Well, I couldn’t resist seeing the gals today. Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Betty White were at a DVD signing at a Barnes & Noble down in Chelsea, Manhattan (pictured below). I got to tell Rue that I learned English watching the show, which rather astonished her. It’s quite true.
Picture this. New York City. The late 1980s. I was a small-town German boy on a five-month visit to the Big Apple—flat broke but ready for adventure. One morning, counting my dollars after another night out, I caught a rerun of The Golden Girls. The laugh track suggested that I missed out on quite a bit of fun. Still, I fell instantly in love with those four women: the naive, good-natured Rose, the flirtatious and selfish Blanche, the sarcastic but insecure Dorothy, and her equally sarcastic mother (Estelle Getty, who is apparently too ill now to get about much). Okay, so I assumed at first that Bea Arthur was a drag queen. Not that that kept me from watching.
It didn’t take me long to make my morning visit to Miami Beach part of my daily routine. It took me quite a bit longer to get most of the cultural references (for many of which you’d need footnotes by now, anyway). But once I got them and learned much about American humor besides, I gained the confidence to be funny in English. Quotations from The Golden Girls gradually sneaked into my repertoire of witticisms, my everyday language. Eventually, I went to university here in NYC. I’d like to think that the gals had something to do with that.