Remembering The Golden Girls with Stan Zimmerman

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

 In this episode, we chat with TV sitcom writer Stan Zimmerman who, as a newbie in the industry, was a writer for Season 1 of The Golden Girls. Stan Zimmerman has worked on many television series, including season one of The Golden Girls, Fame, Something Wilder with Gene Wilder, Roseanne, Wanda at Large, and the highly successful fifth season of Gilmore Girls. Besides writing and producing many television pilots, he and his writing partner James Berg rewrote the Emmy and Peabody award-winning Annie for ABC. They have also written for film, including both Brady Bunch movies.  

We chatted with Stan about being a closeted writer in the 80s and working on the iconic Golden Girls for its debut season. Even though Golden Girls has become of our LGBTQ TV history, it was still was a closeted environment and coming out as gay in the entertainment industry was career suicide. We also chatted with Stan about his close relationship with Estelle Getty (Sophia) and asked him if there was any truth to the Bea Arthur vs Betty White feud.  

Stan is featured in our latest of issue of Metrosource - grab
your copy today on newsstands or head to www.Metrosource.com.  

This is metro source minis, the official podcast to Metro source magazine and home of short form interviews with your favorite personalities from the lgbtq world and beyond. Quick, Fun and informative. It's metro source on the go, out in pround since one thousand nine hundred and ninety. Hello, hello, hello, this is metro source minis. I'm your host, Alexander Rodriguez, lead writer for Metro source and avid podcaster. Thank you for being a friend. Okay, now we've all had those discussions as to which golden girls we are. Me, I'm the blorsy. Of course it's blanched Dorothy. And on this episode we chat with TV Sitcom Writers, stand Zimmerman who, as a new be in the industry, was a writer for season one of the golden girls. Stan has worked on many television series, including season one of the golden girls, fame, something wilder with gene wilder, rose and Wanda at large, and the highly successful fifth season of Gilmore Girls. And besides riding producing many television pilots, he and his writing partner James Burg, rewrote the Emmy and peabody award winning Annie for ABC. They've also written for film, including both Brady Bunch movies. Is Stan was featured in our latest episode or latest issue of Metro source. Grab your copy today, please. Welcome is to stand Zimmerman. I now I can't say your name without saying it like stand Zimmer meant, like I'm some Jewish talent agent. You just have to say Jewish. I'm sorry to say, but that's I think we should lead into it and you can be a Jew for a day. How do you like that, Jeffer? Well, I'M gonna have to go over a slight operation, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I'm that note. So before we get into before we get into our golden girls chat, I want to talk with you about the fact that entertainment has been in your blood since childhood. You used to have a network in your basement as a kid. What, what's that about? I was actually in my bedroom, I in...

...my basement. I was doing the roller follies, which is like the ice follies but on roller skates, which I thought was a brilliant idea. I don't know why nobody's done it. Still Hope. In my bedroom I had created a fourth network at that time. They're only three networks, maybe CCBS and NBC. So I created a new network and I got the idea. I saw something about Hughes, Hughes Corporation, and actually there's huge net now which I should own part of. Yes, I made into the Hughes television network. I created my own logo, I made the ads, I literally program seven days a week against the networks that were already had their shows. So if there was a great performer, like I was in love with Ellie Tomin still m I felt she deserved her own half hour variety show, right, I mean at least a half hour. least. She could have had like a week of shows. I didn't care. I love to hit his variety shows. She would do occasionally, and so I gave her own weekly, our comedy special, a comedy series, or if a series got canceled, I would bring them on. Or if I saw, you know, like a movie at the Oh that make a great TV series. Were just crazy ideas that I would have. So you always had this and so you've always had this mindset understanding how TV networks worked, but also what kind of shows that you ascribe to and kind of inspired and you did little acting, dancing work you were on stage on Broadway dancing behind Rudolph Nurayev with the Joffrey Ballet, and if you first of all it's Narayev. Oh well, you know, I like to make my own pronunciations. Yes or rudy, for if you're really roady, and also if you glimpse very quickly, you're in a few movies, such as cocktail. You're in. What happened to your performing? I thought you were cocktail. Risky business, risky business. I...

...knew it was a Tom Cruise where he's sweaty and young and gorgeous. I knew it was one of those and we had a scene together. It was filmed walking down large month here in la which kind of looks like Chicago suburbs. Yeah, I had met him before when I was casting in New York, so you know, of course I had to bring that up and we had a special bond and he was great. I've really sweet, sweet got. Yeah, I was working in a casting office in New York City and he came in and he had just finished taps, which is his first film. We had that beautiful like no hair brush cut. Yep, HMM, Yep. I know you're all excited yours and he was literally bouncing off, up and down on the couch, you know. So it wasn't just on talk shows. You two years later, I spot and you just couldn't help but love him. He was just in love with the business and just a cool guy. So, yeah, I did a lot of extra work. I was in Woody Allen Zelig. Yeah, it was just to make money. It was, you know, you're starving writer and you just need everything you can to survive and to eat. So I kind of did that in the beginning and I don't and I just acted last October with Harry Neff, Wilson crews, Blair underwood and Vanessa Williams. I mean that's a pretty good gig. I was okay, just breathe and do it, you know, and I had written the script. So I was rewriting and then the like rewrite this line. All right, now we're filming it. I'm like wait, you know, but it was I was playing basically myself and telling my story of my friend that died by suicide. So it was every time I would start to get a little nervous, I be just tell it for Kevin to focus on that and tell the story and then you're looking at Nessa Williams and you know you can't help but be pulled in. Well, and this project of yours, a lot of big names have performed it, been involved...

...with it, as we know. You know, suicide, unfortunately, is is a big part of of the nation's problem, and especially in the Lgbtq community and especially during covid you know what you know, being personally involved and having this, this huge theater project. What would be your message to somebody that might be having suicidal thoughts, especially during covid you know I come at it. I'm not an expert, I'm not a doctor, I don't know anything. I'm just going to talk from the heart. It's about we you know, nobody wants to die. It's that they don't want to feel the pain. Right to think about a world where you don't feel the pain and that death is not the answer to that problem. is to figure out that there other solutions and to live for what's around the corner. So my piece is actually has humor in it because I'm in it, and then's on hope. So it's all it's using real suicide notes and curticle band more veterans and Lgbtq and kids that were bullied, and then actual note of people that survived it and hear what they have to say. You know, living through it, and it's just been such a learning experience for me and it's something I want to be performing every week. It's just when I see it, it's effect on people of all ages. I really want to keep doing it more so I'm hoping post Covid I'll be able to go out into different communities, either with them, like I did in Claremont with the high school. I did with high school students and the on stage and some teachers, or just letting the world do this play. All right, on a happier note, let's talk about another project of yours. Let's another project yours that has touched so many lives. So you're a young writer in Hollywood. This I found that where it's promise from Zaborne's noveltiescom. They made this beautiful t shirt or...

Hoodie with a line I wrote that be Arthur said it's one of my favorite lines, so I had to guilt them into sending me one, but now I have it. What's the line? Mr Stands, and I'm in no, no, I will not have a nice day. And so sometimes you just and we did, quoted in the magazine and their beautiful article. I just showed it to my mother. You made a Jewish mother so proud. You love the article. Good, good, well, it was so much fun writing it and getting to know about some of the earlier days of golden girls. You know, we look back at golden girls and it's this huge anthology in TV history and then in lgbt q history as well. But I don't know, as a young writer, how did you find out about the golden girls job? How did you audition or how do you submit as as a new be it in Hollywood, and how did you find out that you got the job? I was pure casting couch. I had to sleep with all for the ladies as me, who is the best? It was a Stell, wasn't it? That's why I will always be yeah, was she was short or certain up? Okay, I'm not going to go down. Oh my Lord, you bring it out in me and in my mind, though I know we had gotten off our first series show. We were doing just, you know, one off send different series, like we did fame. We did an episode of fame that Janet Jackson was on and it was her first music video. I like that and I take full credit for a career. Nothink anything Jackson or Linton. Now it was usome. It was all Zimmerman, the debbiellen directed, the great debbiellen. Yeah, and we were pitching too, bunch of shows like family ties. We had just gotten...

...an offer to write. It was actually we got the job on the Vallery Harper show. It's called Valerie. Yeah, but that right after we got the job, Valerie left the show and then we came. He's family or something. That's Andy Duncan. Was Sady Duncan? Yep. Yeah, so we were set to write that episode and then we got a call from our agent that there's this new show and then BC it just got picked up. It's a bunch of old ladies. But then they start saying be Arthur and betty white and were like we'll go pitch, you know. So you work up episode ideas, you go on a new pitch and that's how you audition. And so they had us right. Luckily, they bought one of our ideas. Had US right it. They all love the script that we handed in and they immediately brought us on staff and there we were season one, you know, but all the for the show had gotten on the air. Yeah, so we still nobody knew that it would become what it became. And back in those days you never would have expected the show about older women to be a hit because that just wasn't the way Hollywood thought, unfortunately, and they still think that way, but at the time they really just nobody knew understand. What was one of the ideas that you pitch that that we never saw in season one, that you thought would still make a great episode? Actually, that's going to be in my book. I'm writing the girls from golden to Gilmore. Yeah, wonderful stories, but all the lovely ladies that I've worked with and Rose Anne and I found going through all my files, looking at pictures and stuff, and I found, like I say, all sorts of crap, but I found a little like scratched out writing of like some of the pictures that we had that they didn't buy. So I thought it would be kind of cool to put those in the book. You know, they're just like one liner stuff. Yeah, you know, I think the because it's still been done, but you know, when you're in...

...the beginning of a series, you're just figuring out who the characters are. Yeah, when we got on staff really wasn't a thing that betty white rose told all these stories. Actually, one of the episodes we wrote we named the room. The writers in the room named say no. We sat there think wow, yeah, I know, and I hadn't really realized that because you're just in the room and things are flying and yeah, back I'm like, Oh, that's our episode. Was the first time that that city was mentioned. Understand. What was the very first read through, like episode one? You it's the pilots. It's when for the pilot Oh, okay, we came, I guess for our I have to look back on the records. Whether we came on staff before they filmed our I don't remember. But we were so scared because you just go. It was, you know, this big room and there you all of a sudden, like the Arthur walks and it's be Arthur. It's like you like you know with the long coats and things. Yeah, like, Oh my God, don't look at me up it was so scared. This beny white with the George Washington hair and that doesn't move that was one job really want to get in there. That she had. Her hair was like George Washington, because if say it was, yeah, it's like Lego hair. Yeah, and never moved. So they thought that was you could, I guess, talk about Dorothy's Hump, but you can't talk about about yeah, roses. So we didn't say anything. I think they introduced you at the beginning of the read through and just said the names and you know, I could tell the OURC is looking up. What well those? I mean, I look probably twelve years old. Yeah, I didn't know twill years later, that she was not happy when she saw how young and I think it was me and Jim because we looked super young right. And at first she was like how are they going to write for a bunch of old ladies? And then she starts seeing the script...

...into her credit she was like, I don't care what they look like, they're writing really good stuff and all for the women, you know, which is not normal on the show in every interview always goes back to the writers. Yeah, giving them credit, and that was so sweet, and especially the Susan Harris, who created these great characters. Stand I want to talk about the LGBT climate during that time. We're talking about the S and there's generations that watch golden girls that have no idea what the actual climate was behind the scenes, what was happening in entertainment. You know even that the actors that come out. Rock Hudson had been outed the year that golden girls came out and he was outed because of his, you know, struggle with AIDS and he actually died that that year. Elton John, well, he did not come out right and he was added. Elton John was one of the only other celebrities that came out during the S. Rupert ever came out late S, but it's not like today where, you know, we have this boom of open actors. Tell me what was it like your participation as a gay rider and also what was happening with the idea of being openly gay at that time in front of the camera? What was going on? You couldn't. I mean I was not a gay writer, I was a closeted right so it was just you never talked about what you did over the weekend. You couldn't. And you know, thank God for women like a still getty that took on the you know, the tailor took on the AIDS cause right, you know, it still was going to benefits all the time, and she knows especially it was a personal story to her because she had come off with the Broadway show towards on trilogy. She was living through her cast members die. She would go to the hospital and at that point we didn't know that much about it. So the stories I'm hearing, because I've been talking to her kids or two suns, you know that they she thought she could...

...bring them food and make them better, like she didn't know and you know. So God bless her that she was willing to be the voice. And for gay male actors you had to be in the closet as well. It was so they couldn't come out. So it was up to women to kind of be the voice and raise money. And thank God, you know, so many entertainers, female entertainers, did these benefits and raise money, while we just, you know, we're scared every day because we didn't know. We just sew friends dying. I mean I went to re memorials in one week and every time you got a cold you thought that could be it. Yeah, riding partner Jim, he was with govern their health foods and he worked at a health food store and I remember at some restaurant in Hollywood he like took out all this vitamin and I'm like put them away, people going to think they're a drugs like you know, and I felt terrible about saying that could but but you had this you know, you were instilled with this fear. First you came from the fear of, you know, if you're gay, you won't be happy and you'll never find anybody, and then Alfson became your gay your going to just die. So there was just a lot of shame involved, unfortunately, and I'm sure that stunted my growth as a gay man at the young gay man. But it coincide with the time where I was working a lot. So I know, you're on a TV show and you're working bazillion Ho worth to day, you have no social life. So it kind of replaced really having to go out into the gay community and have relationships because I was just so focused on work. My God, is like therapy. Now I've solved everything. Thank you. Well, well, that's what we do here. It's the magic of natural source. Oh, I know, I'm single. Okay, I'll make sense. I blame golden...

...girl. No. So that was very frustrating because, you know, you go to work and you're getting really close to everybody and everyone's like sharing the stories and we got this barbecueme, we did this, and what did you do? You know, I watched the movie. I you can't say I went to studio one, or I was in most Hollywood, you know, having a drink, or I met this new guy I really like. You can't talk about it. And I was out to my even my family of that point and my friends. It is not in the business world. So when did you start to feel confident enough to come out in the industry as an openly gay writer? Wet? What point? What sparked that confidence? I think trusting my that I would be getting work and people. I saw the people really liked our writing and like us. Like just thought, like, are they really going to stop hiring us because we're gay? That doesn't make sense, and I just didn't want to be hiding anymore. And you saw other people, you know, slowly and towards it, and then we got asked to do I think it was the LA weekly, which is the local La free up paper, and would we be in also making out fancasine as well. Would you be like a writers coming out and our agents are like no, don't do it, and we're like no, we have to do it, let's do it. We're going to be the ones. So we just did it. And you know, especially in comedy writers, because it's such a was such a male Gary Marshall, I remember reading some article before I moved to Hollywood. All the writers from happy days went and play basketball and I can't do that. Basketball risk was not to be had. So I was like, Oh my God, we can't be on a writing staff of a Sitcom because we can't play basketball in between writing scene. That's...

...what we thought. And it was very straight, white male writers room and we were actually the first, you know, to writing couple, not of a couple, but a writing tea right now. Yeah, I was gay that that, yeah, in the business. And it's so funny. You two were the only two gay a writers in the room and created one of the gayest shows still on TV. Did you? Did you and James kind of have this? I didn't create it. I missus in Haris created it, but we kept to going, you know, as the whole writing stuff done with the with. I'm sure we brought our gay sensibility. I mean that was our humor and I think that did in, you know, especially character like Dorothy. I mean, you know, we came up with the Oh she could just look at someone that burn. Yeah, you know, would we thought of that and we saw they got a laugh. It's like those are hours of not having to think of a joke, you know, but there's no other actor really do that I've ever seen. What, too, golden girls fans ask you the most, because I know you give a lot of talks, you do a lot of appearances, you did the the Golden Girls Cruise. But what what do fans ask you over and over? How are you so cute? No, me, what? How old were you? And then the other most of the thing is, how could you, as a guy, write those characters for women, older woman? Now, which is one of the favorite lines that you wrote for the Golden Girls, that you're like, damn, that was a good line and I love it. It's still't this one the most going and is roses. Mother says stopping me from living isn't going to stop me from dying. HMM, I love that line. I absolutely love that line. You know, when we...

...wrote it we're like, I don't know, it's kind of heavy for Sitcom episode. And, God bless them, they were just like that's just stayed in. It was, you know, we got not many for a writer's build a war for that episode. So it really taught us about that being real and blending. If it comes from character and it's truthful, you can go from something serious to something funny, you know, which we were able to do. I'm rose ane as well well, and that episode, particularly rose's mom, is also a blanch in the younger man, which is so hilarious. Whenever my friends go on a date with a younger man, I ducolar rage and he lets the table. Yeah, that actor came on set. I'm like, WHOA good casting. Yeah, he was hot girl. Now did you and now you stayed around for season one. Did you watch the show after you left a little bit? And you know, we were bitter, and so I looked on it and more for because I was friends with the steal and so we were stuff and then so, you know, she would bitch to me about the show and you know, it's just curiosity and I did love the cast. But then I saw you know, as good as the writing was, just were kept repeating. They didn't grow as characters. That kind of stayed the same, which is not any fault of the writers. It was back then because when they sold the show and syndication, they could move the episodes around. They called an evergreen, so they can be in any ways where. It's very different. Now you see shows that are serialized. So like when something that rose and came along, we're like, holy fuck, like that. We got to write for that because it felt more like real life, that people grow and change and where it's golden girls, you know, like by season five and six, I mean completely hysterical, but I wanted them, you know, to just get a little deeper, you know, and it was just that that kind of show.

Now stand, do I have to wait for your book to come out to find out why you didn't stay with the show? I've got some juicy stuff in it too, oh, Gonda, can't wait. Okay, speaking of it. Yeah, so there was a whole rivalry between we wrote a script and the with Thomas had a friend of theirs write a script and purses. We written are wasn't this how we got on? But then I have some juicy stuff. Yes, dealing with silver foxes and Susan Harris, who created golden girls, was not happy with people in the media calling it a reboot or remake of golden girls and she let us know under no uncertain term from yeah, wow, I'll be talking about that too. And for our listeners and viewers, check out the article with stand in Metro source, Metro sourcecom or on newstands, because we talked about silver foxes, which is stands script and you can probably describe it better than me. Well, this short it's for older gay men. I mean three older gay men in one twink. They don't even know his name because their friends jerry, keeps changing twinks like he does his cars and at least and living in pump springs. And it was the idea, came from a documentary that we saw, which I didn't know about, that a lot of LGBTQ members go back in the closet when they go into assisted living because a lot of those communities are not friendly to our community and the thought of somebody you know finally be coming out and enjoying their life and then, in your later years, having to go back in the closet. We thought that was such a great base first show. Well, and that is definitely a fact. You know, there's the the the stone wall, a retirement home now in Palm Springs. It's right when you go in and I took a tour of it and it's Lgbtq community because,...

...just like you said, they were turned away from other homes. There was nobody to help. There's not the assistance that there is for openly gay and so they were going back in the closet. Their families were not taking care of them because either they had come out and it's kind of an isolated life and it's so sad to have a full, vibrant life as an openly gay person and then to go back to a restricted way of living. So definitely what I learned is that, you know, we need to be talking to all generations of our LGBT queue community, and shows like golden girls kind of open those conversations up, because we feel like we're best friends with blanche, Dorothy, rose and Sophia and it's the same kind of relationships we can have with people in our very own community who exhibit those same behaviors, by the way, and still have sex. Everything. I mean every feeling and emotion, you know, but there's I still see so much ages in this world and it's somehows can still be the butt of jokes and, you know, everybody has feeling some better what age you are. So you know, and especially now there's you know, the Asian Community. There's a lot of violence towards older Asians, yeah, towards the cave. was just done the news that I talking about it, and you know, we just have to look out for everybody. I just want to you know, I maybe this Pollyanna, but living in a world where why can't we just all be able to exist and celebrate, you know, our differences instead of, you know, ones better than the other? I mean, that's never made sense to me. What have to tell you as a fan of your writing, whether it's your TV work, your movie work, your series work, and you're onstage work, by the way, everything that you write does have this positive energy to it and even you have fun with different personalities and what we would call nasty personalities, but the end of the day, everybody has this kind of gentle quality to them and they're always is that message of, you know, we're all in this together. Then you do tell people stories from all...

...walks of life, but it's always quintessential stands immiment. Thank you, probays. Think so supportive and I hope the world is receptive to me continuing to tell stories, because I love doing it. All right, so telling stories. I just have to know. Be Arthur and betty white feud stories true are false? Do you think we're going to see a Ryan Murphy Feud season? If he doesn't let me write that one, I'll fuck right. Yes, I'll text him right now. Back in the day, so pre so I know where this would love to write that one. I'm I'm going to address some of that in the book, but also more because I was friends with the stell so how is stell fit into you know, I just heard from her side of it. Yeah, okay, all right, okay, a little rapid fire. Are you game? Okay, if you had to write a spinoff series for one of the characters of golden girls, who would it be? For? I don't know why I said Blanch all. Would love to have seen like a pretty blanch like yeah, like a Prequel I, as you know, in the south and what she was all getting into. You now, yeah, for sure. Okay, which lead actress from the golden girls was your personal favorite, which I think the kind of already know. Let's go. Yeah, what's one of the most extravagant things you bought with your golden girls rider money, because you were struggling rider and then you had an income. What what did you buy that was so ridiculous? I have my house. Then I might have bought my first little house. Yeah, okay, all right. What would the name of your biography Bell I'm writing it. My first one was going to be called. When I was like just in New York and starting out, it was going to be called I've seen a lot and I don't like it. I do like it, so I can't use that title. I mean, I think I don't...

...like but I just, you know, I live more positively, I guess. Yeah, so, and you know you had Harry Lopez, right. What are you shows? I don't think so. I've interviewed a lot of Latino's. We all look and sound the same. After while we'll have the same names. Life coat. Oh No, I've not had him. No, but where we're social media friends. Oh yeah, he said something really, why? If he said you're never wiser than you are today, and that's why you should wake up with the joy to live. And I was like, that's such a smart way to look at things. You know, he knows, you know the most you know today right now. Yeah, that that is very true. Okay, you have to cast Dorothy in the major motion picture of the Golden Girls Today. What actress are you casting? Share? Oh, that's good. The height. I kind of would love to see her with gray hair. Oh, and I would love to see bet middler's blanche and maybe Michelle Peiffer as as rose. It'll be like, which is a beast wick and soon as a random could be. I think that members to Jewish for a row, for a land. Really what she could act, you know, stance, you can do accents, just I mean, she adorable and I love her to death, but yeah, no, clet me agre up and however, be so for you, probably. I mean in today's Hollywood, anybody can play on anybody. Yeah, and the stone is Dorothy. You know what the Hell I like. You know, actors work and them are em a stone. Yeah, all right, stand, tell everybody where you want them to find you and follow you. My address it now, Zimmerman, standcom and it's everything and there's fun little...

...pictures, there's bio and you have to check out stance theater work as well. He yeah, he was responsible for a very controversial version of the diary of Anne Frank, incorporating all Latin x actors. That was covered on CNN and many, many news outlets. and His web series rocking now. Thank yeah, I'm rocking out and it stands. Web Series Star every favorite actor you've ever ever wanted to see and it's a joy. Stand, you know, I love, love talking with you, fucking with you, love to your mom and I will see you in person very soon so we can actually clank some glasses. Yes, all right, stand thank you. Thank you so much. This has been my chat with Standsimmerman. You can read my in depth interview with him in our current issue of Metro source on newstands across the nation or on Metro sourcecom. And that's your episode. I'm your host, Alexander Rodriguez, lead writer for Metro source. You can follow me on Instagram at Alexander is on air. Until next time, stay true and do you boot? That has been another metro source mini like share, subscribe on your favorite podcast player and check out the latest issue of Metro Sports magazine on newstands or online at Metro sportscom. Follow us on Facebook, instagram at natural source and on twitter at Metro course man. Until next time, he fast.

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