Season 4 is a weird one, isn’t it? So many of the plots are pretty nonsensical, but often the scripts and the jokes are still funny. I definitely feel like that’s the case with the “Bang the Drum, Stanley” episode, although it turned out to be not one of my favorites. This episode is memorable for two things: the source of the “What a hit!” gif featuring Sophia and Rose and Blanche’s costumes from the musical Cats. Apologies in advance for the blurriness of most of the photos of this episode. I was still high on pain meds from having my wisdom teeth removed, and obviously my focusing skills weren’t the best. Oh, well. You get what you get and you don’t get upset!
Ok, I lied about one thing in the intro. This episode is also memorable because Dorothy is wearing culottes!! She’s paired them with her signature scrunchy, flat boots and a red tunic over a white blouse. I actually really like this look! It has sort of all of the quintessential Dorothy style elements but none of the busy patterns of some of her other wackier ensembles. Sophia is wearing almost head to toe off white, but her blouse has a bow at the neck along with stripes that feature a woven pattern and some iridescence. Her sweater vest is also embroidered with what I think are grapes. We get a better look at this outfit a little bit later. This was also a really touching scene between Sophia and Dorothy as they look through the photo album and reminisce together.
Bang the drum, indeed, Stan, because this is your first appearance on The Golden Girls Fashion Corner! The baseball “theme” of this episode is another reason why I decided to write about it since the World Series was going on at the time. In fact, in case you ever wondered (I know I did), the title of this episode references a book and its film adaptation of the same name from 1973, Bang the Drum Slowly. I haven’t seen it, but I think the title is referencing the main character who’s not very smart, much like Stan. Maybe there’s more to it than that if you’ve seen the film, but I don’t know.
Stan is wearing a very typical old white dude jacket with cargo pockets. He wears that jacket a lot. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him wear it in at least three other episodes, but I’m not about to start keeping track of his outfit repeats! Blanche is lovely in this scene in bright blue. The earrings are a little clunky for me. I don’t think the rectangular shape is as flattering for her face. Rose appeared in this opening scene, too, wearing a beige blazer over a floral print dress that I’ve seen her wear before. She and Blanche also announce that they just auditioned for the “award-winning musical, Cats.” More on that soon!
Of course, the real reason Stan invited Dorothy to the Dodgers game is so he can tell her that he’s broke. This was also a bit of a weird coincidence because the Dodgers were playing against the Red Sox while I wrote most of this post. Next, Sophia gets hit in the head with a baseball (cue the “What a hit!” gif), even though that seems unlikely since they’re up in the nosebleeds. In this scene, though, we get a better look at her sweater vest and blouse before they head to the hospital.
Rose and Blanche make their showstopping appearance in the Cats costumes during the next scene when Sophia is in the hospital. Rose tells a story about the game of Gowhackanoggin (which probably does more to explain her origin story than any other St. Olaf story), and the doctor makes a CAT scan joke. There are a few photos around the Internet of Rose and Blanche’s Cats costumes that are better than the one I got so I’ve included them in the slideshow below for your Jellicle viewing pleasure!
Full disclosure: I have actually never seen Cats, which may come as a shock to those who know me as a cat lady and a lover of musical theater. All the characters have bizarre names from T. S. Eliot’s poems, and I just really don’t like Andrew Lloyd Webber’s work all that much (Evita being the notable exception). Plus, when I went to London with my mom and dad in the early 90’s, when Cats was still a pretty big deal, we saw Starlight Express instead, which is basically remembered for being that other musical on roller skates. I thought it was the most amazing thing ever and promptly became obsessed with it. I even had the cast recording on a cassette tape.
But back to these costumes. Basically, they look nothing like the actual costumes from Cats, but this is supposed to be community theater after all. My favorite part is the studded chokers. I know they’re supposed to mimic collars, but it just really throws an already outrageous look completely over the top for me. Which was probably the point anyway. The use of feather boas is also an odd choice, but maybe it was a budget and time issue for the costume department. Let’s take a look at this vintage cover of Newsweek magazine from 1982 for a second to compare costumes:
Unsurprisingly, there are no feathers in sight. Here’s some footage of the 1982 Broadway show, too, if you’re really interested. I feel like Cats is probably one of those musicals that’s a lot of fun to actually be in and, sure, I can see why it was such a big deal in the 80’s and into the 90’s. Probably if we had seen this in London when I was a kid I would’ve been just as obsessed with it as I became with Starlight Express. And, yes, of course Betty Buckley is an absolute Broadway legend. I really wish there had been a scene of Rose and Blanche actually on stage like in The Actor episode of season 2. Instead we get them practicing their method acting skill in the next scene, much to the annoyance of Sophia, who’s back home from the hospital.
There’s also Rose in her amazing St. Olaf polo shirt!! Why hasn’t somebody re-created this as a t-shirt yet?? I love her peep toe shoes, too. Blanche is wearing a red, oversize shirt with those dreaded pockets and matching pants along with more flattering earrings. She also wears this exact same outfit a few weeks later in the “Scared Straight” episode. Rue didn’t usually repeat outfits so close together, but I guess there was something about this one that she liked. This is one of the funniest scenes of the episode, though, Because Rose and Blanche are doing all kinds of weird things like playing with a ball of yarn and making screening noises (which is nothing unusual for Blanche), and poor Sophia is just trying to get some damn housecleaning done. Here she is wearing one of her favorite yellow cardigans.
Stan comes back over to “check” on Sophia, but Dorothy’s outfit throughout this scene is the real standout. Her long, navy blue with a hint of violet tunic features a white diamond shape in the middle with a cowl neckline that’s really more of a scarf. There’s also a little bit of dark pink trim around the diamond that becomes a ribbon which extends down to the hem of the tunic. It also has 3/4 length sleeves, gathered at the elbow, and shoulder pads because of course it does. Harlequin patterns were quite popular in the late 80s, and her tunic seems somewhat inspired by that trend. It makes for an interesting look that’s somehow oddly flattering on Dorothy. The ribbon part is a little weird, but it’s certainly not one of her most outlandish looks. Stan is, well, Stan.
Once she, Rose, and Blanche leave the room Stan proceeds with convincing Sophia to sue the baseball stadium by pretending to be more injured than she actually is. He’ll share the money with her and get himself out of bankruptcy. Sophia then pretends to be paralyzed on the floor, and Stan calls his sham doctor friend. After this Sophia pretends that she needs a wheelchair and a neck brace, but Dorothy is starting to catch on to the scheme when she tells her “by the way, you’re wearing your knee brace on your neck.”
In keeping with the variation on the harlequin theme here, Dorothy wears a pretty spectacular light pink duster with a large, diagonal windowpane pattern over a dark violet blouse. Even with the rolled up sleeves I still really love it on her! This color is not one one we see Dorothy wear that often so it really stands out as a unique look for her. Around the table in the kitchen, she tells the Girls that she knows Sophia is faking her injuries. Rose tries to convince her that she’s in denial and, when Dorothy disagrees, she then tries to tell her that she’s in denial about being in denial. Blanche then tells her story about dating Jean-Pierre Fontainebleau. Her Southern accent is really over the top and makes this scene particularly funny. Poor old Jean-Pierre doesn’t get enough attention compared to Blanche’s other beaus if you ask me. The color of her matching shirt and pants can only be described as goldenrod. It works on her, though.
Now here’s where this episode gets really meta because, just to teach Sophia a lesson, Dorothy has gone and set up a pretend doctor’s appointment with a little help from the Girls’ community theater connections! The actors do a great job of making Sophia feel guilty, especially little Timmy from the Burger City commercial, and she tells the truth. Dorothy wears another oversize coat in this scene, except this time it has dolman sleeves and a sort of burnout patchwork pattern.
In the last scene, back at home, Dorothy has changed into a short fleecy sweater in a large plaid pattern with a shawl collar, and Sophia wears a flowery blue house dress with one of her signature lace collars. Dorothy is also wearing a pair of gold earrings with an open rectangle shape that are flattering on her. We get one more look at Rose’s Cats costume as she leaves for rehearsal but then gets chased back inside by Dreyfuss.
Y’all, this episode is a mess. One of the problems with it is that it essentially doesn’t have a B story line. It makes about as much sense as the musical Cats does, which is to say not much at all. Sorry, Cats fans! I’ll make it up to you by going to see the next local production of Cats. Maybe. I’m not making any promises, promises. I did listen to the original Broadway cast recording while I was writing this to see if there was anything I’m missing out on. Well, folks, I made it to “The Jellicle Ball,” and then I couldn’t take anymore. If it had more songs like “Memory” then I would probably like it more because, as my husband says, I do love my soaring ballads. But listen, here’s the moral of the story: it’s ok to not like every episode of The Golden Girls just like it’s ok to not like every Broadway musical, and I say that as a big fan of both. Oh, well. You win some, you lose some! Until next time, Jellicle Cats…