ARDMORE — Thank you for being a friend.
“Thank You for Being a Friend” is the theme song for “The Golden Girls,” a television sitcom that aired on NBC from 1985-92. The show, which springs eternal on the rerun circuit, is a about a quartet of senior citizen gal pals who, in addition to providing laughs, supported one another during times of need.
Life imitates art?
Lori Harrison is the person behind the Golden Girl Guest House in Ardmore. Just like the name suggests, the guest house has a “Golden Girls” theme.
Recently, something happened to persuade Harrison that the interior of the guest house needed to look more authentic — more like the home TV viewers saw when they watched the show. It became sort of a challenge. Harrison enlisted friends for the mission “because I have fabulous friends.”
“The Golden Girls” was set in Miami, Florida. How do you make a home in Carter County look like a home in south Florida? Harrison put out an APB among her network of buddies for wicker furniture and banana leaf furnishings. Who can help me?
“I have had, over the last two weeks, just this outpouring of love from local people — people showing up literally dropping things off,” Harrison said.
One donor asked if the Golden Girls would have pink chiffon curtains at their home.
“That’s exactly what they would have,” Harrison said, recalling the conversation while being interviewed in a guest house that now is decked out with wicker furniture, banana leaves (“you can never have too many”) and pink chiffon curtains.
“We had a blast putting the touches on it to get the Miami ‘feel’ in southern Oklahoma,” Harrison said.
All of the above begs this question: Why is there a “Golden Girls”-inspired guest house in Ardmore?
Answer: Because of the person who grew up across the street.
Oklahoma actor Rue McClanahan was born in Healdton and raised in Ardmore. In 1987, she won an Emmy Award (outstanding lead actress in a comedy series) for her portrayal of Blanche Devereaux in “The Golden Girls.”
A University of Tulsa graduate, McClanahan stirred up chemistry with co-stars Bea Arthur (Dorothy Zbornak), Betty White (Rose Nylund) and Estelle Getty (Sophia Petrillo) to make “The Golden Girls” one of the most successful and beloved sitcoms in TV history. In 2013, TV guide ranked “The Golden Girls” No. 54 on a list of the best series of all time.
“I can’t imagine somebody not liking ‘The Golden Girls’ if they watch it,” Harrison said.
Harrison, who loves the show and said she “knows” almost all the episodes, grew up in Ardmore. Now, she and her family live in McClanahan’s former home across the street (Hurst Road) from the Golden Girl Guest House.
The McClanahan home was on the market long ago, and it was unaffordable at that time, according to Harrison. She said her grandmother was a realtor and asked if she wanted to look inside.
“Oh, swoon, because I was young and I thought that was really cool at the time that Blanche grew up there,” Harrison said.
Harrison and her husband bought a more affordable “starter house” in the neighborhood. The starter house, which was built on property that once belonged to the McClanahan family, now is the Golden Girl Guest House.
In 2003, the Harrisons upgraded to the McClanahan home and kept the starter house. Family stayed in the extra residence after it became vacant, and it was used for office space.
Harrison succumbed to an “if you build it, they will come” notion to convert the extra home into a guest house. Because she lives in the McClanahan home, people have given her “Golden Girls”-related memorabilia over the years. Hmmmmm.
“I just got inspired,” she said. “Maybe we could do a ‘Golden Girls’ theme?”
Harrison listed the Golden Girl Guest House on Airbnb last year. It attracted visitors but flew mostly under the radar.
“There wasn’t a lot of interest because I wasn’t publicizing it,” Harrison said. “There wasn’t a lot of interest outside people that I already know.”
That changed after a popsugar.com blog this month alerted readers to the existence of the Golden Girl Guest House. Reaction? Women began tagging their girlfriends and making comments on social media, according to Harrison. Oh my gosh! Can you believe it? How close is this to Dallas?
Conventional media became interested in the story. All of a sudden, the Golden Girl Guest House was famous. Inquiries about the guest house “blew up,” according to Harrison.
“It’s crazy,” she said, indicating that the next available dates are “around October.”
Harrison decided to upgrade the interior of the guest house after seeing feedback that followed the publication of the blog. Let’s get real, or at least TV simulation real.
“We tried to re-create the general look,” Harrison said. “We voted against complete accuracy because when people come to stay here they want to be comfortable.”
In addition to a living area (where “Golden Girls” episodes are available for streaming on TV), the guest house includes Blanche’s boudoir and bedrooms for the other characters. Harrison said Blanche’s boudoir is almost identical to the TV version. An autographed photo of McClanahan and a framed piece of art (by way of an estate sale, then a garage sale) are among many images of her in the room. McClanahan died in 2010.
Guests should look in the freezer. They’ll find cheesecake because, if you’re familiar with “The Golden Girls,” you know cheesecake fixes everything.
The Golden Girl Guest House is big enough to accommodate a group of six visitors, but four is the most common number, according to Harrison.
Groups of girlfriends usually book the guest house, but it has been used for anniversaries, work retreats and leadership/team-building functions.
People love nostalgia and pop culture. They liked to feel closer to the movies and TV shows near and dear to their hearts. The Outsiders House Museum in Tulsa has drawn “Stay Gold” visitors from around the globe. The Golden Girl Guest House hasn’t attracted a foreign visitor yet, but guests have come from as far away as Kentucky.
“I think there is something really powerful in tight-knit girlfriend groups,” she said. “I don’t want to promote this as only girlfriends can come and stay. I don’t want anybody to feel that way. But there is magic, and I truly experienced that with having people come and help me with this. They were literally walking in and handing me things.”
To the person who contributed Sophia prop eyeglasses: Thank you for being a friend.