Golden-Con threw a celebration and invited each ‘Golden Girls’ fan it knew


“‘The Golden Girls’ — I’m getting shivers saying this — it’s not just any show. It’s not ‘Who’s the Boss?’”

“Golden Girls” followers mingle on the GoldenCon conference in Chicago, April 22, 2022. In the three a long time because it went off the air, it’s as if the “The Golden Girls” by no means left. A mainstay of syndication and streaming, the present has since expanded its fan base and made the Girls into LGBTQ icons. (Evan Jenkins/The New York Times)..

CHICAGO — Bird Milliken designs “Golden Girls”-themed greeting playing cards below the label Lipstick on a Turd. Her recommendation? Find your self a person who’s into watching “The Golden Girls.”

“It says something about them, that their antennas and receptors are open to something deeper,” stated Milliken, who made the information final 12 months for protesting outdoors Bill Cosby’s Pennsylvania residence. “‘The Golden Girls’ — I’m getting shivers saying this — it’s not just any show. It’s not ‘Who’s the Boss?’”

Milliken wasn’t shivering alone: She was one in all about 3,500 disciples who congregated right here late final month for Golden-Con, the primary fan conference devoted to “The Golden Girls” (1985-92), the Emmy-winning sitcom about 4 affable, peppery, sex-enthusiastic older girls who shared a Miami bungalow embellished in cozy rattan and daring floral motifs. Created by Susan Harris, the present ran for seven seasons on NBC; “The Golden Palace,” a by-product, ran for one (1992-93) on CBS.

In the three a long time because it went off the air, it’s as if the “The Golden Girls” by no means left. A mainstay of syndication and streaming, the present has since expanded its fan base and made the Girls into LGBTQ icons, drawing in youthful generations with its reducing homosexual sensibility, ribald comedy and progressive views on chosen household and friendships. (All seven seasons are on Hulu.)

For three days at Golden-Con, these followers blended and mingled amongst a sort of chosen household all its personal, many dressed as their favourite characters: the sturdy trainer Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur); the Southern belle sexpot Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan); the kindly however dimwitted Rose Nylund (Betty White); and Dorothy’s salty Sicilian immigrant mom, Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty).

Here, the present’s bawdy spirit — confined principally to winks, purrs and innuendo for community tv — flourished uncensored. Golden-Coners, principally homosexual males and straight girls, hustled from gossipy panel discussions to raucous trivia video games and reverent autograph signings. Drag queens, together with the troupe The Golden Gays, promenaded in stretchy ’80s cougarwear with drop shoulders and batwing sleeves. Vendors hawked “Golden Girls”-branded tote luggage, T-shirts and a surprising quantity of coasters.

At Golden-Con you didn’t say, “Goodbye”; you stated, “Thank you for being a friend” — the primary line of the present’s earworm theme tune. As Jim Colucci, the creator of “Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind The Lanai,” described it in a pre-conference interview, the occasion “brings back the feeling of watching it with your mom or grandmother.”

And you didn’t maintain again. Across the conference ground, the vibe was screams-and-hugs festive, alternating agreeably between household pleasant and R-rated. Faces had been predominantly white. But no one turned heads fairly like 4 Black girls, all sisters — Shalanda Turner, Catrina Parker, Sharon Turner-Wingba and Lashanda Bailey — dressed as Turkey Lurkey, Henny Penny, Goosey Loosey and Peter Pan, a reference to a Season 6 episode.

Chantelle Edwards, 44, visiting from Indianapolis, stopped to go with the costumes. She remarked that it was “refreshing to see other Black women here” as a result of “there aren’t a lot of Black people that are gung-ho about ‘The Golden Girls.’”

“If they are, they are women,” she stated. “They love it because it’s about sisterhood and that no matter how old you are, you need your girls.”

Noticeably lacking had been the Girls themselves. White was the final surviving member of the principle solid when she died in December, simply shy of 100.

White’s dying had lent Golden-Con an added emotional resonance it didn’t have in 2020, when Zack Hudson and two associates, the brothers Brad and Brendan Balof, first brainstormed the concept. Originally introduced as a smaller occasion to happen at an LGBTQ neighborhood heart, it drew a response so “massive,” Hudson stated, that he determined to transfer the conference to Navy Pier, with its cavernous ballroom and sweeping views of Lake Michigan.

“Based on the reaction, I think the time was now,” stated Hudson, 44, who by day is a neighborhood well being employee for seniors. He estimated that the conference had value about $420,000 to provide, and he was assured he would come out within the black.

Golden-Con’s headliners weren’t marquee names from the most recent Hollywood blockbuster, as one finds at ComedianCon. They had been principally Baby Boomer actors and writers who made “The Golden Girls” zing with one-liners and double takes, and who didn’t draw back, nevertheless imperfectly, from scorching potato points like AIDS and racism.

Stan Zimmerman, a employees author on the primary season, stated the present’s mixture of timeless comedy and well timed storytelling was why it stays a popular culture heavyweight.

The sitcom panorama within the ’80s “wasn’t about four women talking about real situations,” Zimmerman stated. “But that was everything we loved as writers.”

Nobody related to the present was too minor for Golden-Coners to fawn over. There had been strains to satisfy Emmy winner Bonnie Bartlett, 92, who performed Barbara Thorndyke, a fan-favorite villainess in a single third-season episode.

Then there was Cindy Fee. When she was 28, she was an in-demand Los Angeles singer when in only a few takes she nailed the present’s theme tune.

“I hadn’t seen the song before but that’s pretty typical in the industry — most of us are fairly good sight readers,” stated Fee, whose voice additionally helped promote Wheaties and Hoover vacuums. “They played through the song and I just sang it. It’s easy to sing because it’s a lovely tune.”

The crowd roared as if Fee had been Lady Gaga when she sang the tune on Golden-Con’s opening evening. They additionally went wild when she introduced out a shock visitor: Aaron Scott, whose 2016 gospel-tinged model has greater than 6.3 million views on YouTube.

Even the furnishings drew worship, like pilgrims to a relic. Richard Carrington, 38, and his accomplice, Bryan Brozek, drove from Cañon City, Colorado, with a sofa and chairs from the present’s front room set that that they had purchased from a California prop home for about $9,000. Carrington stated the items had by no means left their residence.

He stated followers “just want to come up and touch it knowing the cast sat on it.”

“We had one guy bow to it,” he added.

The closest followers received to spending time with an unique Golden Girl was an look by Dr. Melinda McClanahan, Rue McClanahan’s sister and a semiretired biologist. McClanahan stated her superstar sibling “would have been gobsmacked that anyone would pay this much attention and pay this much fuss over Blanche Deveraux.”

If the occasion had a beau idéal, it was Chase Bristow. Born on the fifth anniversary of the present’s debut — he whipped out his driver’s license to show it — Bristow is such a “Golden Girls” stan that he custom-made his Uber profile so drivers again residence in Daytona Beach, Florida, should ask for Blanche.

Bristow echoed many followers when he stated that watching “The Golden Girls” was a balm that soothed life’s scrapes, large and small.

“When my parents threw me out because I’m gay, the first thing I did when I walked out the door was turn on ‘Golden Girls,’” stated Bristow, who wore a “Dorothy in the Streets, Blanche in the Sheets” T-shirt and sported a “Golden Girls” tattoo on his arm. “It’s like that great big hug from grandma you always want.”

Reached after the occasion, Hudson, one of many organizers, stated that past providing amusement, Golden-Con additionally created a welcoming house for followers who had “something in common with people who feel like they’ve been pushed to the side.” He’s already planning to deliver it again in 2023, maybe to Chicago, although many followers advised him Miami would make extra sense.

Like the Golden Girls themselves, what followers needed — and deserved — “was friendship and connection,” he stated.

“They found some at Golden-Con.”

This article initially appeared in The New York Times.

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