After I wrote A Short History of Sophia’s Purse I started doing research for an essay about the “72 Hours” episode of The Golden Girls. There are already some great articles out there about it, and Jim Colucci’s chapter in Golden Girls Forever is particularly illuminating. In trying to write about just what makes that episode so memorable, though, I started to dig a little deeper. Pretty quickly I learned that Estelle Getty was an early and outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights and HIV and AIDS awareness. We have trial access to the LGBT Magazine Archive database at work right now, too, and you know I just had to start searching for Golden Girls stuff right away!
One of the first things I found was this fantastic interview from the October 10, 1989 issue of The Advocate. What a great title! For an actress on such a popular television show at the time she makes some pretty forward thinking statements.
I’m not the biggest fan of what she says at the very beginning, but I think her intent was probably just to encourage people to be ok with coming out.
I am tremendously grateful to the gay community. They put me where I am today. They discovered me, and they stuck by me, and they’ve been very loyal.
The article also calls attention to the “numerous AIDS fundraising functions and gay-sponsored events” that she was a part of. I think this is a fact about Estelle that has been somewhat lost in recent years. She was really the one most known for her LGBTQ and AIDS activism at the time. Here she is in the video below attending the AIDS Project Los Angeles benefit. Fast forward to the 3:40 mark to see her.
I love this video footage so much and what she says about AIDS being her “most important cause right now.” What a great snapshot of the fundraising efforts that were so instrumental in raising awareness and money to fight AIDS, too.
Here’s the rest of the interview:
The funny thing is, sometimes I talk to someone, and she’ll tell me her son is gay, and the first thing they always ask, even now is, “Where did I go wrong?” Nobody went wrong. But they still ask that!
She says a few things that we wouldn’t say today, but I think overall it’s remarkable that she spoke up for her support of the LGBTQ community and AIDS at that time, even going so far as to end the interview stating that she was “proud that my husband and sons are not homophobic.” Of course, Sophia was often very forward thinking herself on The Golden Girls, like in the “Sister of the Bride” episode when she helps Blanche to understand gay marriage.
I know this post isn’t really about fashion at all, but I just wanted to call attention to some of things about Estelle Getty that don’t seem to get mentioned as often. Estelle was a real class act and a true gem who deserves to be remembered for speaking up when it wasn’t always popular to do so.