The Vamp and the Showgirl

Rue McClanahan herself said that “Journey to the Center of Attention” from the seventh season was one of her favorites, and I think it’s pretty much a fan favorite in general. Who doesn’t love The Rusty Anchor??

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The Rusty Anchor has become one of those iconic Golden Girls things that everybody remembers, although this is the only time we ever actually see it. I just knew that it had been mentioned many times by Blanche in other episodes, but I couldn’t remember which ones, and this kind of trivia can, unfortunately, be hard to find. So shout out to GG super fans on Twitter @thedameupstairs and @GoldenGirls85 for letting me know that The Rusty Anchor is mentioned in the “Henny Penny – Straight No Chaser” episode from season 6 and in “Dateline: Miami” from season 7! Thanks, y’all!! I’m certain it’s brought up in other episodes, too, so I’ll have to keep my ears open.

Ok, let’s get down to business because there is a lot of fashion in this episode!

The episode opens with Dorothy lying on the couch with a bucket of popcorn, ready for another night in of watching TV. She’s wearing some kind of maroon nightgown with a jaunty knotted neckline, which looks nice on her from what we can see of it. Blanche enters in a super cute, bright blue chiffon dress with iridescent diamonds. She’s clearly ready for a party and tries to convince Dorothy to go with her to The Rusty Anchor. Blanche’s dress seems more 80’s than 90’s, especially with the fluttery sleeves and ruffled skirt, yet it’s still timeless somehow.

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Rose and Sophia arrive home after attending Doug Kirkpatrick’s wake. Rose is wearing a smart skirt set that’s black with red trim and gold buttons. I like it! It’s very Jackie O in a way and, again, timeless. Even though she’s practically all in black, Sophia really looks fantastic here. The pillbox hat and the white bow are so sophisticated. And I love that she’s wearing gloves. So proper!

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Blanche has persuaded Dorothy to hit up The Rusty Anchor with her. Dorothy sure did manage to get dressed up for someone who didn’t want to leave the house! She’s put on an appropriately nautical themed suit with gold piping and an emblem on the front pocket. The pocketbook with the chain strap, for me, epitomizes the 1990’s. It’s also quilted in the Chanel style to match…those earrings!!! A better look at those stunners is coming up, but we need to talk about how the Chanel look in general has never really gone out of style. In fact, it even had a huge comeback a few years ago–especially the boucle jackets–thanks in large part to Sex and the City. I think Dorothy also wears a pair of the Chanel logo earrings in a dangle style on another episode.

Anyway, Dorothy is uncomfortable at first, but the piano player overhears her humming as he starts to play and asks if she sings. Dorothy feigns shyness at first but then she finds her groove with Irving Berlin’s classic song, “What’ll I Do?”

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She quickly has all of the men that usually follow Blanche around the bar under her spell, much to Blanche’s chagrin. Here we can see a little more of the overall detail on Dorothy’s suit, how the gold piping goes all the way around the neckline. Dorothy, where have you been hiding this outfit this whole time?? When the camera zooms out we can also see that the suit includes a long skirt, and Dorothy is wearing her signature flat, ruched boots. Now here’s a close up of those earrings:

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Are they real? Probably not because they do seem a little overly large, and it’s well-known that Bea did not have pierced ears and so always had to wear clip-ons. But who cares because, personally, I think Dorothy has never looked lovelier than in this very scene. Her makeup is beautiful, and you can tell that she was just so happy to be in her element belting out those classic Great American Songbook tunes that she knew so well from her career as a theatre actress. She had performed in other episodes, such as in “Henny Penny,” but none of those captured her at her essence and as the true center of attention. Quite honestly, this scene gives me goosebumps every time because Bea sings so beautifully, getting right into the character of the song. It’s as if she was able to capture something that both she and her character identified with.

But hold on to your Hammer pants because Dorothy makes a quick appearance in the amazing outfit below in the next scene as she and Blanche discuss the previous night at The Rusty Anchor.

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You know what? I’m just going to go ahead and call it: Dorothy was the most modern dresser of all of the Girls! Say what you will about any of her outfits, but Dorothy was almost always on trend. This look also includes one of her signature vests, which makes me wonder: did Bea have these outfits custom made for the show?? She must have. There is just so much more about Dorothy’s costume choices on the show that I would love to know! This outfit in particular is very Memphis (and I don’t mean barbecue or country music, but the Italian design firm), which is a quintessentially 80’s style, but I think certain aspects of it didn’t really reach the mainstream until the early 90’s. This isn’t a color combination that I would recommend for most people or in general, really, but Dorothy pulls it off with aplomb. It perfectly captures her exuberance about her performance.

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Sophia and Rose enter next, and Sophia asks Dorothy if she wants to go to a wake next weekend, which is where the B story comes in. Sophia wants to throw her own wake since Doug’s was so much fun. I think this is about the goofiest storyline ever. Sophia is oddly insistent about “having the wake of her dreams.” The whole thing is silly, much like Rose’s sweater in this scene. Cardigan count for Sophia, though! Those shades of purple are beautiful on her.

Next it’s back to The Rusty Anchor where Blanche is entertaining the men by tying maraschino cherry stems into shapes with her tongue because of course she is.

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She’s sitting on the bar, wearing a short black dress with a large, dangly pin at the center of the neckline. She’s also wearing sheer black pantyhose, which I can never decide if I’m ok with or not. Rose wore them earlier, too. I always wear opaque tights myself, but to each her own! This dress style is very becoming on Blanche, and it’s a good contrast to Dorothy’s brighter ensemble.

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Enter Dorothy, ready for her second performance! This time all the men are excited to see her, and she’s come prepared with her own sheet music! Although, again, she feigns being not prepared and that she was just at a laundromat in the area before pulling the sheet music out of quilted purse number two! The colors of this outfit are very Mardi Gras for some reason. We don’t often see Dorothy in this neckline, either. I also love the sort of scarf style of the jacket.

She sings “Hard Hearted Hannah (The Vamp from Savannah)” which really proves just how top notch the writers of this episode were. Not only does the song expertly showcase Bea Arthur’s talents as a singer, but she had also previously sung the song on Maude and, to top it all off, the allusion to Blanche’s beloved home state of Georgia really drives the hilarious tension of the scene home. Blanche has her feminine wiles, but Dorothy certainly knows how to work a crowd on pure talent!

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I decided to make a collage for the outfits in the next scene because, like I said earlier, there is a lot of fashion in this episode. Everybody has gathered for Sophia’s wake except–surprise!–of course Rose forgot to let everybody know that Sophia is still alive! It’s funny to me that Rose would choose to wear black, too, even at a wake for someone who’s still alive. The sheer apron is amazing, though.

This scene does have some funny moments, like when Blanche tries to liven up the party by asking Myrtle do some impressions. She starts crying, “Oh, god! Oh, god! Oh, god!” and Blanche says, “Jimmy Swaggart, right?” Myrtle then says she didn’t even know Sophia was sick and Blanche guesses Claus von Bulow. Both of those references are likely lost on younger viewers watching the show for the first time on hulu, but if you get the references it’s hysterical. Both Blanche and Sohpia’s outfits feature some very 90’s touches: the geometric belt and gathered top. Remember how we all used to wear super long t-shirts, but we would tie them up with those plastic ring things? That’s what the top of Sophia’s dress reminds me of.

Rose has some of her funniest lines in this scene: “I made the freakin’ hors d’oeuvres, leave me alone!” Then Sophia comes out in her blue dress, everybody is mad that she’s not really dead, aaaand scene. Well, Rose has one more funny line when Sophia confronts her about the mistake: “And I made the freakin’ punch! And I made the freakin’ decorations!” I get it, Rose, but you know that old saying: no good deed goes unpunished.

Ok, back to The Rusty Anchor one more time for the floor show!

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Dorothy wears a beautiful flowy top in swaths of fuchsia and violet over a matching cream colored blouse and pants. It’s a casual yet very sophisticated look and one that I think would still be beautiful today. This time she has a captive audience, and she knows it! Not to be outdone, of course, Blanche has put together her own performance and boy, is it a doozy! This scene alone is probably why this episode is such a favorite.

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Blanche first hides this stunning beaded Bob Mackie-like number under a trench coat, which she removes to get the men’s attention away from Dorothy. Her hair is also pulled up in a style that can only be achieved with a banana clip. Bonus points for the matching red tights and shoes! She “sings” “I Want to be Loved by You” in an obvious homage to Marilyn Monroe. The whole thing is hilariously over the top, but it’s a perfect showcase for Rue’s physical comedy chops. Here, just watch!

This episode really should have been nominated for an Emmy, in my opinion, although Betty White was nominated for “Dateline: Miami” at least.

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In the end Dorothy and Blanche have a heart to heart in the ladies room of The Rusty Anchor which, by the way, is extremely large and glamorous for a dive bar. I’m sure it was just a re-used set from some other show, probably a soap opera, but it makes me laugh to see it every time.

Blanche is jealous of Dorothy’s talent to “light up the room” when she sings which Dorothy says is the nicest thing Blanche has ever said to her, and the two agree to avoid showing up to The Rusty Anchor on the same night. We can also get a better glimpse of Dorothy’s necklace here and, once again, she’s carrying a pocketbook with a chain strap! I had one pretty similar to that, probably around this time, too. I remember I had a fit for it at the local mall. We get a last look at Blanche’s fabulous dress, too. Everybody tends to remember the red sequined number from the “Love, Rose” episode in season 2 or, of course, her red wedding dress, but this one is the obvious showstopper!

Finally, the inspiration for the title of this post comes from one of my favorite Marilyn Monroe films, The Prince and the Showgirl. I love this film because it shows just how talented Marilyn was as an actress, and it reminded me of how Dorothy was finally given her moment in the spotlight in this episode.

4 thoughts on “The Vamp and the Showgirl

  1. Pingback: Blazers of Glory – Golden Girls Fashion Corner

  2. Pingback: Fine Feathered Friends – Golden Girls Fashion Corner

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