The untold truth of The Golden Girls

They were the original foursome. Long before Sex and the City, there were Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia. The Golden Girls, created by Susan Harris, originally aired from September 14, 1985, to May 9, 1992, spanning over seven seasons, with a total of 180 half-hour episodes.

The show stars Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty as four mature women sharing a home in Miami, Florida. The hilarious and touching show became a pop culture phenomenon. Think you already know these gals head-to-toe? Here are some facts you might not know about The Golden Girls.

Betty White was originally cast as Blanche

White read first for Blanche, then for Rose. Prior to The Golden Girls, White had appeared on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the "neighborhood nymphomaniac," Sue Ann Nivens.

Producers decided that if White played another man-hungry character, audiences might think it was Sue Ann revisited. So, it was decided Rose would be a better fit. Even with this drastic change, White was thrilled with playing her part.

Rue McClanahan kept her wardrobe

McClanahan had a clause written into her contract that allowed her to keep all of her character Blanche's custom-made clothing. Throughout the years she actively collected props, souvenirs, and artifacts during her years on The Golden Girls, with the intent of one day sharing them with her loyal fans.

Following her passing in 2010, Mark LaRue, a close friend of McClanahan's, launched a website as per McClanahan's wish. It allowed, after her friends and family selected their items, the rest of her memorabilia be made available for sale to the public. The proceeds were also donated to specified charities of her choosing.

Estelle Getty suffered from stage fright

Getty admitted to having stage fright. While the actress didn't begin acting seriously until she was 55, she was 62 when The Golden Girls began. "I'm afraid, you know? I live with fear as a constant companion. Can I do this week after week? Am I good enough? Will I be able to pull it off this week? Will I be able to fool them again?" she joked. "Every Friday I'm scared out of my wits, you know? I keep thinking, I don't believe that I'm in this. Wait til they find out that I can't do it." Sounds like even the pros can get stage fright, but it's a testament to her chops, that no one ever noticed!

The kitchen table only had three chairs

Four Golden Girls — but, only three chairs? The math doesn't add up! Well, according to director Terry Hughes, "There was a technical reason for that, because somebody would have had to sit with their back to the camera." Mystery solved!

He added, "It was a bit like the school bus. You take a seat and you have that seat for the rest of your life. Dorothy was always in the middle, and Rose and Blanche would switch sides depending on who had to leave the room the quickest." Sophia often pulled up a stool.

They got a lot of fan mail from teenage girls

"We got lots of letters from teenage girls who were unhappy at home and wanted to move in with us. They thought it was real life," McClanahan said, in an interview from the Archive of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. "The appeal of these four characters was their warmth and friendship and the fact that we stuck together through thick and thin." These four ladies seemed like the seemed the the grandmothers these teenagers wished they had.

Blanche and Dorothy were not so golden in real life

According to McClanahan, she didn't have the warmest friendship with Arthur. "Bea [Arthur] and I didn't have a lot of relationship going on. Bea is a very, very eccentric woman. She wouldn't go to lunch [with me] unless Betty [White] would go with her. She was very dependent on keeping everything as it always had been, and I was anything but that." You would never know by watching the show — their electric on-screen chemistry had us convinced they were inseparable.

The actresses were quite different from their characters

As convincing and perfect as they were in their respective roles, McClanahan states that they couldn't be more different from their Golden Girl characters. "None of us was like any of our characters. People ask me if I am like Blanche and my standard answer is, 'Get serious! Look at the facts, Blanche is a man-crazy, glamorous, extremely sexy, successful with men Southern belle from Atlanta, Georgia, and I'm not from Atlanta!"

She continued, "We weren't like our characters at all. Betty probably the least of all. I would say Estelle [Getty] was more like Sophia, although she wasn't at all pushy or vitriolic. Estelle was funny. She was Jewish, New York funny. She kept saying, 'Can't we make these characters Jewish?' She would have felt so much more comfortable than trying to be Italian, although it worked. Bea [Arthur] was the straightest character, the least eccentric, but certainly Dorothy's failure in life was very different from Bea's huge success in life. Bea has got a very funny take on people and she's quick-witted. And Betty [White] has nothing but brains. She's almost as smart as I am!" Sounds like McClanahan did channel her inner Blanche for the role!

Estelle Getty was actually one year younger than her TV daughter

"When I got the script, I assumed it was for the role of Dorothy. I talked to my managers, and they said, 'No, no, no, no, no, the part is for the grandmother…Dorothy's mother,'" Getty shared in a 1992 interview with Sandie Newton. The seasoned New York stage actress was touring Los Angeles with Harvey Fierstein's play Torch Song Trilogy. Her managers then convinced her to give Hollywood a try, according to the LATimes. Six weeks later, she booked The Golden Girls.

Emmy-nominated seven times for her role, with a win in 1988, Getty flawlessly portrayed a cantankerous 85-year-old, while just 60, herself. At the time, Bea Arthur, who played Getty's daughter, was 61. According to the NYTimes, Getty really won the role by showing up "for the final audition in the costume and makeup of a little old lady." As the series finale loomed, the actress reflected in the interview with Newton, on her character, Sophia, saying, "I really like that lady. I play her with all the love I can, because I think she's a great character. I think she's a great person. A caring, feisty, daring, optimistic, tough, smart lady."

Elaine Stritch was considered for the role of Dorothy

Of course, the role of Dorothy went to Bea Arthur, but Elaine Stritch had auditioned for it as well. She spoke of her disappointment at having not gotten the role in her stage show. Stritch explains that she felt the writer didn't like her on site, and when she tried to win her over? It didn't work. According to Stritch, the writer didn't care for her sense of humor and "colorful" language.

An impressive guest-star lineup

The show featured some impressive guest stars, including George Clooney, Jeffrey Tambor, Mario Lopez, Mickey Rooney, Dick Van Dyke, Debbie Reynolds, Jerry Orbach, Fred Willard, Quentin Tarantino and Burt Reynolds. It was a career booster for many young actors at the time, as well a coveted guest spot for seasoned pros.

Thank you for being our friends

As reported in Parade, three of the eternally beloved Golden Girls have since gone on to that "Miami retirement in the sky". First, the darling spitfire Sophia (Estelle Getty) died in 2008, from dementia, just before turning 85. A year later, Dorothy (Bea Arthur) died of cancer, at age 86. And a year after that, the ageless Blanche (Rue McClanahan) suffered a stroke in 2010, at 76.

But Rose? She's still kickin'. The incomparable Betty White, now 95 years old — and vibrant as ever, has kept up her work on multiple television comedies, every year. She is still advocating for animals, she's hosted SNL, and (new couple alert?) she definitely made out with Bradley Cooper.

The performances of these four incredibly talented women, as well as brilliant writing — episode after episode, enshrines the show as a pop culture phenomenon today. The Golden Girls continues to gain new fans of all ages, thanks to its heart, hilarity, and universal appeal. Go ahead and grab a slice of cheesecake, while the theme song plays you out!

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