Cotton Candy

EMILY: Fine. You go and I’ll wait and hold your cotton candy for you.

Cotton candy, otherwise known as candy floss or fairy floss, is a spun sugar confection, often coloured pink or blue and carried on a stick. The machine-made variety was invented by a dentist named William Morrison and a confectioner named John Wharton in 1897; it was first widely made available to the public at the World’s Fair in 1904. It’s a traditional treat sold at circuses, fairgrounds, and carnivals.

Coney Island Roller Coaster

RICHARD: Say, when was the last time we were on a roller coaster?
EMILY: Never.
RICHARD: Didn’t we ever go to Coney Island?
EMILY: That must’ve been your other wife.

Coney Island is a neighbourhood of Brooklyn in New York. Originally one of the Outer Barrier Islands, it became a peninsula in the early twentieth century when landfill connected it to Long Island. It became a seaside resort in the mid-nineteenth century, and by the late nineteenth century amusement parks had been built there.

The amusement parks began to decline after World War II, and by the 1950s were confined to a small area. At the time Richard and Emily would have been dating in the 1960s, Coney Island was considered crime-ridden and dangerous, so I don’t think Richard could ever have taken Emily there, and the last amusement park closed there in 1964, not to open again until the next decade. He might have gone there as a child though.

The amusement parks began to be revitalised in the early twenty-first century, and once more has many attractions. The famous roller coaster there is the Coney Island Cyclone, built in 1927, and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Richard and Emily could have gone on it in 2001-2002 when it was part of Astroland, despite feeling as if Coney Island is something from another era.

The Iliad and Monopoly

PARIS: Well, my parents are out of town, so my Portuguese nanny will make dinner and then I’ll either get back to reading The Iliad or we’ll play Monopoly. I crush her every time.

The Iliad, an ancient Greek epic poem, attributed to Homer, and usually dated to around the 8th century BC. The poem is set during the final weeks of the Trojan War, but contains so many allusions to past and future events that by the end it has told the entire story.

Monopoly, a board game where players roll dice to move around the board while buying and trading property. First published by Parker Brothers in 1935, and based on the 1903 The Landlord’s Game created by Lizzie Magie, it is one of the most well-known board games in the world.

Paris’ parents have gone away just as Paris goes on her break from school. It’s almost as if they’re trying to get away from her; they’re certainly not including her in their plans … no wonder the poor kid needs a nanny.

Shindig

DEAN: Hey Lane. Are you going to this big shindig at the inn tonight?
LANE: Yeah, I’m just trying to trick my mom into not going with me.

A shindig is an informal word for a small party, especially one that is lively, noisy, or out of control. Originally it was entirely rural, and seems to come from the American South, with the suggestion that the dancing was going to get so vigorous in such a small space that you’d literally be kicking people’s shins. It is not impossible that there is a connection with the Scottish Gaelic word sinteag, meaning “jump, leap”.

Slumber Party

LORELAI: Hey, you know what? Let’s invite everyone …
RORY: And they could even stay in the inn. All those empty rooms, all those uneaten pillow mints.
LORELAI: An out of control, over the top slumber party!

A slumber party, pyjama , or sleepover, is a party where everyone sleeps in the same house. Typically people play pranks and games, watch movies, or stay up all night talking and laughing. Usually for children and teenagers, if organised by adults, expect a lot of drinking, just like the Bracebridge Dinner!

Lorelai avoids Sookie’s plan of her having a cosy dinner with Luke by impulsively inviting everyone they know to the cancelled Bracebridge Dinner. It may not be entirely a coincidence that she also avoids Rory and Jess having a cosy dinner together. The idea of spending some quality time with Jess probably doesn’t appeal much to Lorelai.

This episode (like many of the “towny” instalments) is justifiably a fan favourite, and much of the appeal comes from the wish fulfilment of staying in a hotel with all your friends for free, eating a massive fantasy banquet, doing snow-related activities, and drinking until dawn. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?

The Bracebridge Dinner

LORELAI: For the Bracebridge Dinner.
JACKSON: Geez, you guys are going crazy with this dinner.
SOOKIE: Jackson, I told you, this dinner is not just about food. We are recreating an authentic 19th century meal.
LORELAI: The servers are all gonna be in period clothing, they’re gonna speak period English. Here, look at the costumes.

The Bracebridge Dinner is an annual tradition which has been held at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, California since 1927, when the hotel opened. The interior of the Ahwahnee was an inspiration for the hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s film, The Shining – a hint as to how Lorelai may have become interested in holding her own Bracebridge Dinner.

The Bracebridge Dinner is a seven-course formal gathering held in the Grand Dining Room and presented as a feast given by a Renaissance-era lord. It was inspired by the fictional Squire Bracebridge’s Yule celebration in a story from the 1820 work, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., by American author Washington Irving. Music and theatrical performances based on Irving’s story accompany the introduction of each course.

Tickets to the Bracebridge Dinner cost around $400 and are generally difficult to obtain, sometimes being awarded in a lottery system. In 1992, there were 60 000 applicants for the 1650 seats available. This could be the reason why the Trelling Paper Company from Chicago have decided to hold their own Bracebridge Dinner at the Independence Inn.

Sookie says they will be serving an authentic 19th century meal, but in fact it is a Renaissance-themed meal. There’s not that much authentic about the dinner really, however I’m pretty sure the 19th century one wasn’t either. It’s a bit of fun and frolic, not a history lesson.

Monster Truck Rallies

LORELAI: Maybe Dean won’t even come tonight.
RORY: Oh, he’ll be there. There aren’t enough monster truck rallies in the world to keep him away from Miss Patty’s tonight.

A monster truck is a specially modified truck for competition and entertainment, given heavy duty suspension, four-wheel drive, and oversized tyres. Monster trucks developed in the late 1970s, and by the early 1980s were popular side acts at motocross events. Today monster trucks take centre stage at rallies, usually having races and stunt driving. In real life, there are regular monster truck rallies in Hartford and Bridgeport, so Dean wouldn’t have any trouble getting to one.

Somehow Dean has devolved from being a big city boy who liked classic films, Hunter S. Thompson, and Nick Drake into a country boy who likes BattleBots and monster truck rallies. How did he go from seeming pretty perfect for Rory into someone we barely recognise?

Pamela and Tommy Lee

LORELAI: Sell it on the Internet, make a fortune. First we brought you Pamela and Tommy Lee, now prepare yourselves for the crazy antics of Rory and the Bard!

Pamela Anderson (born 1967), Canadian-American actress, model, and author, previously mentioned. In 1995, she married her first husband, Tommy Lee (born Thomas Bass in 1962), drummer for heavy metal band Mötley Crüe.

A sex tape of the couple on their honeymoon was stolen from their home in 1995, and widely discussed on the internet. Anderson sued the video distribution company, but eventually Pamela and Tommy entered into a confidential settlement agreement with the company, so that the sex tape was once again made available to subscribers, resulting in triple the normal traffic to their websites. Sceptics believe that the whole thing was a publicity stunt.

Sock Hops and Clambakes

PARIS: I’d really like to get an ‘A’ on this assignment, and in order to do that I’m afraid you’re gonna have to discuss your sock hops and your clambakes some other time, okay?

A sock hop [pictured] was an informal sponsored dance event for teenagers in the 1940s and ’50s, commonly held at high school gyms and cafeterias, and often as a fundraiser. The name comes from the fact that dancers were asked to remove their shoes so as not to damage the varnished floor of gymnasiums. The name was dropped once sneakers became common, so shoes could be worn. What we’d call a “school dance” today.

A clambake is a traditional method of cooking shellfish, such as lobsters, clams, and mussels, by steaming them over seaweed in a pit oven. Vegetables such as potatoes, onion, carrot and corn can be added. Usually held as festive occasions along the New England coast.

Siegfried and Roy

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EMILY: Oh, now you have a problem with swans and thrones.
LORELAI: Because swans and thrones scream one thing, Mom. Siegfried and Roy.

Siegfried and Roy were a duo of German-American magicians and entertainers, famous for their appearances with white lions and white tigers. They were Siegfried Fischbacher (1939-2021) and Roy Horn (born Uwe Horn, 1944-2020). They had a very successful act at the Mirage casino in Las Vegas from the 1990s until 2003, known for their flamboyant style, sometimes compared to Liberace.