My life has been immersed with The Golden Girls this year. While this differs little from my life any other year, it’s taken on considerably more heft since January. If you know me, follow my social media presence, or have looked around this website, you probably already know the following:
I recently signed a contract with Globe Pequot, a division of Rowman and Littlefield, to publish what I tentatively titled Isn’t Danny Thomas One? The Definitive Golden Girls Reference Guide. The title could very well change as I navigate the editorial process. The target audience will get it. But is it too specific for the casual fan? We’ll figure that out later.
Anyway, I’d been percolating this idea for quite a long time. If you’ve seen even one episode of The Golden Girls, you’ve undoubtedly heard a joke referencing a person, company, event, product, etc., that gets big laughs from the studio audience but, if you’re younger than, say, 35, you very likely haven’t the foggiest idea what they’re talking about. Wouldn’t it be nice, I said to myself, if there existed a book that explained all of these references? Like a Golden Girls pop culture encyclopedia! So I pitched it to my agent in January. He believed in the idea and urged me to write a book proposal. (That’s generally how it’s done. If you’re writing a novel, you write the novel and sell it. If it’s non-fiction, you write and sell the proposal, then write the book itself.)
Now, if you’ve never written a book proposal before, one of the common components in the pitch is to convince a potential publisher that you are in fact the person to write this book. If I were writing a book about marine biology, I would discuss my credentials as a marine biologist. So what qualifies me to write a book about The Golden Girls? I’m not a Golden Girl. I wasn’t involved with the show. I’m not Bea Arthur’s grandson. I was all of 12 years old when the show ended in 1992.
But we sold the book in a matter of weeks, so the concept, coupled with my supposed qualifications, must’ve been enough. While I didn’t go into all this detail in the proposal, I did seriously ponder what I felt qualified me to be the person to write the book, so I thought I’d elaborate here.
Without further ado, here’s why I feel more than qualified to consider myself a Golden Girls expert.
- I’m of the age, like a lot of us, who grew up watching NBC’s Saturday night lineup with my grandma. Every weekend, waiting for The Golden Girls and Empty Nest was very much a thing for me.
- I vividly remember watching various episodes during the original run, to this day: the Shelley Long joke from The Housekeeper, Blanche making her way to Sicily to track down a runaway Sophia, the hurricane crossover night. I watch the episodes now and still recall the original airing.
- I religiously watched the reruns when they landed on Lifetime in the 90s and recorded them on VHS, before owning seasons of TV shows on DVD was a thing.
- When I got my first computer with high school graduation money, instead of looking up what one might think a teenage boy would look up on the internet, I was searching for The Golden Girls and Empty Nest.
- I involved myself in the online Golden Girls fandom, which was already active even in those early days of the internet. We’re talking mid- to late-90s. The era of chat rooms, message boards, email lists, ICQ, and Geocities fan sites.
- Realizing that, even then, Golden Girls fandom was massive but Empty Nest was getting a little left behind, I decided to pick up the torch for it myself and created my own Empty Nest fan site at Geocities. I taught myself HTML code, because WordPress templates were 15 years in the future. (Stay with me on this Empty Nest connection. I know The Golden Girls is superior, but for me these shows are a match set.)
- When The Golden Girls began being released on DVD, I purchased each season as soon as it came out and watched and rewatched.
- I’ve relished in the revival of the show’s (and Betty White’s) popularity with the masses. There’s always been the online love, but nothing like what has happened the past several years. I admittedly don’t own a lot of the merchandise, but I do have some select pieces – the Funko Pops, some of the board games, a couple coffee mugs, the cereal. (Yes, the cereal. I even bought two boxes: one to keep and one to try. It sucked.)
- When it landed on Hulu, I began streaming it routinely. I’m on my second rewatch for the book alone.
- All the while, I’ve kept the Empty Nest site alive, eventually moving it to WordPress and setting up pretty active social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter.
- In 2015, I launched an Empty Nest reunion interview series, hoping I might be able to reach a crew member or two. Instead, in the span of a week or so, I was trading emails and phone calls with Dinah Manoff, Park Overall, David Leisure, Marsha Warfield, and others.
- Those interviews revealed some very interesting insights about the Girls and what they were like around the set – Bea Arthur’s strong dislike of both chewing gum and Betty White were recurring morsels.
- I’m now forty and have spent the bulk of my life being what I guess one might label a “super fan” of The Golden Girls and Empty Nest. And I’m proud of it!
- And as for credentials, I also have a master’s degree in marketing and have worked in the communications and media industry my entire career, so that helped with the pitch, too.
So while I never imagined I’d parlay my Golden Girls love into a book, I’m sure the other writers who authored Golden Girls books, or the hosts of Golden Girls podcasts or what have you, ever thought they’d do those things either – until they did them. Hell, when I taught myself HTML code at 17 to make an Empty Nest website, I never imagined I’d someday be on the phone with Park Overall hearing about Bea Arthur’s love of dirty books.
I’d never be so presumptuous as to proclaim myself the world’s biggest Golden Girls fan or expert or whatever you want to call it, because I’m sure there are plenty of folks who can make such a claim, but I’m pretty confident I can do this book justice. And I’m working hard to be thorough.
Now, I’ll happily express humility with the Girls, but if any of you even think of proclaiming yourself the biggest Empty Nest fan out there, I will fight you. I mean, I’m pretty much an honorary Weston after all.