Inside the Real 'Golden Girls' House
"The Golden Girls" first aired on NBC in 1985, lasted seven seasons, won numerous Emmys, and was loaded with more dirty jokes than any 10-year-old grandkid could understand. The show is an iconic sitcom with incredible writing, and the majority of it takes place inside a mid-century modern house in Los Angeles, California.
In 2020, for the first time in 65 years, "The Golden Girls" house was up for sale — well, at least the one used in establishing shots. The home owned by Blanche Devereaux (played by Rue McClanahan) was a set, of course. But the outside of the house looks just like it did when it was shown in "The Golden Girls."
Come take a look inside. And to celebrate "The Golden Girls" being 35-plus years old, peek behind the scenes of this legendary show.
The Real House
The "Golden Girls" house will look familiar to fans of the show. In fact, it really hasn't changed all that much.
The home is located in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles and sold for $4 million.
The House from the Establishing Shots
This is an establishing shot of the house used in "The Golden Girls." There are fewer ferns, but otherwise, it looks quite unchanged.
"The Golden Girls" takes place in Miami, Florida, but was filmed in front of a live studio audience.
Here's another angle of the front of the house from the show.
According to Mansion Global, producers selected the home because of its exotic plants, which gave it a more Miami look.
A Street View
This Google Maps screenshot gives a better look at the front lawn.
You can see evidence of "Golden Girls" ferns and how some of the plants near the house have changed or have been replaced.
The home is 2,901 square feet with four bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms and was built in 1955. It's somewhat similar to the show, too.
"The Golden Girls" creators received blueprints of this house to replicate the sets used in the show.
Speaking of the home's blueprints, here they are. Like in the show, the living room is central to the house, with the kitchen to the right. Compare these blueprints to what the fictional "Golden Girls" house may have looked like with this artist's conception.
However, "The Golden Girls" fictional house doesn't make any sense. The producers had no idea where the garage really was, and Rose's bedroom looked like it was in the backyard.
People would actually write into the show asking why the house doesn't line up, and designer Ed Stephenson would write back, encouraging them to keep watching because it would all make sense eventually, according to Jim Colucci in his book "Golden Girls Forever."
The Show's Living Room
The show's interior features floor-to-ceiling windows and a sunroom in the back.
Of course, there's the pink-cushioned rattan couch, which is placed front and center for the cameras.
Like the show, the house has hardwood flooring and a vaulted post and beam ceiling.
While there's no sun room, the home's back wall is made of glass.
The reason "The Golden Girls" became so successful was because of the four stars: McClanahan, Betty White (who played Rose), Beatrice Arthur (Dorothy) and Estelle Getty (Sophia, Dorothy's mom).
No group of people other than McClanahan, White, Arthur and Getty could make "The Golden Girls" work so well. Of course, it could have been different. McClanahan originally auditioned for the role of Rose, and White was considered for the role of Blanche. During an audition, the show's creators asked each one to switch characters.
Both of them did so well that the parts were swapped.
The Living Room
The interior of the real "Golden Girls" house was inspired by Japanese and Hawaiian mid-century modern architecture, according to the listing.
It has a beach house vibe, not unlike something you'd find in Miami.
Friends or Foes?
The Golden Girls became good friends on set, but as time went on, some kind of rift was rumored to have occurred between Arthur, White and McClanahan.
In a 2006 interview, McClanahan said that she and Arthur didn't "have a lot of relationship going on."
However, Arthur and White were close, at least at first. Arthur wouldn't go out to eat with McClanahan unless White went with her.
Thank You for Being a Friend
Supposedly, Arthur was a very serious performer and didn't like it when White would chat with the audience. However, Matthew Saks, Arthur's son, says there was no real animosity, even though he hints that his mom may have felt like she was the better actor.
"My mom was the real deal," he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016. "I think she felt she was more of an actress than Betty. Mom came from Broadway. Betty starred on a game show at one point."
But he also says, "There was no fighting at all. They were friends. At one point, they lived close enough that they would drive each other to work."
No Room for a Studio Audience
Instead of a live studio audience interrupting your regular life with laughter, there's a large floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace with an extended floating hearth.
The real home has oak wood flooring. Sliding shoji doors complement the home's Japanese architectural inspirations.
Not Fans of the Show
According to Mansion Global, a lawyer and his wife built the house in the 1950s and lived there until their deaths.
Their son said neither of them watched sitcoms, so they weren't fans of the show.
A Talented Team of Writers
Writers for "The Golden Girls" have gone on to write for several shows and movies.
Mitchell Hurwitz went on to create "Arrested Development," Mar Cherry created "Desperate Housewives," and Christopher Lloyd co-created "Modern Family."
Writers Mort Nathan and Barry Fanaro wrote the 1996 cult movie "Kingpin."
The house has a lanai, just like its fictional counterpart.
It also features stone slab flooring and a skylight to let the sun shine in on the vaulted awning.
The house sits on a private 0.26-acre lot and has ample backyard space.
The show has a lanai, too, although it was much larger, and covered by a veranda.
But here's a fact about Bea Arthur: NBC didn't want her to play Dorothy, even though the showrunners knew she was perfect. According to the suits, they thought Arthur was unpopular because she was very liberal in real life (and remained so until her death in 2009). She was the titular lead in the 1972 TV show "Maude," which included a controversial episode of Maude having an abortion, two months before the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade.
Susan Harris, the show's creator, and her husband, "Golden Girls" producer, Paul Witt, badgered the executives into letting Arthur star in the show, saying it was an ensemble piece, and that the show's success would not depend only on her.
The Dining Room
The dining room, separated by one of those sliding shoji doors, is simple and very open.
A large sliding glass door opens to the back yard for easy indoor/outdoor dining if desired.
Real-Life 'Golden Girls'? She's Done That
In an interview, Rue McClanahan revealed that she had lived with two other girls in a house and stressed it wasn't quite as fun as "The Golden Girls" made it out to be.
"We had very different relationships," says McClanahan, who also said she remained very good friends with both of the roommates. "But she was a Nazi," she said, affecting a German accent. "Everything had to be in ze right place, the kitchen had to be perfect ... the other one was very casual. They were very [puts hands up, mimicking fighting]. I was always in the middle."
Another shot of the dining room showcasing the wooden, geometric chairs and the inset paneled wall.
The Golden Girls, Plus Coco?
"The Golden Girls" originally had just three Golden Girls (Rose, Dorothy and Blanche) and a gay housekeeper named Coco, named after show creator Susan Harris' dog.
According to Colucci's "Golden Girls Forever," Jeffery Jones (who played the principal in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off") was in the running. But after an audition, Jones talked himself out of a job, saying he didn't think the character was realistic and that it took away from the leading ladies. He turned out to be right.
The part eventually went to Charles Levin, who only appeared in the pilot episode. His part was scrapped to make way for Sofia, who was originally only set to be a recurring character.
Cheesecake, anyone? The kitchen is the coolest part of the house because it's original to the home.
The avocado, green and yellow colors further the kitchen's retro layout and classic features.
Time for Cheesecake
In "The Golden Girls," the kitchen is the other main room in the house, where the girls bickered, traded barbs and ate. Sophia would sometimes cook at the stove, looking like a great-grandmother.
But Estelle Getty was only 61 years old when the show premiered. In order to look the role, she had to undergo a hair and makeup procedure that took nearly an hour for her to transform into the 80-something Sophia.
To secure the part of Sophia, Getty went thrift shopping in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles, buying a straw hat, gloves, orthopedic shoes and that classic big straw purse. The props department loved the purse so much they had another one made in case of an emergency, according to Colucci.
A Place to Eat Cheesecake
Throw a table cloth over that table, and it might resemble the one from "The Golden Girls."
The pendant lighting will provide just the right amount of illumination while regaling guests with stories about St. Olaf.
Once in St. Olaf
When Betty White had to tell Rose's St. Olaf stories, she would look over her co-stars' shoulders.
The writers would throw her difficult Scandinavian words, and White would have to concentrate on getting them right.
Meanwhile, the other girls would be looking at her, wondering if she would be able to pull it off without stumbling all over herself.
The Show's Kitchen Was Recycled
Another reason why this kitchen doesn't look like the one on the show? It wasn't original.
The set was from a forgotten television show called "It Takes Two," which had a lot of big-name stars (Patty Duke, Richard Crenna, Helen Hunt, and Anthony Edwards) but lasted one season from 1982 until 1983.
The biggest thing that changed was the window. It once held a picture of the Chicago skyline and now showed Miami palm trees in "The Golden Girls."
Estelle Getty was a trained actress on Broadway, but she was still green when it game to sitcom acting.
"She couldn't remember her lines. She would freeze and panic," McClanahan said. "She would start getting under a dark cloud the day before tape day. ... By tape day, she was unreachable, as uptight as a human being could get."
Presumably, Getty got over her fears, although McClanahan does not say she did or didn't.
Tablecloths and Lines
Estelle Getty was so afraid of forgetting her lines that she would write her lines down on various things in the kitchen.
"Everything in the vicinity of the kitchen table was graffitied by Estelle," art director Michael Hynes told Colucci. "She would take a permanent marker and write her lines all over. I kept waiting for her to say a line from a previous episode, but she never did."
Producers had 50 to 60 different tablecloths on hand in case one tablecloth clashed with one of the women's clothes. They were stored behind the fridge.
The house was designed by Johnson and Perkins, Hawaiian architects who designed residential and commercial buildings mainly in the Aloha State from the 1950s until the early 1990s.
The Half Bathroom
The home's only half bathroom features the same oak hardwood flooring as the rest of the house.
A single-basin sink with exposed plumbing is seated in a wavy countertop.
Bea Arthur, while she loved the show, did not enjoy all the jokes made at her expense. "The Golden Girls" is famous for its insults, but with Arthur, it was different. Rose the character was stupid, Betty White was not.
Jokes made at the character's expense didn't hurt the actors, but the jokes written at Dorothy's expense primarily consisted of her being "big and ugly," according to writer David Goodman, as told in Colucci's book. It was known as "Dorothy bashing" among the writers.
"Bea started to feel very insecure about it, so the writers had to take those jokes out of their scripts."
More Southern Than Any Southerner
McClanahan played the part of Blanche with an over-the-top Southern accent and demeanor that was supposed to be "more Southern than Blanche DuBois," as she had frequently said.
McClanahan played the part of DuBois, the fictional character in Tennesse Williams' 1947 play "A Streetcar Named Desire," at the Pasadena Playhouse in the 1950s.
Her personal, heavily annotated copy of "A Streetcar Named Desire" is for sale at The Estate of Rue, an estate sale website established after her death in 2010 at the age of 76.
The 'Golden Girls' Helped Fund 'Reservoir Dogs'
Before Quentin Tarantino made movies, he "had a very unsuccessful acting career," he told Jimmy Fallon. One of those gigs was as an Elvis impersonator on "The Golden Girls" for the fourth-season episode "Sophia's Wedding." In it, Rose messes up the guest list with a list of Elvis impersonators and invites them to Sophia's wedding.
It was a two-part episode, and Tarantino's background role was replayed on the second part, so he received residuals for both episodes. It proved popular enough to be replayed a bunch on syndication, and over the course of about three years, Tarantino received around $3,000 in total.
"That kept me going during our pre-production time trying to get 'Reservoir Dogs' going," he said.
The Master Bedroom
The master bedroom is very large, with nearly 500 square feet of living space.
The built-in drawers are likely original to the house (they don't make 'em like that anymore), and the room can open up to the backyard.
On the show, Blanche has the main bedroom, decked out in Martinique banana leaf wallpaper copied from the design found in the Beverly Hills Hotel.
For the wallpaper to match the bed sheets, the show's designers had to have custom-made sheets made at $50 per yard (about $120 today).
One of the designers took the sheets home to ensure they wouldn't get lost and slept on them for an entire summer.
Four Bedrooms for the New Owner
There are four bedrooms in the real house.
With four bedrooms, you could easily come up with a "Golden Girls"-type of living situation.
Rent would be much more expensive than what the Golden Girls were paying, though.
Each of the characters' bedrooms was decorated according to their personalities.
Sophia, being from New York City, had a room that was designed to look like its pieces came from the Big Apple.
Most of the furniture was from a used furniture shop in Hollywood, although the wallpaper was designer stuff from Albert Van Luit.
Lots of Light
While there are only two sources of natural light in the bedroom, they're large sources.
The mid-century modern design embraces large windows and sliding glass doors that let the Los Angeles sun light up the room.
Dorothy's room, like her wardrobe, was made to look very put-together. It's has a no-nonsense decor, with a pair of multi-drawer cabinets on each side. Those cabinets are now in the Warner Bros. prop collection.
According to Hynes, the gray rattan desk in the bedroom "cost a fortune — but by that point, the show was printing money, so the producers didn't care," he said in Colucci's book.
The Master Bathroom
The master bathroom is spacious, with a double-vanity countertop and a walk-in shower.
It's not as large as "The Golden Girls"'s bathroom, but few are.
What's that? You don't remember the "Golden Girls" bathroom?
The 'Golden Girls'' Massive, Fictional Bathroom
If you don't remember the "Golden Girls"'s bathroom, it's because it was rarely shown. In fact, it may have only been shown in full in one episode.
It's a ridiculously large, cavernous bathroom, with huge blue tiles and a glassed-in shower situated behind an archway.
Pretty cool, but also pretty weird.
A Much More Reasonable Bathroom
Back in reality, the real master bathroom is about 130 square feet, with a tub separate from the shower.
And not under an archway.
The Guest Bedroom
This guest bedroom is almost as large as the master, with 339 square feet of living space.
If it were the show, this would be Rose's room, which is the second-largest bedroom in the fictional house.
Rose's bedroom has cloud-shaped wallpaper with a rattan bead and lots of pink.
Set designers purchased this furniture from a Wickes Furniture store in San Fernando Valley (the furniture chain went bankrupt in 2008).
The guest bedroom, like Rose's fictional room, has enough room for extra seating.
There's also a built-in bookshelf and classic mid-century modern shelving with sliding cabinet doors.
In between takes and throughout the day on set, McClanahan and White would play word games to pass the time.
The house has a small office space of 145 square feet and opens up to the back porch and yard.
It's not a huge space, but it's expensive. At a price of $1,034 per square foot, this room costs $149,930.
No Gum on Set
As mentioned before, Arthur took acting very seriously. She also had some quirks and serious pet peeves.
She reportedly did not want anyone to chew gum on set, and at one point, wanted to have an extra fired for doing so. She hated shoes and walked on set barefoot when she could, having written into her contract that she wouldn't sue the show if she hurt herself while doing so (she also didn't like wearing them on the street).
And she was scared of birds.
It's All About the Pedigree
The real "Golden Girls" house is priced at $2.999 million, about $250,000 more than the median listing price for the area and roughly $1.2 million more than the average sale price.
The price is a bit steeper than the competition, but the "Golden Girls" pedigree might net the seller that extra cash.
During Rehearsals, Stick to the Script
One actor vying for the part of Dorothy was Elaine Stritch, whom NBC executive Warren Littlefield wanted for the part. Stritch came into the audition already at a disadvantage (since many were already pulling for Arthur) and was met by a group of people who were likely set against hiring her. It threw her off her game, so she asked show creator Susan Harris if she could change a few things.
"For example, on page seven where Dorothy says, 'Don't forget the hors d'ouevres,' do you mind if I say 'the f---ing hor d'oeuvres?" she recalled in Colucci's book (she also told this story during her stand-up show). Harris didn't appreciate it, and Stritch didn't get the part.
But over the years, some famous actors made cameos on the show, including Burt Reynolds, George Clooney, Bob Hope and more.
The bathrooms are classic 1950s fare.
The pebble stone-colored tile might not be modern, but it hasn't aged terribly.
Age Is Just a Number
The ages of the four Golden Girls may surprise some people.
When the show began, Arthur and White were 63. McClanahan was only 51, and Getty was 62, making her the second-youngest actor even though she played the oldest Golden Girl.
The Fourth Bedroom
The fourth bedroom, located adjacent to the dining room, is the smallest, with a square footage of about 110 square feet.
In the "Golden Girls," this would have been Sophia's room.
She had last pick of the bedrooms because she showed up last.
Rue McClanahan had it written into her contract that she could keep all of Blanche's clothes.
After her death, many were auctioned off on the Estate of Rue website, with one hand-painted silk robe selling for $950.
The Fourth Bathroom
The fourth bathroom is simple, with white tile, a corner sink and a step-up shower with frosted privacy glass.
An aerial view of the Brentwood home show's the home's layout.
The fictional show wouldn't even have a layout, because it's impossible to faithfully recreate using just the knowledge gleaned about the home's fictional architecture.
You've Got to Have That Theme Song
"The Golden Girls" theme song, "Thank You for Being a Friend" is a cover by musician Cindy Fee of Andrew Gold's 1978 chart-topper.
It's impossible to imagine "The Golden Girls" opening without it now, but the producers originally wanted Bette Midler's "(You Got to Have) Friends" as the theme. But licensing the track was too expensive, so they went with Fee's cover.
Fee did the jingle in one take and thought nothing of it. The theme song ended up making her enough money to put her kids through college, and she still gets sizable royalty checks.
Another Aerial View
Throughout the show, the show creators never did quite figure out where to put the garage. They meant to fix its location after the pilot but never did so.
"We don't know where the garage is," Michael Hynes told Colucci in his book. "All we know is there were minks in there once."
35 Years Later
Thirty-five years later, "The Golden Girls" remains one of the most well-written sitcoms in television history. It won 11 Emmys, four Golden Globes and each of the Golden Girls won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
Sadly, none of the Golden Girls are still alive. Bea Arthur died in 2009 when was nearly 87. Rue McClanahan died in 2010 at the age of 76. Estelle Getty died in 2008, three days shy of her 85th birthday. And Betty White died in 2021 at the age of 99.
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