Friday, June 24, 2016

Skunk, Interrupted

Fair warning: This post is not for the squeamish, though I’ll do my best to avod being needlessly graphic.

Tonight is the one-year anniversary of the incident I refer to as “when the tree went through my face.” If you don’t remember or I haven’t related this to you in person, know that it amounted to a freak accident involving my nasal cavity, some sharp tree branches and an overstuffed green waste container. I had actually planned to write something funny about what I’d learned in the year since the accident, but that post probably would have sucked. If I’m being honest, all I learned was not to cram sharp objects into anything with wheels and that freak accidents happen suddenly and in ways you don’t expect.

Here’s the funny thing, though: Tonight, almost to the minute that the tree branch cut through my nose one year ago, something else happened.

I was heading into the garage to write, and Thurman came bounding out the back door after me. This is not unusual, as he normally takes a late-night piddle walk in the yard, but in a split second he’d disappeared into a dark corner. Almost immediately, I heard the noise he makes when he’s shaking one of his toys in his mouth. And almost just as quickly he came trotting back out into the light, whereupon he started diving into the dirt face-first—a cherished activity I call “land swimming.” Then I noticed the sulphuric, spoiled garlic smell of skunk.

I checked to make sure the little stinker had gotten away—more because I didn’t want him to spray again than because I was worried for its safety—and then I saw that no, it could not have gotten away, for he was now bisected. If you can imagine where a skunk’s pant line would be (were a skunk to wear pants) this one was now nude from that line down. His leg fur—and his tail—were lying a foot away from the rest of him; everything else, including what would normally be inside the “pants,” was still connected to the top part.

Much in the same way that the branch thing left me feeling like I should probably do something but unable to decide what I should do, I looked at the skunk halves and then back at my dog, who seemed upset but also was keeping himself busy. Here, then, is what I did.
  1. Asked my roommate what to do.
  2. Checked Thurman for injuries. I found none.
  3. Took Thurman into the shower and scrubbed his fur as best I could.
  4. Called the late-night vet and explained the situation. They told me that so long as Thurman’s vaccinations were up to date, I didn’t have much to worry about.
  5. Drove to the liquor store, got there as it was closing, and begged them to open back up for me so I could buy trash bags. “My dog killed a skunk and I need to get rid of the carcass,” I explained. “Yeah, I could tell it was something with a skunk,” said the cashier. The fact that I had to dispose of a body—animal or otherwise—didn’t seem to phase him.
  6. Got my roommate out of bed to hold the flashlight while I shoveled the skunk pieces into a grocery bag—and yes, this did make me think about the new season of Orange Is the New Black.
  7. Fought back the urge to vomit, because years of slasher movies still haven’t prepared me for real-life gore.
  8. Tied the grocery bag inside a trash bag and then tossed it into a dumpster down the street.
  9. Showered, then washed everything that had been in contact with skunk juice, whether first-degree or second-degree.
  10. Finally, I continue to smell skunk everywhere, even as I type this. I have no way of knowing how much of it is just ambient skunk particles outside, how much of it is inside my house, how much is on Thurman even post-shower and how much is actually me. The hilarious capper to all this is that my roommate can’t smell—I explain it as “He’s like Daredevil, only with his nose”—so I will have no way of objectively knowing if I’m carrying the skunk curse until I interact with someone else outside my home. Maybe it will be you!
As far as late-night emergencies that have happened to me on June 23, this one isn’t so bad. I’m not sitting in an E.R. waiting to get stitched up, and I’ll be in bed long before sunrise, but it is an enticing coincidence to have these two nights, one year apart, where I was getting ready to settle in and instead had my plans tossed apart by unforeseen badness that assaulted my nose in one way or another.

I guess I could write about how dogs are dogs, even if you love them. (Just earlier today, we unsuccessfully tried to coax Thurman into enjoying a wading pool, and it’s weird to think about the dopey dog who was scared of a water-filled plastic tub tearing into another animal and decisively ending that other creature in just a few seconds.) But the thing that sticks out to me right now is how quickly and suddenly something awful—or at least very, aggressively noteworthy. I’m a person who worries a lot, and I spend way too much mental energy calculating all the Final Destination-esque ways a given situation could lead to my undoing. But in the same way I didn’t think twice about that overstuffed green waste container, I also didn’t think twice about letting Thurman into the yard tonight. That happens every night, and every pervious one has resulted in successful piddles and nothing more. This one didn’t turn out to be a crisis—and not a medical crisis, best of all—but it’s worth pointing out that this wasn’t something I worried about, wasn’t something I foresaw as turning bad for me. Maybe that’s the lesson I should have taken away from one year ago: All that worrying can’t prepare you for the freak occurrence that actually does happen.

I still love Thurman, even if I know he can end a life in a split second, ninja-style. I chose to remember his greatest hit of the day as looking adorably rumpled as we finally conceded that he would not be a wading pool dog.

That might be the greatest takeaway of all, from this or from anything: Don’t focus on what went bad or what might go bad in the future, because maybe something else didn’t suck or won’t suck.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Orange Is the New Twilight Zone

A non-spoiler non-warning: This post briefly discusses an episode from the new season of Orange Is the New Black but not in any way that would ruin anything for you. However, this post will spoil a 52-year-old episode of The Twilight Zone, in case that is also a concern.

Midway through the fourth season of Orange Is the New Black, one character uses an episode of The Twilight Zone as a metaphor for mental illness. In the context, it’s actually pretty effective: This Twilight Zone in particular involves a couple who wake up in a strange town that’s inexplicably deserted and full of fake items—fake food in the fridge, fake grass, a fake squirrel on a fake tree. They’re just lost, hopelessly, in this strange, empty town. If you’re not familiar with The Twilight Zone, you might think this episode would be good. After all, it was apparently memorable enough to warrant a mention on a show airing half a century later. I would like to take the opportunity to relieve you of this belief, however. It’s terrible.

Whenever I catch a bit of the New Year’s Day Twilight Zone marathon, it’s almost always this episode that I end up seeing, just as a result of dumb bad luck—though I’m sure Rod Sterling would have me believe it’s part of some conspiracy to teach me a lesson about flouting societal conventions. I’m sure there are worse episodes. They made 156 of them in the original series alone, and there’s bound to be a few clunkers. But just as a result of the fact that I’ve seen this one again and again, I am adamant about it being one with a decent enough premise but a terrible payoff made all the crappier by a plot hole big enough to drive a Borgward Isabella through.

Here, then, is why the episode in question, “Stopover in a Quiet Town,” is terrible—so you can know without sitting through all thirty minutes of it yourself.

Like Orange Is the New Black says, it centers on a couple—Bob Frazier (Barry Nelson, the first person ever to play James Bond onscreen) and his wife, Millie (Nancy Malone, who bears a passing resemblance to Amy Poehler). They wake up in a strange house. They’d been at a party the night before, and Millie drove home because Bob was too drunk to get behind the wheel. Neither can remember how they might have ended up in this house, however, and only Millie has some vague recollection of a strange shadow pursuing them. Figuring some kindly strangers took them in, they head downstairs. The house is empty. The fridge opens, but there’s only a prop loaf of bread and a prop turkey inside. The phone doesn’t work.

They head outside, and while everything looks like a normal suburban town, none of the houses seem to be occupied. They assume everyone left for Sunday morning services, but the church is also deserted. They begin to lose it, and Bob starts implying that Millie may have gotten them lost. Millie thinks that they might have been in an accident, died and gone to hell. Bob lights a cigarette and the grass catches fire—because it’s papier-mâché. Finally, they hear a train whistle and get on the train, which is also empty but which they’re happy to find because it could potentially take them anywhere that’s not this Creepsburg, USA. Soon enough, however, the train pulls back into the exact same train station they just left.

At a loss, they get out, but then the shadow returns, moving over the landscape. Bob and Millie run in terror, but it catches up to them. The shadow was from a hand, it turns out—a giant hand that belongs to a giant little girl. Bob and Millie art ant-sized in this girl’s hand, and she just giggles at them menacingly.

Then we see a mother (also giant) stride into frame: “Be careful with your pets, dear. Daddy brought them all the way from Earth,” she says. The Fraziers are placed back down in their prison, and Sterling delivers the closing narration: “The moral of what you’ve just seen is clear. If you drink, don’t drive. And if your wife has had a couple, she shouldn’t drive either. You might both just wake up with a whale of a headache in a deserted village… in the Twilight Zone.”

Here are all the problems I have with this episode:
  • The level of detail in the giant child’s playset is astonishing. For example, they woke up in a made bed. Did this horrible little girl’s giant, stubby fingers have the dexterity to arrange sheets and a comforter? That was enclosed within a bedroom?
  • The Fraziers didn’t notice if the house had electricity or not.
  • When they go outside, it just looks like a sunny, quiet street, when there shouldn’t have been a source of sunlight—or, you know, sky, since they would have looked up and seen it was a child’s bedroom, albeit a supersized one.
  • The aliens who kidnapped the Fraziers look and act exactly like humans, just bigger.
  • They speak English.
  • They call Earth “Earth.”
  • The giant girl has no apparent means to feed the Fraziers, nor to dispose of their waste once they are fed.
  • The giant girl’s father purportedly went to Earth just to get two tiny humans and nothing more—which seems especially weird considering that the giant family put no system in place to ensure the Fraziers’ survival.
  • If our planet were to be visited by a person who was proportional in size to humans as humans are to ants, then, like, the entire continent of North America would probably see it. It would be a history-shattering emergency. Also, if Space Dad landed on Earth, I assume he’d destroy it or at least knock it hopelessly off its orbit. So I guess Earth is done for in this story.
  • Finally, the moral sucks. It’s laudable for the writers to be cautioning against drunk driving, especially during a time during which I imagine all Americans to be constantly drunk, constantly smoking and constantly throwing garbage from their car windows as they drive their cars, which they also do constantly. But the way Sterling’s narration states it, it smacks of sexism today. “Don’t drive drunk, men. Also, even if your idiot wife is under the legal limit (as Millie would have been if she only had two drinks, like she says), she can’t drive either because she might stupidly drive your car onto a giant man’s spaceship without realizing it.” It’s just very of-the-era but nonetheless awkward the way the message is framed at men first, and then extended to women as well, as if anyone needed reminding that alcohol affects women more or less the same way as it does men.
Again, there are other Twilight Zone episodes that have giant plot holes and tacked-on morality, but this particular example keeps popping up in my life, and I just wanted to warn you against letting Orange Is the New Black making you think this was something you should seek out. That, I suppose, is my PSA.

In case you don’t believe me, here’s the episode in all its clunky glory.

EDIT: I realize I have actually have mentioned this episode before as an example of terrible Twilight Zone plots in my Lousy Twilight Zone Plot Generator. Give it a spin! See where that gets you!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Me & Maria

If we’re social media friends, then you may know that I scored a sit-down interview with Maria Bamford two years ago. And the reason you may know this is that I’ve been shamelessly dropping the following photo of Maria and me into conversations about Lady Dynamite on Facebook.

I’m not doing it to be a prick. It’s more that I’m so very stoked that an increasing number of people are hip to the fact that Maria Bamford is funny-awesome. Also? I really like the interview she gave me because it sums up a lot of the reasons I think she’s great. She’s funny. She’s exceedingly nice. We talk Adventure Time, flavors of Kettle Chips and the gentrification of east-of-Hollywood Los Angeles, among other things. This is why I got into journalism.

Keeping in mind my pride about this interview, you can imagine how excited I got when I was chopping zucchini while watching the fifth episode of Lady Dynamite and saw it flash to Maria’s character’s OK Cupid profile.

See, this jumped out at me because that profile photo came from my piece.

Someone else’s piece? No. Not at all. My fucking piece. My motherfucking fucking piece.

Robyn von Swank, who has photographed many an L.A. comedian, took that photo of Maria Bamford at Camilo’s in Eagle Rock, specifically for the article. The piece, by the way, was meant to be the kickoff to a whole series of sit-downs with comedians about late-night eats, but it was nixed by my station’s higher-ups for reasons that I was never too clear about. (Whatever.) Even if the column didn’t grow into a series, I’m happy it has apparently lived on as a teeny-tiny bit of one of the more wonderfully weird TV thingums I’ve seen in recent memory. Seriously—with Jessica Jones and Kimmy Schmidt and this, Netflix is offering me the offbeat heroines that no traditional network has been lately.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Dog at the End of the Street

I had taken Thurman (Thurman!) on a long walk that began before sunset and ended up lasting until that in-between, electric blue period when the sun is down but it’s still light out. And on this particular block of my neighborhood, I spotted a single, unattended dog sitting in the middle of the sidewalk a few houses down. It was staring at us, and soon enough Thurman was back staring at it.

Now this is not an unusual occurrence in Atwater Village. I think it’s been five times now that I’ve come across someone’s dog walking leashless and carefree, and it’s been five times that I’ve had to contact and ask, “Hi, do you know where your dog is?” And since this particular dog was large and unusual-looking—at least as far as what I could see at a distance, without my glasses on and with the evening getting darker—I figured somebody, somewhere would probably want it back. So I took a few steps toward it (and Thurman did too, because that’s how leashed life goes), and this stranger dog took an equal number of steps away, then sat back down and resumed staring at me. This happened again and again, and I wondered if it thought I was playing a game. I whistled, and the dog only reacted by perking up its ears. I called and it just looked at me.

So I started walking slowly toward it, and it kept moving slowly away, keeping the distance between us more or less even until it reached the point where the dog tired of this game and trotted away speedily, making a righthand turn at the corner. I wondered if I could catch up to it before it got away for good, and so I hurried behind it, ending up at the corner just in time for a mom-looking lady in jogging clothes to meet me. She looked horrified. “Oh my god, did you see that coyote? It walked right past me like I wasn’t even there!”

So yeah, it wasn’t a stray dog missed by its owner. It was a coyote. It was walking itself. And while I wasn’t terrified of the coyote the way this woman was—coyotes, after all, usually don’t bother humans, and Thurman is bigger than the biggest coyote I have ever seen—I feel like it was worth noting how little distance there is, practically speaking, between a poor, little lost doggie who needs to be taken home and a coyote who already is home and is wondering what you’re doing and why your dog is on a leash.

There is probably a moral or at least a metaphor in this somewhere.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

How Howard Phillips Gave Princess Peach to Little Gay Nerds

The TLDR version: My friend’s stepdad is responsible for Princess Peach being my gay nerd icon, because his actions resulted in her being a playable character in Super Mario Bros. 2.

I’d wager it’s strange for anyone to live in Los Angeles, but it’s especially weird when you were that certain type of lonely kid who used pop culture to relate to the world around you, just because this dumb city happens to be where a lot of that stuff originated. Stay here long enough, and you may end up bumping into one of the people responsible for some movie or TV show that hit you on a personal level. So far, I’ve had a few interactions with people where I had to temporarily dump journalistic pretense and say, “By the way, thank you — that thing you did helped me feel less broken.”

Back at the 2012 Indiecade in Culver City, I met Howard Phillips, a guy who shaped the childhoods of many young video game nerds by being the Nintendo’s first American employee and its unofficial ambassador to the U.S. I originally knew him from Howard & Nester, the Nintendo Power comic that had a cartoon version of him alongside Nester, the magazine’s mascot and a character Phillips himself created.

via the howard & nester comics archive

At Indiecade, the non-cartoon Howard Phillips was meeting and greeting a lot of people who, like me, grew up playing Nintendo games and realized that he helped shape their experiences. And I got to talk to him a little more than the average fan because I’m friends with his stepdaughter Katherine. She and I worked together at the time, and she had once bragged that her stepdad was the Game Master. I initially assumed she meant Captain N: The Game Master and that she was crazy, but she explained that “the Game Master” was one of Phillips’ monikers during his Nintendo heyday and that she therefore grew up having a level of access to Nintendo products that would have made my head explode. When I got a few extra minutes to speak with Phillips as Indiecade, the conversation veered into Super Mario Bros. 2, which was my favorite game — a fact that should already be known to you if you read my blog.

Phillips happens to be the person who informed Nintendo of Japan execs that the “true” sequel to the original Super Mario Bros. was too difficult for American players. And while there was a lot of doing on the part of Nintendo’s Japanese developers to transform a game called Doki Doki Panic into something that starred Mario and Luigi, the impetus, as I’ve understood the story, was this single decision my friend’s stepdad. When I spoke to him, I’m not sure I truly grasped that had it not been for him, this weird game with vegetable-plucking, magic carpets and a curious preponderance of masks probably wouldn’t have become part of my life. But more than just that, Super Mario Bros. 2 is important because it was the first game in the series that let you play as Princess Peach.

Back then, Peach was still known as Princess Toadstool, but she was otherwise the same character we have today: blond and wearing a tiara but nonetheless able to fight the bad guys as effectively as Mario and Luigi could. She was a captive in the first Super Mario Bros. and again in Super Mario Bros. 3 — and in fact when news of that later game came trickling out in the pages of Nintendo Power, I remember thinking, “It’s weird how they’re only showing screens with Mario and Luigi,” because why the hell would Nintendo ditch one of the best parts of the previous game with this new fancy sequel? But that’s exactly what Nintendo did. It would take until the Super Nintendo to see Peach playable again — but only in spinoffs like Super Mario Kart and Super Mario RPG. In fact, it wouldn’t be until 2007’s Super Paper Mario that she would be allowed into the side-scrolling, hop-and-bop action of the original titles, and it wouldn’t be until 2013’s Super Mario 3D World, which is in many ways a spiritual successor to Super Mario Bros. 2, that you could play as her in a “real,” non-spinoff Mario game.

(EDIT: It’s been pointed out that I forgot to mention 2005’s Super Princess Peach, the game that had the princess using her rapidly changing emotions as weapons — angry fire, pouring water for sad tears, etc. It’s possible I just wanted to forget it.)

In Super Mario Bros. 2, you could select which character you wanted to venture through each level, and on many occasions I’d play the whole thing through as Peach, just because I could and especially because I didn’t have to play as a male character if I didn’t want to. As time went on, I’d default to the female character in any game that gave the option. In Street Fighter II, I was Chun-Li. In Mortal Kombat, I was Sonya. In Donkey Kong County 2, I would routinely pick Dixie Kong and her whirling helicopter ponytail over Diddy Kong, the male counterpart who had no magic ponytail.

Growing up in a more rural, more conservative town, this was well and good for home console gaming but slightly awkward in public at arcades. I can remember going to a pizza parlor birthday party and bouncing from Darkstalkers (where I played as Felicia, the oversexualized cat-girl) to Tekken (where I played as Anna, a brassy female fatale who fights in an evening gown). This prompted one of the other kids to ask, “Why do you always play as the girl?” That was a scary question. I felt like I’d been caught doing something I shouldn’t have, and I think I weaseled out of answering by lying about these characters being the best ones per all those video game magazines I read. But I honestly didn’t know what the motivation was at the time. I liked playing as female characters but couldn’t explain why.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Various Nostalgic Pop Culture Icons My Dog Looks Like

Yes, I finally got a dog. I’d apologize for not saying so sooner, but in the best possible way, he’s why I haven’t had much free time the past two months.

His name is Thurman. He is a rescue. He is five years old. I’d had reservations about the problems a rescue dog might bring with him, but Thurman has proven himself to be a fully-formed little gentleman — well-mannered and socialized to the point that as soon as he got here, it seemed like he’d always been here. And while he’s taken up my time with walks and all the other things dogs require, he doesn’t seem like a burden; making him happy seems like the best possible use of my time. I suppose this is what parenthood feels like, only without the crippling fear that this cared-for thing will one day go to college and learn to resent me.

This is how Thurman looks, in general.

This is Thurman again.

Here is Thurman looking like a supermodel.

And here is me and Thurman looking his most Muppet-y.

It’s on that last note, “Muppet-y,” that I get to the subject of the post: If I am to believe what the general public tells me, Thurman resembles all manner of characters from the collected pop-cultural memory of ’80s babies. Here, then, is an up-to-date list on every fantastic animal character people have claimed he looks like.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Skipping Batman v Superman, Not Out of Laziness But Out of Principle

The New York Times review of Batman v Superman: Dawn of the Subtitle described it as “less a free-standing film than the opening argument in a very long trial.” This is far from the only damning review of the movie, which will probably prove be a blockbuster anyway. Like Superman himself standing sturdy through a hail of gunshots, this movie will repel criticisms about its length, logic and overall look as if they’re nothing. It has to make money, and so it probably will.

But it occurred to me today that even before the first eulogy of a review hit, I already had a great reason to skip this film: I walked out of Man of Steel.

Before you react to that statement, you should know that I’d never walked out of a film before. I saw Ghost Dad in theaters. I was Rock-a-Doodle. I even sat through a screening of Joe Dirt that was free, therefore meaning that I could have left at any time without incurring a financial loss. Also know that I love DC superheroes. I also like your Spider-Men and your X-People, but I’ve always cared more about Batman and Wonder Woman and (to a lesser extent) Superman.

I, however, did not enjoy Man of Steel, which was directed by Zack Snyder, who is also directing Batman v Superman. I didn’t hate it; no, that would be a strong reaction. I was simply bored by it. I saw it when I lived in Los Feliz, walking distance from the Vista Theater, and I’d gone because I’d gotten home late from work on this particular night but just in time to trot over and slip into a seat in the back row. “Surely this will be more fun than sitting in my apartment alone,” I could have said, but didn’t, and good because it would have been a lie.

It’s also important that you understand that I saw the vast majority of Man of Steel. I really tried. But near the end of the film — or, I suppose, what I’m imagining was near the end of the film — there was a scene that made me literally throw up my hands in exasperation.

It was the scene with Jenny. Fucking Jenny.

Jenny Jurwich (Rebecca Butler), in case you’ve forgotten, is the movie’s kinda-sorta Jimmy Olsen character — an intern at the Daily Planet about whom we know nothing and about which we’re given much reason to care. You could argue that the audience isn’t given reason to care for or about many of the film’s characters, but at the very least most of them are versions of familiar characters we’ve cared about in other forms. Amy Adams, for example, is playing this kinda-sorta version of Lois Lane that never feels quite right, but at the very least we know she’s Lois. Jenny, however, is no one. And during the film’s cusp-of-the-apocalypse scene, she somehow gets trapped beneath rubble.

I’m foggy about the circumstances of her extrication, but I think it played out something like this: Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) is all like “No! Jenny! My intern! I have always loved you!” And Jenny is all “[SCREAM]” and then the residents of Metropolis are all “No! We have to save Jenny! Free Jenny!” And they band together to pull her out and the city rejoices because they deeply love Jenny for some reason. I’m probably exaggerating, but I feel like the scene lasted about twenty minutes, at which point I asked myself, “Wait, who the fuck is this person we’re supposed to care about?” And then I realized I didn’t care if Jenny turns out to be Doomsday in disguise. I didn’t care what happened to her. She only existed to get trapped in rubble and briefly become the focus of a dramatic scene. I didn’t care what happened to any of the characters, really.

I just wanted to leave, so I did. I got home and read the ending on Wikipedia, popped open a bottle of wine and watched Adventure Time, which is a great show that tells its stories in tidy, ten-minute chunks, but which Zack Snyder probably wouldn’t like because ten minutes is not longer than two hours and also it’s colorful and also Jenny the Fucking Intern isn’t a character.

According to IMDb, Rebecca Butler is reprising the role of Jenny in Batman v Superman. I’m honestly unsure if I will have the honor of seeing her revisit the role that made her famous. But yeah, I’m faced with the odd situation of there being a big-budget Batman movie about to hit theaters and I’m not the least bit interested in going to see it.

Maybe Suicide Squad will be good?

Thursday, March 03, 2016

The Best Bea Arthur Story I’ve Ever Heard

I grew up with The Golden Girls. I watched it on Saturday nights with my parents, because when you’re a kid living somewhere that’s a bit further than a bike ride from any of your friends, that’s a standard evening’s entertainment.

I remember that Sophia Petrillo taught me the word “slut,” which I promptly used at school. I got in trouble, of course, and when my teacher asked me where I’d learned that word, I said “Golden Girls.” It’s weird thinking about how a show about four old ladies could have been a corrupting influence, but I’d wager it did more good than harm.

Years later, I found out the show had a huge gay following, and this was surprising because I thought it was just a weird thing that I really liked. It was gratifying. It made me feel more connected to a community I didn’t have that much first-hand experience with, even if I didn’t immediately understand why it would have resonated with gay dudes. This past week, I got to interview some of the people who wrote for the show. We talked about their experiences on the show, but also why they thought the show got the devoted following it did, and why people — gay and otherwise — still watch the show today.

The piece appears in the print edition of Frontiers, but I’m going to direct you to the online version. I ended up getting so many good stories from those writers that I added an extra 1,000 words online — just because I knew there were people out there who would want to learn as much as possible about what it was like behind the scenes on the show.

And in particular, I’d like to draw your attention to one story that is my absolute favorite. I was speaking to Mort Nathan, an executive producer on the show who also co-wrote a lot of episodes, including the one where Rose dates a little person, and he told me something that affirms everything I’d want Bea Arthur to be.

TV Guide had done a piece on the show: ‘The Golden Girls—Is it still as good as it was the first year?’ And they asked random people what they thought of the show, and this one housewife said she didn’t think the show was as good and that Bea Arthur’s character wasn’t as interesting. They mentioned her by name—Mrs. Betty Johnson, Sioux Falls, Iowa. So Bea reads this at lunch and then gets on the phone and asks information for this Betty Johnson’s number. And she calls her. And she picks up, this TV Guide woman, and Bea says, ‘This is Bea Arthur, and I want to talk to you about what you said in TV Guide.’ The woman was horrified. She said she was misquoted. ‘I didn’t mean it. Is it really you? I love the show. I take it back.’ And Bea goes, ‘That’s what I thought. OK, that’s better.’”

I just can’t believe she fucking called the woman. I mean, can you imagine? Hearing that voice on the other end of the line, and she’s knows you said something about her and she wants to have words with you? And this is pre-Twitter, pre-internet. She just found this woman and reached out. I love it. It’s awesome.

Winifred Hervey, who also wrote a lot of great Golden Girls episodes, also told me that story, but she added one part that makes me like it even more: “And then Bea said, ‘That person’s going to go tell everyone that I called her, and no one’s going to believe her.’”

Just perfect.