CLOSE
Original image
YouTube

20 Fun Facts About The Golden Girls

Original image
YouTube

The Golden Girls made its debut over 30 years ago, but the series still remains fresh for generations of new viewers thanks to great writing and syndicated reruns. Here are 20 things you might not have known about Dorothy, Rose, Blanche, and Sophia.

1. LEE GRANT WAS SERIES CREATOR SUSAN HARRIS'S FIRST CHOICE FOR DOROTHY.

Grant had starred in Harris's short-lived 1978 sitcom, Fay. Grant, however, was unenthusiastic about playing a grandmother, so the part was eventually offered to Bea Arthur. Though not immediately.

2. NBC WAS AGAINST CASTING BEA ARTHUR.

Harris actually wrote the role of Dorothy with Arthur in mind, having worked with the actress on several episodes of Maude. But then-NBC president Brandon Tartikoff was against the idea, stating that Arthur’s “Q” score (a rating system of a performer’s audience appeal) was too low—she was recognizable, but not “loveable,” thanks to Maude’s liberal leanings. Broadway legend Elaine Stritch was a contender for the part, but she alienated the producers by improvising her dialogue and dropping an “F” bomb during her audition.

3. RUE MCCLANAHAN PUSHED BEA ARTHUR TO PURSUE THE PART.

Rue McClanahan gave her reluctant Maude co-star the final push to convince her to give The Golden Girls a try. According to McClanahan, she phoned Arthur and asked her incredulously, “Why are you going to turn down the best script that’s ever going to come across your desk as long as you live?”

4. BETTY WHITE AND RUE MCCLANAHAN PASSED THE TIME WITH WORD GAMES.

Betty White had always been a fierce competitor when she appeared on Password back in the day, and she found a kindred spirit in Rue McClanahan when it came to word games. The two ladies frequently played alphabet games in between takes throughout the entire day of taping.

5. ESTELLE GETTY WAS ONE YEAR YOUNGER THAN HER TV DAUGHTER.

During the show's first season, it took the makeup department 45 minutes to transform Getty into Sophia Petrillo. That aging process became even more complex when Getty turned up looking even younger when season two began (she’d had a facelift during the summer hiatus).

6. GETTY SUFFERED FROM EXTREME STAGE FRIGHT.

Rue McClanahan recalled that Getty would seem to have a “black cloud” hanging over her head beginning Thursdays during dress rehearsal. During Friday tapings she would often freeze on camera. She was the least experienced actress of the four, and it intimidated her. In a 1988 interview she stated that working every week with talent like Bea Arthur and Betty White scared her out of her wits. She felt like a fraud and worried that the fans would “find out” that she wasn’t as good as her co-stars.

7. MCCLANAHAN'S FAVORITE EPISODE WAS "JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF ATTENTION."

It's the season seven episode in which Dorothy uncharacteristically becomes popular at The Rusty Anchor, Blanche’s favorite place for meeting men. At McClanahan's request, the producers hired choreographer Gregory Scott Young to carefully stage the scene where Blanche seductively sings “I Want to Be Loved by You” on top of a grand piano while encountering one mishap after another.

8. QUEEN ELIZABETH IS A HUGE GOLDEN GIRLS FAN.

The Queen invited the stars of the show to perform live at 1988’s Royal Variety Performance in London. The Girls reenacted two of their kitchen table scenes (with a bit of censoring, so as not to offend any royal sensibilities). One line that was surprisingly left intact was Sophia’s interjection to Dorothy’s question to Blanche about how long she had waited to have sex again after her husband had died. The then-88-year-old Queen Mum was spotted in the Royal Box chuckling heartily at Sophia’s risqué response: “Until the paramedics came.”

9. THERE WERE ONLY THREE CHAIRS AT THE KITCHEN TABLE.

YouTube

Eagle-eyed fans have noticed over the years that although there were four women living in the Miami house, there were always only three chairs around that famous kitchen table. That was strictly due to the limitations of filming—to avoid either squeezing all four shoulder-to-shoulder or having one actress with her back to the camera. Bea was always given the center chair, both because of her height and also in order to catch her priceless facial expressions.

10. THE OTHER CHARACTERS' PLACEMENT AT THE TABLE WAS SITUATION-DEPENDENT.

The placement of the other characters around the table depended upon the particular situation, and which character might need to exit the kitchen. On those occasions when all four characters had to be seated, a tall stool was scooted up to the outskirt of the conclave.

11. THE KITCHEN SET WAS A HAND-ME-DOWN.

Speaking of that iconic kitchen: the main reason for its particular design was that it was a set leftover from another short-lived Harris sitcom called It Takes Two. It starred Richard Crenna and Patty Duke Astin as a dual-career couple—he was a doctor, she was a lawyer—with two teenaged children.

12. DOROTHY BORROWED HER LAST NAME FROM THE SHOW'S STAGE MANAGER.

Dorothy’s last name was lifted from Kent Zbornak, who worked as the stage manager for the show for the entire run of the series. Susan Harris had worked with Kent on Soap in 1977 and fell in love with his surname.

13. BETTY WHITE'S FAVORITE EPISODE WAS "A LITTLE ROMANCE."

In this first season episode, Rose is reluctant to introduce the ladies to her new boyfriend, psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Newman, because he is a little person. White said that despite the fact that “every ‘short’ joke in the book” was used, none of the humor was truly hurtful.

14. BEA ARTHUR DID NOT HAVE PIERCED EARS.

All of those “crazy earrings” (Arthur's words) that Golden Girls stylist Judy Evans gave Dorothy were clip-ons. Arthur loved the dramatic effect of the jewelry, but hated that her ears were numb with pain by the end of the day.

15. ESTELLE GETTY HAD A PHOBIA ABOUT DEATH.

Which was a definite handicap when starring in a show about four senior women. It was a tribute to Getty's acting skills that Sophia always seemed very nonchalant and effortlessly tossed off quips in funeral home scenes.

16. RUE MCCLANAHAN GOT TO KEEP BLANCHE'S CLOTHES.

Rue McClanahan had a clause written into her contract that allowed her to keep all of Blanche’s custom-made clothing. She reportedly had 13 closets full of the designer duds.

17. ONE EPISODE WAS AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL FOR SUSAN HARRIS.

The two-part episode entitled “Sick and Tired” was based on Susan Harris’ real-life struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome, and Dorothy’s struggle to find a doctor who would take her symptoms seriously is still relevant for many women. A 2011 study showed that 62 percent of doctors referred men to cardiologists when they complained of chest pain and shortness of breath, while less than 30 percent did the same for their female patients—instead, they counseled those women to “take it easy” and prescribed them anti-anxiety medications.

18. BLANCHE'S MIAMI HOME WAS LOCATED IN LOS ANGELES.

Even though the Girls’s official address was 6151 Richmond Street in Miami, Florida, the original exterior shots of Blanche’s house were of a home located at 245 North Saltair Avenue in Los Angeles, California. According to real estate records, that 2901-square-foot house has four bedrooms and four bathrooms and is valued at a little over $3 million. The house is still there, but is now surrounded by high walls and foliage to discourage curious fans.

19. DOROTHY'S FLAT SHOES WERE A NOD TO BEA ARTHUR'S PERSONAL STYLE.

The nearly 5-foot-10-inch actress once stated in an interview that when she was younger she wished she could wear heels, but that would have meant towering over most of her dates in high school, then later over the actors she worked with in the theater. By the time “heightism” was no longer a concern, Arthur found that she couldn’t balance properly or walk elegantly in even one-inch heels.

20. THE SHOW INTRODUCED A NEW WORD TO TELEVISION VIEWERS.

The Golden Girls introduced a new word to non-Floridian viewers: lanai. Architecturally speaking, a lanai is a porch or veranda with a cement floor and an awning and is sometimes also enclosed by screens. Of course, we can always count on Sophia to simplify matters:

Dorothy: We are throwing a surprise birthday party for Blanche. I want you to go out to the lanai and mingle with the other guests.
Sophia: Check! ...What's a lanai?
Dorothy: The porch!
Sophia: Excuse me, Krystle Carrington!

All images courtesy of Getty Images, unless otherwise stated

Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
arrow
technology
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
Original image
iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

Original image
iStock
arrow
Health
One Bite From This Tick Can Make You Allergic to Meat
Original image
iStock

We like to believe that there’s no such thing as a bad organism, that every creature must have its place in the world. But ticks are really making that difficult. As if Lyme disease wasn't bad enough, scientists say some ticks carry a pathogen that causes a sudden and dangerous allergy to meat. Yes, meat.

The Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) mostly looks like your average tick, with a tiny head and a big fat behind, except the adult female has a Texas-shaped spot on its back—thus the name.

Unlike other American ticks, the Lone Star feeds on humans at every stage of its life cycle. Even the larvae want our blood. You can’t get Lyme disease from the Lone Star tick, but you can get something even more mysterious: the inability to safely consume a bacon cheeseburger.

"The weird thing about [this reaction] is it can occur within three to 10 or 12 hours, so patients have no idea what prompted their allergic reactions," allergist Ronald Saff, of the Florida State University College of Medicine, told Business Insider.

What prompted them was STARI, or southern tick-associated rash illness. People with STARI may develop a circular rash like the one commonly seen in Lyme disease. They may feel achy, fatigued, and fevered. And their next meal could make them very, very sick.

Saff now sees at least one patient per week with STARI and a sensitivity to galactose-alpha-1, 3-galactose—more commonly known as alpha-gal—a sugar molecule found in mammal tissue like pork, beef, and lamb. Several hours after eating, patients’ immune systems overreact to alpha-gal, with symptoms ranging from an itchy rash to throat swelling.

Even worse, the more times a person is bitten, the more likely it becomes that they will develop this dangerous allergy.

The tick’s range currently covers the southern, eastern, and south-central U.S., but even that is changing. "We expect with warming temperatures, the tick is going to slowly make its way northward and westward and cause more problems than they're already causing," Saff said. We've already seen that occur with the deer ticks that cause Lyme disease, and 2017 is projected to be an especially bad year.

There’s so much we don’t understand about alpha-gal sensitivity. Scientists don’t know why it happens, how to treat it, or if it's permanent. All they can do is advise us to be vigilant and follow basic tick-avoidance practices.

[h/t Business Insider]

SECTIONS
BIG QUESTIONS
arrow
BIG QUESTIONS
WEATHER WATCH
BE THE CHANGE
JOB SECRETS
QUIZZES
WORLD WAR 1
SMART SHOPPING
STONES, BONES, & WRECKS
#TBT
THE PRESIDENTS
WORDS
RETROBITUARIES