Past Graduates of Harvard

LORELAI: Past graduates. Henry James … isn’t that a beer?
RORY: And a novelist. Go on.
LORELAI: John Adams. That’s a beer!
RORY: Our second president. He’s very in right now.
LORELAI: W.E.B. Du Bois, Yo-Yo Ma. Oh cool! Fred Gwynne.
RORY: Who?
LORELAI: Herman Munster. Now I’m impressed.

Henry James (1943-1916), earlier mentioned, was an American-born British author, often considered one of the greatest novelists of all time. He is best known for his novels and stories depicting interactions between Americans, English people, and Continental Europeans, such The Portrait of a Lady, and The Ambassadors. Henry James’ style closely examines the psychology of his characters in an ambiguous or contradictory way. There is no beer named Henry James that I know of. Henry James attended Harvard Law School in 1862, but soon discovered he had no interest in law, and pursued a literary career instead, so he isn’t actually a graduate.

John Adams (1735-1826) was an American statesman and Founding Father of the United States who served as the Vice-President of the US, and as the second President of the US from 1797 to 1801. Adams tended to be a rather obscure president for many years, with many Americans knowing nothing about him, until the publication of his biography John Adams by popular American historian David McCullough in May 2001. It was very favourably received, and brought about a resurgence in Adams’ reputation. Rory seems to be referring to this book by saying Adams “is very in right now”, and has almost certainly read it. There is actually a beer named John Adams. John Adams entered Harvard in 1751, graduating in 1755 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

William Edward Burghardt “W.E.B.” Du Bois (1868-1963) was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, and writer. He was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909, and was the leader of the Niagara Movement who worked for equal rights for blacks. A prolific author, Du Bois’ 1903 essay collection The Souls of Black Folk was a seminal work in African-American literature, and his 1935 Black Reconstruction in America was his greatest work. The Civil Rights Act, embodying many of the reforms for which Du Bois had campaigned, was enacted the year after his death. W.E.B. Du Bois attended Harvard from 1888 to 1890, where he received his second bachelor’s degree, graduating cum laude.

Yo-Yo Ma (born 1955) is a French-born American cellist. A child prodigy, he has performed as a soloist with orchestras around the world, recorded more than 90 albums, and received 18 Grammy Awards. He has received several prestigious awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Yo-Yo Ma received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1976, and in 1991 Harvard awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Frederick “Fred” Gwynne (1926-1993) was an American actor, singer, artist, and author, best-known for his roles in 1960s sitcoms such as The Munsters, where he played Herman Munster, who resembled Frankenstein’s monster. He also sang professionally, painted, and was a successful children’s author. Fred Gwynne graduated from Harvard in 1951, and was highly involved in Harvard life, including as a member of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals.

 

Cocktails

Emily is already drinking a Manhattan [pictured]; a cocktail made from whiskey, vermouth, and bitters, usually served in a cocktail glasss with a Maraschino cherry. It seems to date from the mid-19th century, and to have originated in bars around the Manhattan area. There are many variations on the drink. Because Emily praises her Manhattan for not being too sweet, it may be a Dry Manhattan made with dry vermouth, or a Perfect Manhattan, made with a mixture of dry and sweet vermouth.

Lorelai orders a Rum and Coke; it is not certain who for, but because she orders it first and without asking, it may be for Sookie. Rum and coke is a mixture of rum and cola with a dash of lime juice served with ice. It originated in Cuba, where it is called a Libre Cuba (“Free Cuba”), and dates to the early 20th century after Cuba won its independence in the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Lorelai orders a Margarita without salt, possibly for Miss Patty. A margarita is a mixture of tequila, Cointreau, and lime juice, traditionally served in a special cocktail glass that looks like a champagne glass. Originating in Mexico (its name is Spanish for “Daisy”), it became popular in the 1930s, when Prohibition gave Americans a reason to go over the border into Mexico to get a drink.

Lorelai orders a Martini with an olive, previously discussed. I feel that the martini may be for Michel – as he didn’t tell Lorelai what he wanted, she may have chosen the standard cocktail at the elder Gilmore residence for him.

Lorelai orders a Shirley Temple, previously discussed. This now seems to be Rory’s go-to mocktail, which she drinks with ice. Note that even as a supposed 18 year old, Rory is unable to drink alcohol in a bar, as the drinking age is 21 in the US. As Rory is the only person not drinking, I presume she is the designated driver.

Lorelai orders herself a giant Long Island Iced Tea. This drink is a mixture of vodka, tequila, rum, triple sec, gin, and a splash of cola, which gives it the amber tea-colour it gets its name from, often decorated with a lemon and a straw. It has a very high alcohol content, due to the small amount of mixer in it.

Queen Victoria

MICHEL: This is a drag club.
SOOKIE: It’s called the Queen Victoria. What did you expect, tea and crumpets?

Victoria, born Alexandrina Victoria (1819-1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 until her death. She became a national icon, and is identified with standards of strict morality that we still refer to as “Victorian”. Hr reign of more than 63 years was longer than any other of her predecessors, and is known as the Victorian Era, a period of industrial, scientific and cultural change in the UK, coupled with a great expansion of the British Empire.

Michel seems put out that he has been taken to a drag club, perhaps another signal that he was originally not presented as a gay character. Sookie mentions tea and crumpets as a favourite afternoon snack of the Victorian era (and still popular today).

The Queen Victoria is a fictional drag club. In real life there is a gay bar in Hartford where you can see drag shows, but it is not actually a drag club per se. The sign outside the Queen Victoria identifies it as a “bar and grill” (unless that is the place next door) and in real life, Hartford has a couple of bars and cafes that have regular drag shows.

Party Games

LORELAI: Shouldn’t we wait for Dad?
EMILY: Don’t worry about him.
LORELAI: He’s the one with the early plane. We don’t have to go anywhere tomorrow. We can stay all night. Have a party, do some Jell-O shots, play light as a feather, stiff as a board.

Jello-O shots (jelly shots) are made from flavoured gelatine powder, some water to dissolve it, then alcohol added, usually rum or vodka, and set into little jellies served in shot glasses or little plastic cups. The alcohol is contained within the jelly mixture, so that the body absorbs it more slowly, making it easy to consume a lot of alcohol before the effects are felt. Alcoholic gelatines have been enjoyed since the 19th century, but became more common during the 1950s.

Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board is a game often played at girls’ slumber parties. It is a levitation trick, where one girl pretends to be dead while the others chant “light as a feather, stiff as a board”, and lift the girl using just one or two fingertips. At the end of all the chanting and rituals, the girl will seem lighter, or even weightless. The game works through equal distribution of weight, making it easy for a group of people to lift a child. Variants of the game have been played since at least the 17th century, and it always seems to have been a girl’s game (perhaps partly because girls tend to be lighter and easier to lift to begin with).

Corona

LORELAI: Uh, well, I’ll have a white wine and Dean’ll have a beer.
DEAN: What?!
LORELAI: Corona, right?
DEAN: No, I don’t want a beer!

Corona Extra is a brand of Mexican pale lager produced by Cervecerio Modelo, first made in 1925. It is the top-selling imported beer in the United States.

All three Gilmore females take a slightly malicious pleasure in torturing Dean by pretending that he wants to drink beer. It’s a callback to the night of Rory’s winter formal, when Emily questioned Lorelai about Dean, including asking if he drank.

You can’t help feeling there’s a bit of payback for accidentally keeping Rory out late on the night of the dance, which led to an almighty family row. You can see Rory as either joining in with it, or trying to defuse the situation with humour.

Luke Hears Lorelai’s News

With great trepidation because everyone has made it seem like such a big deal, Lorelai tells Luke that Max proposed to her. He has already guessed (or heard it on the Stars Hollow grapevine), and deliberately behaves in a nonchalant manner.

She is already taken aback, when he begins questioning her about what her plans for married life with Max are. Of course she doesn’t have any – she hasn’t even decided whether to marry Max or not, let alone thought about the reality of it.

Luke’s questions, which are quite rude and intrusive, have the effect of making Lorelai realise in a panic that she and Max haven’t had even one conversation about where they will live as a married couple, whether Max expects Lorelai to keep working, if they plan of having children together, or even how they will manage their joint finances.

Incidentally in this scene, you can get a good look at the coffee brand that Luke uses in the diner. It’s Hills Bros. Coffee, a brand from San Francisco sold since the early twentieth century. It was owned by Sara Lee in 2001, and is now owned by Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA.

Hills Bros claim their coffee has a bold, smooth flavour, but reviews for it tend to say it smells better than it tastes, and is generally pretty mediocre, although very strong and good value for money. Somehow Luke manages to make this average, budget-wise coffee taste amazing – which is quite a feat for someone who doesn’t drink coffee and doesn’t approve of it. Perhaps Lorelai and Rory aren’t as fussy about coffee as they think they are, or they are heavily biased by their love for Luke.

Chocolate covered espresso beans

(Lorelai, Rory, and Max are walking down the street. Lorelai and Max are carrying small grocery bags.)
MAX: Okay, we’ve got food, drink, reading material, chocolate covered espresso beans.

Chocolate-covered espresso beans are coffee beans covered in chocolate. They are candy made for the Gilmore girls, who love both sugar and caffeine. A serving of 40 g (about a handful) contains the same amount of caffeine as three cups of coffee.

In actuality, there are no such things as “espresso beans” – espresso is made from the same coffee plants as any other coffee.