11 Golden Girls References Explained for Younger Viewers

For those of you who were too young to watch the show when it first aired, many of the topical references might seem like ancient history. Hopefully, with this handy reference guide, those reruns will be twice as funny in the future.

1. DANNY THOMAS

“I’ve never known any personally, but isn’t Danny Thomas one?”
“Not Lebanese, Blanche, Lesbian.” — Dorothy, to Blanche, "Isn't it Romantic?"

Danny Thomas was born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz in Deerfield, Michigan, but grew up in Toledo, Ohio (also the hometown of fellow Lebanese-American actor Jamie Farr). When Thomas was struggling to make a name for himself in show business, he prayed to St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes, and pledged to make a shrine in his honor if he found success. Not long afterward, Thomas landed several regular roles on network radio shows, which ultimately led to his own long-running TV sitcom, Make Room for Daddy. Thomas went on to produce several other successful TV series and also founded the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

2. ISHTAR

“Let me tell you girls the three most important things I learned about life: Number one, hold fast to your friends; number two, there's no such thing as security; and number three, don't go see Ishtar. Woof.” —Sophia, "The Audit"

Ishtar is a 1987 comedy starring two box office powerhouses of that time, Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, as two untalented songwriters who get a gig performing in Morocco and somehow end up involved in some Cold War shenanigans. Directed by Elaine May, the film received a lot of negative press before it was released due to its enormous budget and reports of fights between the stars and director. It went on to become synonymous with “expensive box office bomb” and ended up on many “Worst of” lists.

3. DOUG HENNING

“Well Rose, do I look like the Mayor of Palm Springs?”
“Doug Henning is the Mayor of Palm Springs?” —Rose, to Sophia, "An Illegitimate Concern"

Doug Henning was a Canadian-born magician/illusionist who gained fame in the 1970s with his World of Magic TV specials, and eventually a Tony-nominated Broadway show.

4. FESS PARKER

“Rose, you know how uncomfortable I am in front of a camera. Besides, I always come out looking like Fess Parker.”
“Don't worry, Dorothy. This is a documentary; it's okay if you're not good looking.” —Rose, to Dorothy, "Whose Face Is This, Anyway?"

By NBC Television - eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Actor Fess Parker was actually considered to be ruggedly handsome, but that’s probably not the ideal look for a woman. Parker played both Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett on two different TV series in the 1950s and '60s.

5. HEE-HAW

“Rose, I've never met anyone quite like you.”
“Check the cornfield on Hee-Haw.” —Sophia, to Rose's boyfriend Miles, "Triple Play"

Hee-Haw was a long-running (over 20 years in first-run syndication) comedy/variety show that was a rural version of Laugh-In. Each episode was filled with hayseed humor (a recurring skit featured cast members trading one-liners in a makeshift cornfield) and the top country music stars of the day.

6. SUSAN HAYWARD AND ANITA BRYANT

“This is more moving than Susan Hayward's climatic speech in I Want To Live!
“You're ready to fly right out of here, aren't you?”
“Well excuse me for living, Anita Bryant!” —Caterer, to Blanche, "Sophia's Wedding: Part 1"

Susan Hayward won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Barbara “Bloody Babs” Graham, a former prostitute and small-time crook who gets involved with a gang of men that commit a murder. Badgered by the press and represented by poor legal counsel, Graham was ultimately sentenced to the gas chamber.

A former Miss America finalist, Anita Bryant became the spokeswoman for the Florida Citrus Commission in 1969 and appeared in a series of TV commercials singing the praises of orange juice. Then in 1977 she led a highly publicized campaign to repeal a Dade County, Florida, ordinance that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. Her statements equating homosexuals with child molesters resulted in a national backlash that, for many years, made “Anita Bryant” a common insult directed at any person displaying an intolerance for homosexuality.

7. BURL IVES

"That child over there is trying to steal my daddy away. She ain't better but a tick on a slow moving hound dog.”
“Why is everyone around here talking like Burl Ives?” —Dorothy, to Blanche, "Big Daddy's Little Lady"

Burl Ives wasn’t born in the south, strictly speaking, but rather southern Illinois. However, early in his career, he gained fame as a folk singer with such homespun hits as “Bluetail Fly,” “The Foggy, Foggy Dew,” and “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” He later acted in films and on television, and is probably best remembered today for his holiday hit “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” and his narration of the annual TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

8. SHINOLA

"You know, back in Minnesota, I was known as the Sherlock Holmes of St. Olaf.”
“Figured out which one was Shinola, did you, Rose?”
“The hard way.” —Rose, to Dorothy, "The Case of the Libertine Belle"

Shinola was a brand of shoe polish. In the 1940s, a popular colloquialism to describe someone’s naiveté was, “He doesn’t know sh*t from Shinola.” Perhaps that’s why the brand eventually went out of business; the Shinola folks couldn’t come up with an advertising slogan that was more memorable than the insult. 

9. THE PLO

“Maybe you ought to join an organization that is a little less fanatical in its devotion, honey.”
“Oh, like what, Blanche, the PLO?” —Dorothy, to Blanche, "Sophia's Wedding"

The Palestine Liberation Organization is a paramilitary organization founded in 1964 and was considered by the United States and Israel to be a terrorist group until the Madrid Conference in 1991.

10. YASSER ARAFAT

“You grow a beard, Dorothy! Believe me, I woke up one morning, I looked like Arafat!" —Sophia, to Dorothy, "End of the Curse"

Getty Images

When Sophia discussed the effects of menopause, she name-dropped Yasser Arafat, the longtime leader of the PLO, who was also known for his distinctive chin stubble. (Even younger viewers should probably understand this one.)

11. DAVID HOROWITZ

“I'm sorry, Dorothy, it's all my fault. I misunderstood the brochure.”
“'Fun in the buff at a mountain retreat! Hike, swim, and play volleyball while the sun beats down on your fanny!’ Call David Horowitz; I mean, how can they get away with this misrepresentation!” —Dorothy, to Rose, "Valentine's Day"

Consumer advocate David Horowitz used to host a TV show called Fight Back. He specialized in exposing false advertisements, shady business practices, and outright rip-offs.

11 Fun Facts About Them!

Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Joan Weldon and James Arness star in Them! (1954).
Warner Home Video

In the 1950s, Elvis was king, hula hooping was all the rage, and movie screens across America were overrun with giant arthropods. Back then, Tarantula (1955), The Deadly Mantis (1957), and other “big bug” films starring colossal insects or arachnids enjoyed a surprising amount of popularity. What kicked off this creepy-crawly craze? An eerie blockbuster whose impossible premise reflected widespread anxieties about the emerging atomic age. Grab a Geiger counter and let’s explore 1954's Them!.

1. Them!'s primary scriptwriter once worked for General Douglas MacArthur.

When World War II broke out, the knowledge Ted Sherdeman had gained from his career as a radio producer was put to good use by Uncle Sam, landing him a position as a radio communications advisor to General MacArthur. However, the fiery conclusion of the war left Sherdeman with a lifelong disdain for nuclear weapons. In an interview he revealed that upon hearing about the 1945 bombing of Hiroshima, he “just went over to the curb and started to throw up."

Shifting his focus from radio to motion pictures, Sherdeman later joined Warned Bros. as a staff producer. One day he was given a screenplay that really made his eyes bug out. George Worthing Yates, best known for his work on the Lone Ranger serials, had decided to take a stab at science fiction and penned an original script about giant, irradiated ants attacking New York City. "The idea appealed to me very much,” Sherdeman told Cinefantastique, "because, aside from man, ants are the only creatures in the world that plan to wage war, and nobody trusted the atomic bomb at that time.” (His statement about animal combat is debatable: chimpanzee gangs will also take organized, warlike measures in order to annex their rivals’ territories.)

Although he loved the basic concept, Sherdeman felt that the script needed something more. Screenwriter Russell S. Hughes was asked to punch up the script, but died of a heart attack after completing the first 50 pages. With some help from director Gordon Douglas, Sherdeman took it upon himself to finish the screenplay. Thus, Them! was born.

2. Two main ants were built for the movie.

Them! brought its spineless villains to life using a combination of animatronics and puppetry, courtesy of an effects artist by the name of Dick Smith. He constructed two fully functional mechanical ants for the production, with the first of these being a 12-foot monster filled with gears, levers, motors, and pulleys. Operating the big bug was a job that required a small army of technicians who’d pull sophisticated cables to control the ant’s limbs off-camera. These guys worked in close proximity and often crashed into each other as a result, prompting Douglas to call them “a comedy team.”

The big insect mainly appears in long shots, and for close-ups, Smith built the front three quarters of a second large-scale ant and mounted it onto a camera crane. During scenes that required swarms of ants, smaller, non-motorized models were used. Blowing wind machines moved the little units’ heads around in a lifelike manner.

3. Them! features the Wilhelm Scream.

Fifty-nine minutes in, the ants board a ship and one of them grabs a sailor, who unleashes the so-called "Wilhelm Scream." You can also hear it when James Whitmore’s character is killed, and the sound bite rings out once again during the movie’s climax. Them! was among the first movies to reuse this distinctive holler, which was originally recorded three years earlier for the 1951 western Distant Drums. Since then, it’s become something of an inside joke for sound recording specialists. The scream has appeared in Titanic (1997), Toy Story (1995), Reservoir Dogs (1992), Batman Returns (1992), the Star Wars saga (1977-present), all three The Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003), and countless other films.

4. Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance.

In one brief scene, future Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy plays an Army man who receives a message about an alleged “ant-shaped UFO” sighting over Texas. He then proceeds to poke fun at the Lone Star State, because, as everybody knows, insectile space vessels are highly illogical.

5. Many different sounds were combined to produce the screeching ant cries.

Throughout the movie, the monsters announce their presence with a haunting wail. Douglas’s team created this unforgettable shriek by mixing assorted noises, including bird whistles, which were artificially pitched up by sound technicians.

6. Sandy Descher had to sniff a mystery liquid during her signature scene.

Like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, Them! has a deliberate pace and the massive insects don’t make an onscreen appearance until the half hour mark. Douglas took credit for this restrained approach, saying, “I told Ted, let’s tease [the audience] a little bit before you see the ant. Let’s build up to it."

So instead of showing off the big bugs, the opening scene follows a little girl as she wanders through the New Mexican desert, listlessly clutching her favorite doll. That stunning performance was delivered by child actress Sandy Descher. Later, in one of the most effective title drop scenes ever orchestrated, a vial of formic acid is held under her character’s nose. Suddenly recognizing the aroma, the traumatized youngster screams “Them! Them!” Descher never found out what sort of liquid was really sloshing around in that container.

“They used something that did smell quite strange. It wasn’t ammonia, it was something else,” she told an interviewer. Still, the mysterious brew had a beneficial effect on her performance. “They tried to create something different and it helped me a lot with that particular scene,” Descher said.

7. Them! was originally going to be filmed in 3D and in color.

To hear Douglas tell it, the insect models looked a lot scarier in person. “I put green and red soap bubbles in the eyes,” he once stated. “The ants were purple, slimy things. Their bodies were wet down with Vaseline. They scared the bejeezus out of you.” For better or for worse, though, audiences never got the chance to savor the bugs’ color scheme.

At first, Warner Bros. had planned on shooting the movie in color. Furthermore, to help Them! compete with Universal’s brand-new, three-dimensional monster movie, Creature From the Black Lagoon, the studio strongly considered using 3D cameras. But in the end, the higher-ups at Warner Bros. didn’t supply Douglas with the money he’d need to shoot it in this manner. Shortly before production started on Them!, the budget was greatly reduced, forcing the use of two-dimensional, black and white film.

8. The setting of the climactic scene was changes—twice.

Yates envisioned the final battle playing out in New York City’s world-famous subway tunnels. Hughes moved the action westward, conjuring up an epic showdown between human soldiers and the last surviving ants at a Santa Monica amusement park. Finally, for both artistic and budgetary reasons, Sherdeman set the big finale in the sewers of Los Angeles.

9. Warner Bros. encouraged theaters to use Them! as a military recruitment tool.

The film’s official pressbook advised theater managers who were screening Them!& to contact their nearest Armed Forces recruitment offices. “Since civil defense in the face of an emergency figures in the picture, make the most of it by inviting [a] local agency to set up a recruiting booth in the lobby,” the filmmakers advised. Also, the document suggested that movie houses post signs reading: “What would you do if (name of city) were attacked by THEM?! Prepare for any danger by enlisting in Civil Defense today!”

10. The movie was a surprise hit.

Studio head Jack L. Warner predicted that Them!, with its far-fetched plot, wouldn’t fare well at the box office. So imagine his surprise when it raked in more than $2.2 million—enough to make the picture one of the studio's highest-grossing films of 1954.

11. Them! landed Fess Parker the role of TV's Davy Crockett.

When Walt Disney went to see Them!, he had a specific objective in mind: Scout a potential Davy Crockett. At the time, Disney was developing a new television series that would chronicle the life and times of the iconic frontiersman, and James Arness, who plays an FBI agent in Them!, was on the short list of candidates for the role. Yet as the sci-fi thriller unfolded, it was actor Fess Parker who grabbed Disney’s attention. Director Gordon Douglas had hired Parker to portray the pilot who ends up in a psych ward after an aerial encounter with a gargantuan flying ant. And while his character only appears in one scene, the performance impressed Disney so much that the struggling actor was soon cast as Crockett.

By the Texan’s own admission, his good fortune may’ve been the product of bargain hunting. “Walt probably asked, ‘How much would Arness cost?’ and then ‘This fellow [Parker], we ought to be able to get him real economical,” Parker once said.

George R.R. Martin Doesn't Think Game of Thrones Was 'Very Good' For His Writing Process

Kevin Winter, Getty Images
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

No one seems to have escaped the fan fury over the finals season of Game of Thrones. While likely no one got it quite as bad as showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, even author George R.R. Martin—who wrote A Song of Ice and Fire, the book series upon which the show is based, faced backlash surrounding the HBO hit. The volatile reaction from fans has apparently taken a toll on both Martin's writing and personal life.

In an interview with The Guardian, the acclaimed author said he's sticking with his original plan for the last two books, explaining that the show will not impact them. “You can’t please everybody, so you’ve got to please yourself,” he stated.

He went on to explain how even his personal life has taken a negative turn because of the show. “I can’t go into a bookstore any more, and that used to be my favorite thing to do in the world,” Martin said. “To go in and wander from stack to stack, take down some books, read a little, leave with a big stack of things I’d never heard of when I came in. Now when I go to a bookstore, I get recognized within 10 minutes and there’s a crowd around me. So you gain a lot but you also lose things.”

While fans of the book series are fully aware of the author's struggle to finish the final two installments, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring, Martin admitted that part of the delay has been a result of the HBO series, and fans' reaction to it.

“I don’t think [the series] was very good for me,” Martin said. “The very thing that should have speeded me up actually slowed me down. Every day I sat down to write and even if I had a good day … I’d feel terrible because I’d be thinking: ‘My God, I have to finish the book. I’ve only written four pages when I should have written 40.'"

Still, Martin has sworn that the books will get finished ... he just won't promise when.

[h/t The Guardian]

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