The Secret History of Ham

SOOKIE: You know ham was originally made out of rice?

It definitely wasn’t – ham is, and always was, made out of pig. It is hard to know how ham even could be made from rice.

As a professional chef, Sookie must surely know this. I’d like to think that Sookie is making a “look how dumb I am” joke, in protest at Lorelai and Jackson putting her intelligence down. If not, perhaps she’s taken it to heart that Jackson prefers his women dumb, and is trying to give him what he wants.

Der Wienerschnitzel

LORELAI: Where’s his dad?
LUKE: Oh well, the great prize that my sister picked up at a Der Wienerschnitzel left her about two years ago, whereabouts unknown.

Wienerschnitzel is an American fast food chain specialising in hot dogs (even though the name refers to crumbed veal, which the restaurant has only served a few times). It was founded in 1961 as Der Weinerschitzel (which is grammatically incorrect as a German phrase). Although the name was changed in 1977, many older customers still use the original name.

Wienerschnitzel is predominantly located in California, which suggests that Luke’s sister Liz met her son’s father there, and that she and her son have been on their own for two years. It is worth noting that this back story changed during the course of the show.


LUKE: It’s not biologically natural for people to mate for life. Animals don’t mate for life. Well, ducks do, but who the hell cares what ducks do?

In fact ducks don’t mate for life – most duck species, such as mallards, are monogamous, but for only for a single breeding season (a possible foreshadowing of the length of Max and Lorelai’s bond).

Some sea ducks are thought to return to the same partner when they make their way to the breeding grounds, but this is hardly the same as what a human marriage is generally like. In a few species of stiff-tailed duck, polygamy is the norm, with one male mating with several females.

Furthermore, even within pair-bonded duck couples, promiscuity is reasonably common – they are socially monogamous, not necessarily sexually monogamous.

Quotes for the Wedding Invitations

Rory selects three quotes for Lorelai to choose from, one of which will be printed on the wedding invitations.

The first one is: “What is love? It is the morning and the evening star.” – Sinclair Lewis

This is a quote from Sinclair Lewis’ 1927 novel Elmer Gantry, a scathing satire on fundamentalist religion. The title character is a religious hypocrite and a fraud. Lorelai obviously knows very little about Sinclair Lewis, who she describes as “sappy”. In fact the Nobel Prize Winner was known for his biting wit and critical eye on American culture and materialism. The quote itself is from the title character, who is being entirely insincere. Rory may have read Elmer Gantry partly on Richard’s recommendation – Sinclair Lewis was a favourite author of H.L. Mencken, and he attended Yale, Richard’s own alma mater.

The second one is: And all went merry as a marriage bell. But hush! Hark! A deep sound strikes like a rising knell!” – Lord Byron

This is from Lord Byron’s 1818 long narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Semi-autobiographical, it describes a world-weary young man, looking for distraction by travelling through foreign lands. It made its author immediately famous. This section of the poem is about a grand party in Brussels, which is brought to a disastrous and sinister end by the Battle of Waterloo.

Lorelai’s comment is, “Byron and Lewis, together again”. She may be referring to Matthew Gregory (“M.G.”) Lewis, the author of the 1796 Gothic romance The Monk. He and Lord Byron were friends, and travelled together. Rory may have read Byron’s poem because it is mentioned in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. It seems like Rory to want to follow up on a literary work that is referenced in another.

The last quote is: “We have buried the putrid corpse of liberty.” – Benito Mussolini

The whole quote is, “The Truth Apparent, apparent to everyone’s eyes who are not blinded by dogmatism, is that men are perhaps weary of liberty. They have a surfeit of it. Liberty is no longer the virgin, chaste and severe, to be fought for … we have buried the putrid corpse of liberty … the Italian people are a race of sheep.” It comes from Writings and Discourses of Mussolini, a twelve-volume work published between 1934 and 1940.

The choice of Mussolini seems to be a callback to Lorelai calling Headmaster Charleston “Il Duce“, the title of Fascist dictator Mussolini. She said this to Max during an argument they were having about Rory’s education in The Deer Hunters. Amazingly, this is the quote which Lorelai chooses, an apparent acknowledgement that her freedom is now at an end.

As you can see, all the quotes are completely inappropriate for wedding invitations. The first one is an insincere summing-up of love by a hypocrite and fraud, the second one is about a celebration which ends in disaster, and the third one equates marriage with the death of Lorelai’s liberty, said by a fascist dictator, and referencing a fight between Lorelai and Max.

What message is Rory trying to send with her choice of these quotes? They suggest a deep cynicism in her about marriage in general, and Lorelai and Max’s wedding in particular.

Elizabeth Taylor

LORELAI: Hey Mom. I was in the neighborhood, ’cause there’s that wedding dress place on Willow. Elizabeth Taylor bought one of her dresses there.

Dame Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) was a British-American actress, businesswoman, and humanitarian. Beginning her career as a child actress in the 1940s, including a part in Lassie Come Home, previously mentioned, she became one of the most popular movie stars of the 1950s. She successfully continued her career in the 1960s, including as the female lead in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, previously discussed, for which she won the Best Actress Academy Award. She remained a well-known public figure for the rest of her life, and is regarded as one of the great screen legends.

Elizabeth Taylor was famous for her many marriages, marrying eight times to seven men. Her marriages were to hotel heir Conrad “Nicky” Hilton in 1950, British actor Michael Wilding in 1952, producer Mike Todd in 1957, singer Eddie Fisher in 1959, Welsh actor Richard Burton in 1964, and then again in 1975, Republican politician John Warner in 1976, and construction worker Larry Fortensky in 1991 (ending in 1996). None of her marriages lasted a long time (she was widowed about a year after marrying Mike Todd), and this is another hint to us of the probable fate of any marriage between Lorelai and Max.

Elizabeth Taylor did not buy any of her wedding dresses in Hartford, and only had a traditional white wedding dress for her first wedding to Nicky Hilton [pictured]. It was made by MGM costume designer Helen Rose (who also made Grace Kelly’s wedding dress), and was a gift to Taylor by the studio. Her other wedding dresses were stylish gowns, with the most “wedding like” of them being for her last wedding, to Larry Fortensky. It was a pale yellow floor-length lace gown by the designer Valentino, and given to her by him as a gift.

Paris and Volunteering

PARIS: When you apply to an Ivy League school, you need more than good grades and test scores to get you in. Every person who applies to Harvard has a perfect GPA and great test scores. It’s the extras that put you over the top. The clubs, charities, volunteering. You know.
RORY: Oh yeah, I know.

Paris explains to Rory what she should already know – to get into a top university like Harvard, you need something to set you apart from all the other excellent candidates.

Paris has been volunteering since she was about nine, and began by handing out cookies at the local children’s hospital (possibly the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford). By the age of ten she was running a study group for teenagers, probably through Chilton. She has also been a counsellor for a children’s summer camp, organised a literacy program for seniors, worked at a suicide prevention hotline (a truly terrifying thought), and a residential centre for runaways and homeless youth.

She has also adopted dolphins (you just send money to an organisation like The Oceanic Society), taught American Sign Language (perhaps through the American School for the Deaf in Hartford), and trained guide dogs (volunteers raise puppies and give them socialisation and basic training before handing them back so they can be trained as guide dogs; Paris may have done this through Guiding Eyes in Hartford.) We know Paris likes dogs, because her dog Skippy is said to have had a litter of puppies on Lorelai’s mini-dress that she borrowed: weirdly (or perhaps lazily by the writers) her dog has the same name as Rory’s unfortunate hamster.

Paris has done an insane amount of volunteering for a 16-17 year old girl, but in fact choosing this as a good method of getting into Harvard is almost certainly wrong. Colleges don’t seem to be really be that impressed by you doing huge amounts of random volunteer work (probably because anyone with half a brain and no life can rack up hours of unpaid work fairly easily).

What they really want to see is how your extracurricular activities demonstrate the kind of person you are, and the unique skills and interests that you have. For example, Paris wants to work in medical research, so the children’s hospital was a great start, but she didn’t stick with it. It would have been better to continue volunteering with just one or two organisations, and demonstrate that she had gained a leadership role and given real help to the community – maybe even won an award of some kind. Paris’ volunteering CV looks as if she’s desperately taken any role offered (and sending money to dolphins doesn’t look impressive to anyone).

Furthermore, it depends on the university how highly they rank volunteer work when assessing applications. It doesn’t seem to be extremely important for Harvard, which makes Paris’ efforts even more pointless.

“I mean it Timmy, no falling down the well”

LORELAI: Call me when you get home, and please be careful.
RORY: I will.
LORELAI: I mean it Timmy, no falling down the well.

Lorelai is referencing an old joke relating to the television show Lassie, earlier discussed.

In the show, Lassie would bark to give warning of danger, with her human friends apparently understanding exactly what she was saying. Thus it was parodied as, “Woof, woof!”, “What’s that, Lassie? Timmy’s fallen down the well?”. The joke relates to the 1957-1964 period, when the little boy on the show was Timmy Martin, played by Jon Provost (who called his memoirs Timmy’s in the Well: The Jon Provost Story).

In actuality, Timmy never fell down a well, although he suffered a number of similar situations, such as falling in a lake and getting trapped in an old mine, a pipe, and down a badger hole. The list of Timmy’s perils is very long, and includes wandering onto a minefield and being exposed to radiation, not to mention more mundane concerns like tigers and bears. Lassie did once get stuck down a well herself, though.

“10 and 2 hand position”

RORY: You didn’t say anything on the ride home.
LORELAI: I was concentrating.
RORY: So …
LORELAI: Well, I feel I’ve gotten sloppy with this whole “10 and 2” hand position thing.
RORY: Mm hmm.
LORELAI: Yeah seriously, the other day I caught myself doing a “9 and 4.”
RORY: Mom.
LORELAI: Well, if left uncorrected, that can only lead to a “6 and 12”, or worse yet, an “8 and 11”, which is not only dangerous but damn uncomfortable.

Lorelai is referring to the traditional instruction given in driver’s education training to keep your hands on the steering wheel as if one is at ten o’clock on a clock face, and the other one is marking two o’clock.

This information is now outdated, and in fact it was outdated even at the time Lorelai was saying it. Once airbags came in during the 1990s, this way of holding the steering wheel became potentially dangerous, as if you are holding the wheel at “10 and 2” when an airbag deploys, you risk having your fingers or hands crushed, or your nose broken.

Driving instructors now suggest “9 and 3” as a better position, or even “8 and 4”, as being safer and giving better control over the vehicles. Having said that, “6 and 12” and “8 and 11” are clearly wrong, and certainly neither would be comfortable nor safe.

“Camelot is truly dead”

LORELAI: Do you know that butt models make $10,000 a day? [Rory chuckles]
EMILY: Camelot is truly dead.

Camelot is the name of King Arthur’s castle and court in Arthurian legend. Americans use the term to refer to the presidency of John F. Kennedy, which was first applied by his widow Jacqueline Kennedy after his assassination in 1963.

Jackie referenced a line from the 1960 stage musical Camelot: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief, shining moment, that was known as Camelot”. Indicating that this was one of John F. Kennedy’s favourite lyrics from the musical, she added, “There will be great presidents again, but there’ll never be another Camelot again”.

I’m not sure where Lorelai received her information from, but butt models in the movies actually make about $500 a day, double that if they go nude. Outside the movies, it might be as little as $200 a day – they get paid by the hour, and let’s face it, hardly anybody wants to film a single butt all day. These days, a butt model could make as much as $5000 from just one Instagram post, but that isn’t the norm, and the option didn’t exist in 2001.

Fred Mertz

LORELAI: My father almost hit someone. My father has probably only hit another man in college wearing boxing gloves and one of those Fred Mertz Golden Gloves pullover sweaters.
LORELAI: I Love Lucy – Fred Mertz.
CHRISTOPHER: Landlord to Ricky, husband to Ethel, I know. It’s just a weird reference.

Lorelai and Christopher pretty much annotate this one themselves. On the 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy, previously and frequently mentioned, Fred Mertz (William Frawley) was Ethel’s (Vivian Vance’s) husband, and the landlord of Ricky and Lucy Ricardo in New York. After the Ricardos moved to Connecticut to start chicken farming, Fred and Ethel followed them, and the Ricardos ended up being the Mertz’s landlords.

In his heyday, Fred was a boxing champion, and in the episode Changing the Boys’ Wardrobe (December 1953) he can be seen wearing a sweater which says GOLDEN GLOVES 1909. In fact the first Golden Gloves amateur boxing championship took place in 1923 in Chicago, after which the name was applied to any number of amateur boxing contests.