For those of you who were too young to watch the show when it first aired, many of the topical references might seem like ancient history. Hopefully, with this handy reference guide, those reruns will be twice as funny in the future.
1. DANNY THOMAS
“I’ve never known any personally, but isn’t Danny Thomas one?”“Not Lebanese, Blanche, Lesbian.” — Dorothy, to Blanche, "Isn't it Romantic?"
Danny Thomas was born Amos Muzyad Yakhoob Kairouz in Deerfield, Michigan, but grew up in Toledo, Ohio (also the hometown of fellow Lebanese-American actor Jamie Farr). When Thomas was struggling to make a name for himself in show business, he prayed to St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes, and pledged to make a shrine in his honor if he found success. Not long afterward, Thomas landed several regular roles on network radio shows, which ultimately led to his own long-running TV sitcom, Make Room for Daddy. Thomas went on to produce several other successful TV series and also founded the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
“Let me tell you girls the three most important things I learned about life: Number one, hold fast to your friends; number two, there's no such thing as security; and number three, don't go see
Ishtar. Woof.” —Sophia, "The Audit"
Ishtar is a 1987 comedy starring two box office powerhouses of that time, Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, as two untalented songwriters who get a gig performing in Morocco and somehow end up involved in some Cold War shenanigans. Directed by Elaine May, the film received a lot of negative press before it was released due to its enormous budget and reports of fights between the stars and director. It went on to become synonymous with “expensive box office bomb” and ended up on many “Worst of” lists.
3. DOUG HENNING
“Well Rose, do I look like the Mayor of Palm Springs?”
“Doug Henning is the Mayor of Palm Springs?” —Rose, to Sophia, "An Illegitimate Concern"
Doug Henning was a Canadian-born magician/illusionist who gained fame in the 1970s with his World of Magic TV specials, and eventually a Tony-nominated Broadway show.
4. FESS PARKER
“Rose, you know how uncomfortable I am in front of a camera. Besides, I always come out looking like Fess Parker.”“Don't worry, Dorothy. This is a documentary; it's okay if you're not good looking.” —Rose, to Dorothy, "Whose Face Is This, Anyway?"
By NBC Television - eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Actor Fess Parker was actually considered to be ruggedly handsome, but that’s probably not the ideal look for a woman. Parker played both Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett on two different TV series in the 1950s and '60s.
“Rose, I've never met anyone quite like you.” “Check the cornfield on
Hee-Haw.” —Sophia, to Rose's boyfriend Miles, "Triple Play"
Hee-Haw was a long-running (over 20 years in first-run syndication) comedy/variety show that was a rural version of Laugh-In. Each episode was filled with hayseed humor (a recurring skit featured cast members trading one-liners in a makeshift cornfield) and the top country music stars of the day.
6. SUSAN HAYWARD AND ANITA BRYANT
“This is more moving than Susan Hayward's climatic speech in
I Want To Live!”
“You're ready to fly right out of here, aren't you?”
“Well excuse me for living, Anita Bryant!” —Caterer, to Blanche, "Sophia's Wedding: Part 1"
Susan Hayward won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Barbara “Bloody Babs” Graham, a former prostitute and small-time crook who gets involved with a gang of men that commit a murder. Badgered by the press and represented by poor legal counsel, Graham was ultimately sentenced to the gas chamber.
A former Miss America finalist, Anita Bryant became the spokeswoman for the Florida Citrus Commission in 1969 and appeared in a series of TV commercials singing the praises of orange juice. Then in 1977 she led a highly publicized campaign to repeal a Dade County, Florida, ordinance that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. Her statements equating homosexuals with child molesters resulted in a national backlash that, for many years, made “Anita Bryant” a common insult directed at any person displaying an intolerance for homosexuality.
7. BURL IVES
"That child over there is trying to steal my daddy away. She ain't better but a tick on a slow moving hound dog.” “Why is everyone around here talking like Burl Ives?” —Dorothy, to Blanche, "Big Daddy's Little Lady"
Burl Ives wasn’t born in the south, strictly speaking, but rather southern Illinois. However, early in his career, he gained fame as a folk singer with such homespun hits as “Bluetail Fly,” “The Foggy, Foggy Dew,” and “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” He later acted in films and on television, and is probably best remembered today for his holiday hit “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” and his narration of the annual TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
"You know, back in Minnesota, I was known as the Sherlock Holmes of St. Olaf.” “Figured out which one was Shinola, did you, Rose?” “The hard way.” —Rose, to Dorothy, "The Case of the Libertine Belle"
Shinola was a brand of shoe polish. In the 1940s, a popular colloquialism to describe someone’s naiveté was, “He doesn’t know sh*t from Shinola.” Perhaps that’s why the brand eventually went out of business; the Shinola folks couldn’t come up with an advertising slogan that was more memorable than the insult.
9. THE PLO
“Maybe you ought to join an organization that is a little less fanatical in its devotion, honey.” “Oh, like what, Blanche, the PLO?” —Dorothy, to Blanche, "Sophia's Wedding"
The Palestine Liberation Organization is a paramilitary organization founded in 1964 and was considered by the United States and Israel to be a terrorist group until the Madrid Conference in 1991.
10. YASSER ARAFAT
When Sophia discussed the effects of menopause, she name-dropped Yasser Arafat, the longtime leader of the PLO, who was also known for his distinctive chin stubble. (Even younger viewers should probably understand this one.)
11. DAVID HOROWITZ
“I'm sorry, Dorothy, it's all my fault. I misunderstood the brochure.”“'Fun in the buff at a mountain retreat! Hike, swim, and play volleyball while the sun beats down on your fanny!’ Call David Horowitz; I mean, how can they get away with this misrepresentation!” —Dorothy, to Rose, "Valentine's Day"
Consumer advocate David Horowitz used to host a TV show called Fight Back. He specialized in exposing false advertisements, shady business practices, and outright rip-offs.