, check out some trivia on the series itself. Who knows—it could come in handy during your next taxi ride.

1. THE SERIES ORIGINATED IN ENGLAND.

Before Cash Cab came to the U.S., it had a brief run in Britain. This Cash Cab aired on ITV with host John Moody. It kicked off in the summer of 2005 and, although producers had high hopes for the series, fizzled out by the following year.

2. THERE ARE CASH CABS ALL OVER THE WORLD NOW.

Since the American iteration of Cash Cab became a hit, the concept has expanded across the globe. Internationally, it’s earned airtime in India, Canada, Jamaica, Egypt, and many more countries. Just stateside, the show has had additional runs outside of New York. Check out a clip from Cash Cab Chicago, with host Beth Melewski, above.

3. BEN BAILEY HAD TO PASS A DRIVING TEST.

Before Ben Bailey was the host of Cash Cab, he was a stand-up comedian who drove limos to pay the bills. That side gig turned out to be useful when he auditioned for the show. According to NJ.com, Bailey demonstrated his skills behind the wheel by scoring a 92 on his taxi license exam. He got the Cash Cab job, and left his old chauffeuring job behind. But he still does stand-up comedy (in fact, he’s touring now).

4. BAILEY HAS SECRET HELPERS.

Cash Cab can’t run on one man or one vehicle alone; Bailey has a crew close by at all times. Esquire reported that a black van housing the audio and video team trails behind the car. Bailey also has assistants who hop into the cab after he has revealed his identity to passengers. They’ll get contestants to sign their release forms, then work the lights and music. These assistants also, crucially, keep track of how much money is on the line.

5. SOME CONTESTANTS ARE SELECTED AHEAD OF TIME.

Not all passengers are chosen randomly off the street. Some are prescreened, although even that process is a little sneaky. According to previous contestants, the Cash Cab staff often approaches people by saying they work for a made-up series called Show Me New York, where residents share their favorite spots in the city. They’ll give prospective contestants a quiz. If they do well, the staffers will tell them to go to a certain location to film their segment. That’s when they get in the cab, and Bailey reveals the ruse.

6. NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO PLAY.

Ben Bailey and the Cash Cab
Discovery Channel

While most people shriek in delight when the lights go off in the Cash Cab, not everyone is into the game. Bailey told NPR that when the show was first starting out, people regularly declined to participate. “People would kind of look at me and go, 'I don’t know what this crazy cab driver is up to, but I am out of here,'" he said. After the show gained attention, more passengers stuck around. But Bailey still got some hold-outs.

“I’ve had a couple people who burst into tears in the cab when I’ve told them what was going on,” he told Thrillist. “One time someone seemed to have some sort of panic attack, and then another time, this one woman was having an awful day—she just wanted to get in the cab and get where she needed to go. I was like, ‘Why are you crying in the Cash Cab? This is supposed to be fun, man!’”

7. THE CASH CAB IS FREE.

Regardless of how well they do, contestants never pay a fare for riding in the Cash Cab. Bailey still runs the meter, because the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission requires drivers to keep a record of the trip, but there’s no fee at the end of the trip. As Bailey puts it: The Cash Cab is one of only two free rides in New York. The other is the Staten Island Ferry.

8. THE BIGGEST PAYOUT WAS $6200.

To date, the biggest winner in Cash Cab history is a man named Sam, who took a ride with Bailey in 2011. He correctly answered a Video Bonus question about the Bonneville Salt Flats, doubling his $3100 in prize money to $6200. Anyone looking to beat Sam this season had better study up on America’s salt pans.

9. THE ORIGINAL CASH CAB WAS A TOYOTA SIENNA.

During the show’s original run, the Cash Cab was a Toyota Sienna minivan, sporting the taxi number 1G12. According to the Associated Press, the specs were so well-known that fans would chant the taxi number at Bailey’s standup shows in New York.

10. THE OLD CASH CAB IS CURRENTLY IN BAILEY’S GARAGE.

When the old Cash Cab minivan retired, it wound up in Bailey’s own garage in Morristown, New Jersey. “My neighbors are like, ‘Are you a cab driver?’” he told Entertainment Weekly. Bailey admits that he sometimes takes the car out for a drive, to “get people excited just to disappoint them.”

11. NO ONE HAS EVER THROWN UP IN THE CASH CAB.

Bailey gets this question all the time and would like to set the record straight: Nobody has ever puked in the Cash Cab. “Surprisingly, no one has,” he told the New York Post. “Once in a while you get someone who is a little disgruntled when they lose, but no release of bodily [fluids] happens on my watch.”

Hopefully, that streak will continue with the show's return.

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