Did the Golden Girls Begin as a Joke?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: The Golden Girls spun out of a joke at an NBC function introducing the 1984-85 NBC lineup.

Few shows were quite as surprising of a hit as The Golden Girls, which ran from 1985-1992 and starred three veteran sitcom actresses (Bea Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan) and a longtime community theater actress who had only recently received her breakout role in her late 50s in the hit 1982 play, The Torch Song Trilogy, Estelle Getty (Getty shockingly was over a year younger than Arthur, who played her daughter – wigs and makeup can do wonders!). The show centered around three older single women moving in together (along with the mother of one of the women) to share a condominium in Miami. The show was a major success, anchoring NBC’s Saturday night lineup for years. It was a top ten show in the Nielson ratings its first six seasons.

The show was remarkably progressive for the era (following in the footsteps of Arthur and McClanahan’s previous series, Maude), dealing with all sorts of notable social issues of the era, from gay rights to the plight of the homeless to discrimination against people living with HIV. It was also a critical smash, winning Emmys for literally every member of the main cast (Getty won Best Supporting Actress for the show’s third season and the other three each won for Best Lead Actress in the show’s first three seasons, with White going first, then McClanahan and then finally Arthur). The show also spun off the hit show Empty Nest (in an indirect manner, as I detailed in an old TV Legend). It’s surprising, in an industry that tends to devalue older performers, that a show starring women in their 50s and 60s would be greenlit, let alone become a hit show. Naturally, then, the origins for The Golden Girls are strange. The show, you see, began as a joke.
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Did Dick Gregory Receive Almost 50,000 Votes in the 1968 Presidential Election?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: Dick Gregory received almost 50,000 votes in the 1968 Presidential Election.

Yesterday’s legend about Gracie Allen’s run for President reminded me of a similar story about the comedian Dick Gregory.

Dick Gregory became a stand-up comedian in the late 1950s, when black comedians were only then starting to get some attention from the national television market.

Gregory began appearing on various talk shows in the early 1960s doing his act and became a popular national comedian.

Gregory used this fame to become more of a political figure. This really took off when he released his 1964 book, Nigger: An Autobiography, to great commercial and critical acclaim (it sold roughly ten million copies!!!).

Gregory became a major figure in the civil rights movement, as well as various other movements that he supported, such as the legalization of certain drugs.

In 1967, he unsuccessfully ran for the office of the Mayor of Chicago.

In 1968, Gregory ran as a write-in candidate for the President of the United States.

And amazingly enough, unlike Gracie Allen, people actually DID vote for Gregory.
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Did Gracie Allen Really Receive Tens of Thousands of Write-In Votes for U.S. President in 1940?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to radio and the people “behind the microphone,” so to speak, and whether they are true or false.

RADIO URBAN LEGEND: Gracie Allen received tens of thousands of votes in a joke campgaign for President in 1940.

In the past, I’ve discussed the fact that Gracie Allen never actually said “Goodnight, Gracie.” on the popular television series starring George Burns and Gracie Allen (which was an extension from their equally popular radio show).

Now I’m going to debunk ANOTHER part of the Gracie Allen legend.

As you likely know by now, married entertainers George Burns and Gracie Allen were one of the most popular comedy duos of the 20th Century.

Allen’s act involved refining the “dumb blonde” character to absolute perfection.

Another way that Allen stood out was in the popularity of her publicity stunts. One popular gag involved her looking for her “lost brother George.”

She would show up on all different radio shows looking for him. It was great fun and great publicity for their radio show.

Another stunt involved Gracie running for the President of the United States in 1940.

Check out Radio Revisited if you’re interested in purchasing recordings from these landmark comedy programs.

Allen definitely DID “run” for President – as a member of the “Surprise Party.” However, for years the punchline to the gag was that she actually ended up getting actual votes!

Most accounts say 50,000 votes (I’ve seen others ranging from 40,000-50,000).

That would be pretty remarkable! But is it TRUE?
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Did Richard Rodgers Keep The Melody for “Edelweiss” From Being Used for a Hymn?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about musicals and whether they are true or false.

MUSICAL URBAN LEGEND: Richard Rodgers would not let the melody of “Edelweiss” be used for religious hymns.

As I mentioned in a past Musical Legends Revealed, many people mistakingly believe that Rodgers and Hammerstein’s song “Edelweiss” is actually an old Austrian folk song and not an original tune written in the late 1950s. This confusion has led to some controversy when some Christian churches began performing the song (with new lyrics, of course) during the 1970s as a benediction – “May the Lord, Mighty God.”
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Was Godzilla Originally Going to be a Giant Octopus?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Godzilla was originally going to be a giant octopus.

When Gohira (later Anglicized to Godzilla) was first released in Japan in 1954, it was to a country just nine years removed from the nuclear bomb destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and the non-nuclear leveling of Tokyo by Allied bombing attacks). Therefore, the idea of nuclear radiation forming a giant monster to terrorize Tokyo once again had a much different connotation in Japan sixty years ago than it does today. The general theme of the film was that nature (through Godzilla) was getting revenge against mankind for daring to create and use nuclear weapons. That approach has mostly been de-emphasized over the years. One thing that has stayed consistent for the most part, though, has been Godzilla’s basic appearance (besides some slight alterations here and there, including different coloring in different films). Since his debut, Godzilla has remained a scaly dinosaur-like creature (the scales themselves were meant to evoke the radiation scars that the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had). However, that was not the original plan for what Godzilla would like. Was Godzilla really originally supposed to be a giant octopus?
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Comic Book Legends Revealed #473-474

Here is a collection of Comic Book Legends Revealed from the last two weeks.

Click on any one to go to that column!
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Comic Book Legends Revealed #460-472

Here is a collection of Comic Book Legends Revealed from the last few months.

Click on any one to go to that column!
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Did Robin Williams Vow to Never Work for Disney Again Over a Dispute Over the Size of the Genie on the Aladdin Movie Poster?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Robin Williams vowed never to work for Disney again over a dispute over the size of the genie on the Aladdin movie poster.

Disney’s 1992 film, Aladdin, was a massive blockbuster and a good deal of the success was likely attributable to actor Robin Williams’ inspired performance as the Genie in the film. However, as it turned out, while the film itself was magical, Williams’ experience with Walt Disney Pictures was much less so, to the point where he vowed to not work for Disney again after what he claimed were violations of some interesting conditions he placed upon him performing in the movie, including the size of his character on the posters for the film.

Read on to see what the deal was!
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Comic Book Legends Revealed #459

Welcome to the four hundred and fifty-ninth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. This week, did Superman comics help Allied spies during World War II? How did the British version of G.I. Joe deal with their properties being merged in the 1980s? And did Marvel have to pulp an entire print run of a comic because they didn’t get clearance from the licencors before printing began?

Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and fifty-eight.

Click here to read this week’s legends.

Was Darth Vader Not Originally Luke Skywalker’s Father in Empire Strikes Back?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: Darth Vader was not originally Luke Skywalker’s father in The Empire Strikes Back.

Earlier this month, comedy writer Michael Schur, showrunner of Parks and Recreation and co-creator of Brooklyn 99, had an amusing tweet poking at a little bit of a plot hole in the Star Wars films:

“Owen, you must hide this baby, at all costs, from Anakin Skywalker.”
“Okay. Should we continue to call him Luke Skywalker?”
“Seems fine.”

The reason that that plot point did not exactly make sense was because originally Anakin Skywalker was not Darth Vader. It is fairly well known among even casual Star Wars fans that George Lucas’ original plans for “The Star Wars” were drastically different from what made it into the first film. This is the basis for Dark Horse Comics’ current mini-series The Star Wars, which is based on George Lucas’ original draft of the Star Wars story. However, as it turns out, there were still drastic changes to be made in Lucas’ plans for the films even after the first film, all the way up through the original screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back.

Read on to learn how the tragic death of a Sci-Fi legend might have re-shaped the Star Wars universe forever!
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