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, theofficial podcast to Metro source magazine and home of short form interviews with your favoritepersonalities from the lgbtq world and beyond. Quick, Fun and informative. It'smetro source on the go, out in pround since one thousand nine hundred andninety. Hello, hello, hello, this is metro source minis. I'myour 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 asto which golden girls we are. Me, I'm the blorsy. Ofcourse 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 awriter for season one of the golden girls. Stan has worked on many television series, including season one of the golden girls, fame, something wilder withgene wilder, rose and Wanda at large, and the highly successful fifth season ofGilmore Girls. And besides riding producing many television pilots, he and hiswriting 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 Stanwas featured in our latest episode or latest issue of Metro source. Grab yourcopy today, please. Welcome is to stand Zimmerman. I now I can'tsay your name without saying it like stand Zimmer meant, like I'm some Jewishtalent 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 Jewfor a day. How do you like that, Jeffer? Well, I'Mgonna 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 getinto our golden girls chat, I want to talk with you about the factthat entertainment has been in your blood since childhood. You used to have anetwork in your basement as a kid. What, what's that about? Iwas actually in my bedroom, I in...

...my basement. I was doing theroller follies, which is like the ice follies but on roller skates, whichI 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 anew network and I got the idea. I saw something about Hughes, HughesCorporation, 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 thenetworks 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 deservedher own half hour variety show, right, I mean at least a half hour. least. She could have had like a week of shows. Ididn'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. Orif I saw, you know, like a movie at the Oh thatmake 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 TVnetworks worked, but also what kind of shows that you ascribe to and kindof inspired and you did little acting, dancing work you were on stage onBroadway dancing behind Rudolph Nurayev with the Joffrey Ballet, and if you first ofall it's Narayev. Oh well, you know, I like to make myown pronunciations. Yes or rudy, for if you're really roady, and alsoif 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 wherehe's sweaty and young and gorgeous. I knew it was one of those andwe had a scene together. It was filmed walking down large month here inla which kind of looks like Chicago suburbs. Yeah, I had met him beforewhen I was casting in New York, so you know, of course Ihad to bring that up and we had a special bond and he wasgreat. I've really sweet, sweet got. Yeah, I was working in acasting office in New York City and he came in and he had justfinished taps, which is his first film. We had that beautiful like no hairbrush cut. Yep, HMM, Yep. I know you're all excitedyours 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 justin 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'restarving 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 Ijust acted last October with Harry Neff, Wilson crews, Blair underwood and VanessaWilliams. I mean that's a pretty good gig. I was okay, justbreathe 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 Iwas playing basically myself and telling my story of my friend that died bysuicide. 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 thestory and then you're looking at Nessa Williams and you know you can't help butbe pulled in. Well, and this project of yours, a lot ofbig names have performed it, been involved...

...with it, as we know.You know, suicide, unfortunately, is is a big part of of thenation's problem, and especially in the Lgbtq community and especially during covid you knowwhat 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 talkfrom 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 aworld where you don't feel the pain and that death is not the answer tothat problem. is to figure out that there other solutions and to live forwhat's around the corner. So my piece is actually has humor in it becauseI'm in it, and then's on hope. So it's all it's using real suicidenotes 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 tosay. You know, living through it, and it's just been such a learningexperience 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 beable to go out into different communities, either with them, like I didin Claremont with the high school. I did with high school students and theon 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 ayoung 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 thatbe Arthur said it's one of my favorite lines, so I had to guiltthem 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 anice day. And so sometimes you just and we did, quoted inthe 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 knowabout some of the earlier days of golden girls. You know, we lookback at golden girls and it's this huge anthology in TV history and then inlgbt 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 youaudition 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 purecasting 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 whyI will always be yeah, was she was short or certain up? Okay, I'm not going to go down. Oh my Lord, you bring itout in me and in my mind, though I know we had gotten offour first series show. We were doing just, you know, one offsend different series, like we did fame. We did an episode of fame thatJanet Jackson was on and it was her first music video. I likethat 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 showslike family ties. We had just gotten...

...an offer to write. It wasactually 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 showand then we came. He's family or something. That's Andy Duncan. WasSady Duncan? Yep. Yeah, so we were set to write that episodeand then we got a call from our agent that there's this new show andthen 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 gopitch, you know. So you work up episode ideas, you go ona 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 onstaff and there we were season one, you know, but all the forthe show had gotten on the air. Yeah, so we still nobody knewthat it would become what it became. And back in those days you neverwould have expected the show about older women to be a hit because that justwasn'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 ofthe ideas that you pitch that that we never saw in season one, thatyou thought would still make a great episode? Actually, that's going to be inmy 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 Anneand I found going through all my files, looking at pictures and stuff, andI found, like I say, all sorts of crap, but Ifound a little like scratched out writing of like some of the pictures that wehad that they didn't buy. So I thought it would be kind of coolto put those in the book. You know, they're just like one linerstuff. 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'rejust figuring out who the characters are. Yeah, when we got on staffreally 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 theroom 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 thingsare flying and yeah, back I'm like, Oh, that's our episode. Wasthe first time that that city was mentioned. Understand. What was thevery first read through, like episode one? You it's the pilots. It's whenfor the pilot Oh, okay, we came, I guess for ourI have to look back on the records. Whether we came on staff before theyfilmed our I don't remember. But we were so scared because you justgo. It was, you know, this big room and there you allof a sudden, like the Arthur walks and it's be Arthur. It's likeyou like you know with the long coats and things. Yeah, like,Oh my God, don't look at me up it was so scared. Thisbeny white with the George Washington hair and that doesn't move that was one jobreally want to get in there. That she had. Her hair was likeGeorge 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 thebeginning 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 yearslater, that she was not happy when she saw how young and I thinkit was me and Jim because we looked super young right. And at firstshe 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 allfor the women, you know, which is not normal on the show inevery interview always goes back to the writers. Yeah, giving them credit, andthat was so sweet, and especially the Susan Harris, who created thesegreat 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 haveno idea what the actual climate was behind the scenes, what was happening inentertainment. You know even that the actors that come out. Rock Hudson hadbeen outed the year that golden girls came out and he was outed because ofhis, you know, struggle with AIDS and he actually died that that year. Elton John, well, he did not come out right and he wasadded. Elton John was one of the only other celebrities that came out duringthe S. Rupert ever came out late S, but it's not like todaywhere, you know, we have this boom of open actors. Tell mewhat was it like your participation as a gay rider and also what was happeningwith 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 gaywriter, I was a closeted right so it was just you never talkedabout 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 goingto benefits all the time, and she knows especially it was a personalstory 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 thehospital and at that point we didn't know that much about it. So thestories 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 waswilling to be the voice. And for gay male actors you had tobe 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'rescared every day because we didn't know. We just sew friends dying. Imean I went to re memorials in one week and every time you got acold you thought that could be it. Yeah, riding partner Jim, hewas with govern their health foods and he worked at a health food store andI remember at some restaurant in Hollywood he like took out all this vitamin andI'm like put them away, people going to think they're a drugs like youknow, and I felt terrible about saying that could but but you had thisyou know, you were instilled with this fear. First you came from thefear of, you know, if you're gay, you won't be happy andyou'll never find anybody, and then Alfson became your gay your going to justdie. So there was just a lot of shame involved, unfortunately, andI'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. SoI know, you're on a TV show and you're working bazillion Ho worth today, you have no social life. So it kind of replaced really havingto go out into the gay community and have relationships because I was just sofocused on work. My God, is like therapy. Now I've solved everything. Thank you. Well, well, that's what we do here. It'sthe magic of natural source. Oh, I know, I'm single. Okay, I'll make sense. I blame golden...

...girl. No. So that wasvery frustrating because, you know, you go to work and you're getting reallyclose 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 watchedthe movie. I you can't say I went to studio one, or Iwas in most Hollywood, you know, having a drink, or I metthis new guy I really like. You can't talk about it. And Iwas out to my even my family of that point and my friends. Itis not in the business world. So when did you start to feel confidentenough to come out in the industry as an openly gay writer? Wet?What point? What sparked that confidence? I think trusting my that I wouldbe getting work and people. I saw the people really liked our writing andlike us. Like just thought, like, are they really going to stop hiringus because we're gay? That doesn't make sense, and I just didn'twant to be hiding anymore. And you saw other people, you know,slowly and towards it, and then we got asked to do I think itwas the LA weekly, which is the local La free up paper, andwould we be in also making out fancasine as well. Would you be likea 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 youknow, especially in comedy writers, because it's such a was such a maleGary Marshall, I remember reading some article before I moved to Hollywood. Allthe 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 myGod, we can't be on a writing staff of a Sitcom because we can'tplay basketball in between writing scene. That's...

...what we thought. And it wasvery straight, white male writers room and we were actually the first, youknow, to writing couple, not of a couple, but a writing tearight now. Yeah, I was gay that that, yeah, in thebusiness. And it's so funny. You two were the only two gay awriters 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 createit. I missus in Haris created it, but we kept to going, youknow, as the whole writing stuff done with the with. I'm surewe brought our gay sensibility. I mean that was our humor and I thinkthat did in, you know, especially character like Dorothy. I mean,you know, we came up with the Oh she could just look at someonethat burn. Yeah, you know, would we thought of that and wesaw they got a laugh. It's like those are hours of not having tothink of a joke, you know, but there's no other actor really dothat I've ever seen. What, too, golden girls fans ask you the most, because I know you give a lot of talks, you do alot of appearances, you did the the Golden Girls Cruise. But what whatdo fans ask you over and over? How are you so cute? No, me, what? How old were you? And then the other mostof the thing is, how could you, as a guy, write those charactersfor women, older woman? Now, which is one of the favorite linesthat you wrote for the Golden Girls, that you're like, damn, thatwas a good line and I love it. It's still't this one themost going and is roses. Mother says stopping me from living isn't going tostop me from dying. HMM, I love that line. I absolutely lovethat line. You know, when we...

...wrote it we're like, I don'tknow, 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 comesfrom 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 aswell well, and that episode, particularly rose's mom, is also a blanchin the younger man, which is so hilarious. Whenever my friends go ona 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 stayedaround for season one. Did you watch the show after you left a littlebit? And you know, we were bitter, and so I looked onit and more for because I was friends with the steal and so we werestuff and then so, you know, she would bitch to me about theshow 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, justwere kept repeating. They didn't grow as characters. That kind of stayed thesame, which is not any fault of the writers. It was back thenbecause 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 whensomething 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, likeby season five and six, I mean completely hysterical, but I wanted them, you know, to just get a little deeper, you know, andit was just that that kind of show.

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

...just like you said, they wereturned away from other homes. There was nobody to help. There's notthe assistance that there is for openly gay and so they were going back inthe closet. Their families were not taking care of them because either they hadcome out and it's kind of an isolated life and it's so sad to havea full, vibrant life as an openly gay person and then to go backto 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 queuecommunity, and shows like golden girls kind of open those conversations up, becausewe feel like we're best friends with blanche, Dorothy, rose and Sophia and it'sthe same kind of relationships we can have with people in our very owncommunity who exhibit those same behaviors, by the way, and still have sex. Everything. I mean every feeling and emotion, you know, but there'sI still see so much ages in this world and it's somehows can still bethe butt of jokes and, you know, everybody has feeling some better what ageyou 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 justwant to you know, I maybe this Pollyanna, but living in a worldwhere 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? Imean, that's never made sense to me. What have to tell youas a fan of your writing, whether it's your TV work, your moviework, 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 havefun with different personalities and what we would call nasty personalities, but the endof the day, everybody has this kind of gentle quality to them and they'realways is that message of, you know, we're all in this together. Thenyou do tell people stories from all...

...walks of life, but it's alwaysquintessential stands immiment. Thank you, probays. Think so supportive and I hope theworld is receptive to me continuing to tell stories, because I love doingit. All right, so telling stories. I just have to know. BeArthur and betty white feud stories true are false? Do you think we'regoing to see a Ryan Murphy Feud season? If he doesn't let me write thatone, I'll fuck right. Yes, I'll text him right now. Backin the day, so pre so I know where this would love towrite 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 stellfit into you know, I just heard from her side of it. Yeah, okay, all right, okay, a little rapid fire. Are yougame? Okay, if you had to write a spinoff series for one ofthe characters of golden girls, who would it be? For? I don'tknow why I said Blanch all. Would love to have seen like a prettyblanch like yeah, like a Prequel I, as you know, in the southand 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 whatdid you buy that was so ridiculous? I have my house. Then Imight have bought my first little house. Yeah, okay, all right.What would the name of your biography Bell I'm writing it. My first onewas going to be called. When I was like just in New York andstarting out, it was going to be called I've seen a lot and Idon'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 knowyou had Harry Lopez, right. What are you shows? I don'tthink so. I've interviewed a lot of Latino's. We all look and soundthe same. After while we'll have the same names. Life coat. OhNo, 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 neverwiser than you are today, and that's why you should wake up withthe joy to live. And I was like, that's such a smart wayto look at things. You know, he knows, you know the mostyou know today right now. Yeah, that that is very true. Okay, you have to cast Dorothy in the major motion picture of the Golden GirlsToday. 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 Peifferas as rose. It'll be like, which is a beast wick and soonas 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 loveher to death, but yeah, no, clet me agre up and however,be so for you, probably. I mean in today's Hollywood, anybodycan play on anybody. Yeah, and the stone is Dorothy. You knowwhat the Hell I like. You know, actors work and them are em astone. Yeah, all right, stand, tell everybody where you wantthem 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 haveto check out stance theater work as well. He yeah, he was responsible fora very controversial version of the diary of Anne Frank, incorporating all Latinx actors. That was covered on CNN and many, many news outlets.and His web series rocking now. Thank yeah, I'm rocking out and itstands. Web Series Star every favorite actor you've ever ever wanted to see andit's a joy. Stand, you know, I love, love talking with you, fucking with you, love to your mom and I will see youin person very soon so we can actually clank some glasses. Yes, allright, stand thank you. Thank you so much. This has been mychat with Standsimmerman. You can read my in depth interview with him in ourcurrent 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 Metrosource. You can follow me on Instagram at Alexander is on air.Until next time, stay true and do you boot? That has been anothermetro source mini like share, subscribe on your favorite podcast player and check outthe 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 courseman. Until next time, he fast.

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