The 1988 Royal Variety Performance

In honor of the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, I present to you… The Golden Girls 1988 Royal Variety Performance! What do these two things have to do with each other? Well, not much, really, but I thought it would be fun to mark the occasion by remembering the time the Girls hobnobbed with British royalty for a day. It’s one of those things that you can hardly believe actually happened, but it did! The Queen Mother (that’s the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II’s late mum) was a huge fan of The Golden Girls and arranged for them to perform on the 1988 Royal Variety Performance, which was held at the London Palladium Theatre and broadcast live on the BBC. Check out the footage below:

Now for a bit of background about the whole thing from Wikipedia:

The Royal Variety Performance is a televised variety show held annually in the United Kingdom to raise money for the Royal Variety Charity (of which Queen Elizabeth II is life-patron).[1] It is attended by senior members of the British Royal Family.[2] The evening’s performance is presented as a live variety show, usually from a theatre in London and consists of family entertainment that includes comedy, music, dance, magic and other specialty acts.

The Royal Variety Performance traditionally begins with the entrance of the members of the British Royal Family followed by singing of the national anthem, God Save the Queen.

Sounds like a lot of fun to me! I’m sure many Brits find it a little insufferable at this point, though. According to the Royal Variety Charity website, the performance has been presented since 1912 in a variety of venues including the London Coliseum and the Royal Albert Hall. The 2018 performance will again take place at the Palladium on Monday, November 19th. Tickets are already sold out, so I guess it’s still quite popular! Last year’s lineup of performers was a bit naff, if you ask me. Along with The Golden Girls, the 1988 show included A-Ha, Kylie Minogue, Bananarama, and of course Cliff Richard. While more recent performances have expanded to include more American and international performers–Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Ricky Martin, The Killers, Neil Diamond, Alicia Keys, and Kacey Musgraves all appeared in recent years–the 1980’s were still a largely British pop culture affair, although the 1980 event included a “Hollywood Salute” with Sammy Davis Junior, Peggy Lee, Larry Hagman, and Aretha Franklin. West-End musicals are also almost always featured, which sometimes includes shows that originated on Broadway, but of course Andrew Lloyd Weber’s creations get top billing.

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The Royal Variety Charity website maintains a huge (their word, not mine) and comprehensive archive of information about past performances here. It’s really fun to poke around the archive and see who performed over the years! Sometimes there are even fun photos and scans of the programs, like the one from 1988 above. You can just make out the Girls in the photo on the page above.

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If you’re like me then you probably enjoy Britcoms and other UK television shows just as much as The Golden Girls, so I think it’s a real treat to see them on The Royal Variety Performance (or Show, as it was sometimes called). Their skit was just like the show, right down to the fashion and even the table and chairs! A news item from the time announced their upcoming performance with a quote from Bea Arthur:

We’ll do about seven minutes from the show, but we’ll have to censor a few things for the queen.

This turned out to be only a little true as they left in the joke about how long Blanche waited to have sex after George died, which the Queen Mother apparently “chuckled heartily” at! I don’t know why you would need to worry about censoring something for the country that gave us Benny Hill and Monty Python, so I’m glad they left some baudy bits in. The news article also noted that The Golden Girls was “a big hit in England as well as the United States.” Perhaps that points to the crossover success that would happen here a few years later with Keeping Up Appearances.

Whether or not you plan to tune in to tomorrow’s festivities or even if the whole thing leaves you feeling miffed, I hope you enjoyed watching this unique Golden Girls moment in history!

 

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