EMILY: I’ll see you for dinner tonight, Lorelai. And Luke, I’m sure I’ll see you again soon. What do you think of the Romanovs?
LUKE: They probably had it coming.
EMILY: A match made in heaven.
The House of Romanov, the reigning imperial family of Russia from 1613 to 1917. They became prominent after the first Tsar of Russia, Ivan the Terrible, married Anastasia Romanova, the first Tsarina. It is from Anastasia’s name that the family became known as the Romanovs.
The abdication of Tsar Nicholas II during the Russian Revolution on 15 March 1917 ended 304 years of Romanov rule and paved the way for the formation of the Russian Republic. In July 1918, Bolshevik officials executed Nicholas and his family.
Although Lorelai refers to their murder as “the firing squad”, they were shot and bayoneted, then the bodies taken to the forest to be stripped, buried, then mutilated with grenades to prevent identification. This is what Luke thinks they “probably had coming”.
The Romanov burial site was discovered in 1979 by an amateur sleuth, but not officially confirmed by Russia until 1989. The remains were identified by forensic and DNA analysis, assisted by British experts, and in 1998 the remains were re-interred in a state funeral in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St Petersburg. In 2000, Nicholas II was canonised as a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church.
After the assassination of Nicholas and his family, the remaining 47 members of the Romanov family went into exile abroad, still claiming the former Russian throne. Since 1991, the line of succession has been in dispute.
[Picture shows Nicholas II of Russia with his wife Alexandra (Alix of Hesse), his son Alexei, and four daughters Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia].
EDIT: A date edited with the kind assistance of reader Omar.
LUKE: My uncle, King Tut, has to take all of them to the afterlife with him!
Tutankhamun, commonly referred to as King Tut, ancient Egyptian pharaoh who was the last of his royal family to rule during the 18th Dynasty (ruled circa 1332-1323 BC). His tomb was discovered in 1922, sparking a renewed public interest in ancient Egypt. He was buried with over 5000 artefacts, with some of his treasures being exhibited around the world at various times.
William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891), general in the Union Army during the American Civil War, recognised for his military strategy and criticised for his harsh scorched earth policies against the Confederate States. His memoirs were published in 1875, becoming one of the best-known first-hand accounts of the Civil War.
Football signed by Johnny Unitas
John “Johnny Unitas (1933-2002) football quarterback from 1956 to 1973, primarily playing with the Baltimore Colts. He is consistently listed as one of the greatest NFL players of all time, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979.
Gas mask (from World War I or II?)
Pith helmet (safari helmet worn by European travellers and explorers, routinely issued to European armed forces in hot climates in both world wars)
Baseball card collection
Lou Gehrig (Henry Louis Gehrig, born Heinrich Ludwig Gehrig, 1903-1941), played with the New York Yankees from 1923 to 1939. Known as “The Iron Horse” for his durability, he still has the highest ratio of runs scored plus runs batted among Hall of Fame players, being inducted in 1939. His career was brought to a tragic end by motorneurone disease, still often called Lou Gehrig’s disease in the US.
Joe DiMaggio (born Joseph DiMaggio, 1914-1999), played for the New York Yankees from 1936-1951. Widely considered the greatest baseball player of all time, his 56-game hitting streak is a record which still stands. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955. He is well known for his marriage to Marilyn Monroe, and lifelong devotion to her.
Willie Mays (born 1931), played for the New York/San Francisco Giants (1951-1972), before finishing his career with the New York Mets (1972-1973). Regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.
Louie’s interests seem to be fishing, bowling, drinking, watching baseball and football, and collecting war memorabilia and sporting memorabilia. Some of the items he’s being buried with are quite valuable.
JACKSON: Remember that sweet, simple, affordable little wedding Sookie and I agreed on with minimal disagreement … Gone. Ancient history. It’s the Library of Alexandria, it’s the Colossus of Rhodes, it’s Pop Rocks, it’s over.
Library of Alexandria
The Great Library of Alexandria in Alexandria, Egypt was one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world, part of a larger institution called The Musaeum, dedicated to the nine Muses, and the source of the modern word “museum”.
It is said to have been founded by Ptolemy II Philadelphus around 285 BC, in an attempt to bring together the best minds of the Hellenistic world and collect all books known at the time – at its height, it may have had as many as 400 000 scrolls. Due mostly to the Great Library, Alexandria became known as the capital of knowledge and learning.
Although there is a popular modern belief that the Library was destroyed in a cataclysmic fire, in fact it gradually declined over the course of several centuries. It was accidentally burned by Julius Caesar in 48 BC, but it is not known how much damage was done. Under the Romans, the Library dwindled from lack of funding, and an invasion by Palmyra in 270 AD probably destroyed what little was left of it.
Colossus of Rhodes
The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek sun god Helios, erected in the city of Rhodes on the island of the same name by Chares of Lindos in 280 BC. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it was constructed to celebrate a military victory against Macedon. According to descriptions at the time, the statue was 108 feet high – about the same size as the Statue of Liberty – making it the tallest statue in the ancient world. The statue was destroyed in 653 AD by Arab forces. Since 2008, discussions have been underway about building a new Colossus in Rhodes Harbour, so it may not be ancient history for much longer.
A candy with bubbles in it, causing a small popping sensation when it dissolves. First offered to the public in 1976 by General Foods, sales were withdrawn in 1983, citing its lack of success and short shelf life. After that, Kraft licensed the product to a Spanish company called Zeta Espacial S.A., who distributes it in the US through Pop Rocks Inc., in Atlanta, Georgia. Jackson seems to think Pop Rocks are gone, but they aren’t.
LORELAI: I know. He’s been sitting there like the final days of Dick Nixon for almost an hour.
Richard Nixon (1913-1994), 37th President of the US from 1969 to 1974. The Watergate Affair, the name used to describe the secret and illegal activities undertaken by members of the Nixon administration, was brought to light by reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward in The Washington Post in 1972.
Nixon had hoped to weather the storm by refusing to leave, but impeachment hearings against him opened in May 1974. With loss of political support, and the near-certainty he would be impeached and removed from office, Nixon resigned on August 9 1974.
Lorelai may be specifically referring to the 1976 non-fiction book, The Final Days, by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, describing the last months of Richard Nixon’s presidency. It was a major commercial success, and was made into a television movie of the same name in 1989, with Lane Smith as Richard Nixon.
EMILY: It was for charity, I had to bid on something. And I certainly didn’t want another portrait of George Washington. I’ve got four in the attic already.
George Washington (1732-1799), soldier, statesmen, and Founding Father who served as the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Commander of the Continental Army he led the Patriot forces to victory during the American Revolutionary War, and presided over the 1797 convention which established the Constitution of the United States, and its federal government. He has been called “the Father of the Nation” for his leadership during the formative days of the country.
His legacy endures as one of the most influential people in American history, and his birthday has been a federal holiday in the US since 1879, celebrated on the third Monday in February. The Washington Monument in Washington DC is an obelisk built in his honour, his face is one of the four presidents carved into Mount Rushmore, while Washington state is the only US state to be named after a president. George Washington appears on the one dollar bill, and appeared on the nation’s first postage stamps in 1847.
LUKE: And even if he does stay, it’ll be only for another year, and then he’ll go off to college or Attica or whatever, and it’ll just be me again.
Attica Correctional Facility, a maximum security state prison located in the town of Attica, New York. Constructed in the 1930s, it has held some of the most dangerous convicts of the times. Prisoners are often here because of disciplinary problems in other institutions.
Some of its past infamous inmates include serial killer David Berkowitz “Son of Sam”, and Mark Chapman, the assassin of John Lennon (both now held elsewhere). Ironically, John Lennon and Yoko Ono released a 1972 song called “Attica State”, lamenting the loss of life in the 1971 Attica State prison riots, as well as the poor living conditions and humans rights abuses in the US prison system. It appears on the album Some Time in New York City.
This is a very harsh comment from Luke about Jess, even as a joke. Before Jess arrived, Luke seemed to think he was nothing more than a slightly wayward teen only in need of a stable home. After six months, he seems to think it’s a toss-up whether Jess will go to college or prison (perhaps under Lorelai’s influence, who was saying that before she even met Jess). In fact, Jess will do neither.
Interestingly, the historic region of Attica in ancient Greece was the location of the city of Athens, a centre for learning and culture during its Golden Age. Jess will end up working in a job where his mind is put to good use. He’ll also live in an American city with a Greek name!
JESS: So when was the last time you had those gutters cleaned? LORELAI: It’s been awhile. JESS: Yeah, I found an ‘I like Ike’ bumper sticker up there.
“I like Ike” was the campaign slogan for the 1952 election campaign of US President Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower. He won the election for the Republicans in a landslide victory, and became the country’s 34th president.
Hopefully Jess is joking – not having your gutters cleaned for half a century sounds pretty bad.
Rory buys several books at the fundraiser, but only a couple of the titles are visible. Gypsy the mechanic is volunteering her time to work at the fundraiser, and she points Rory to the astronomy section, as if Rory has an interest in this area, and Gypsy somehow knows about it. Both quite surprising things to learn! The Buy a Book Fundraiser is held outside the library, and may be raising funds for new books.
Inherit the Wind
A 1955 play by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, fictionalising the events of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial. This was a legal trial in July 1925 where schoolteacher John Scopes was taken to court by the state of Tennessee for teaching human evolution. There was intense media scrutiny of the case, with publicity given to the high-profile lawyers who had taken the case. The prosecution had former Secretary of State, William Jennings Bryan, while Clarence Darrow defended Scopes – the same lawyer who had defended child murders Leopold and Loeb, previously discussed. Scopes was fined $100, but the case was overturned on a technicality. The case was seen as both a theological contest, and a test as to whether teachers could teach modern science in schools.
The play gives everyone involved in the Scopes Trial different names, and substantially alters numerous events. It is not meant to be a historical account, and is a means to discuss the McCarthy trials of the 1950s, where left-wing individuals were persecuted as Communist sympathisers, under a regime of political repression and a fear-mongering campaign.
Rory might be particularly interested in the play because of the focus it places on the media, with reporter E.K. Hornbeck covering the case for a fictional Baltimore newspaper. He is based on journalist and author H.L. Mencken, previously discussed as one of Rory’s heroes, who gained attention for his satirical reporting on the Scopes Trial for the Baltimore Morning Herald.
Inherit the Wind premiered in Dallas in 1955 to rave reviews, and opened on Broadway a few months later with Paul Muni, Ed Begley, and Tony Randall in the cast. It’s been revived on Broadway in 1996 and in 2007, as well as in Philadelphia, London, Italy, and India.
It was adapted into film in 1960, directed by Stanley Kramer, and with Spencer Tracey starring as the defence lawyer, Dick York as the schoolteacher, and Gene Kelly as the Baltimore journalist. It received excellent reviews and won awards at the Berlin Film Festival. It’s also been made for television in 1966, 1988, and in 1999 (starring George C. Scott, Jack Lemmon, and Beau Bridges). It seems likely that Rory watched the most recent version on television.
Letters to a Young Poet
A 1929 collection of ten letters written by the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke, to a young officer cadet named Franz Xaver Kappus at the Theresian Military Academy in Wiener Neustadt, Austria between 1902 and 1908.
Kappus had written to Rilke, seeking advice on the quality of his poetry, to help him choose between a literary career, or one as an officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army. Kappus had been reading Rilke’s poetry when he discovered that Rilke had earlier studied at the academy’s lower school in St. Pölten, and decided to write to him for advice.
Rilke gave Kappus very little criticism or suggestions on improving his writing, and said that nobody could advise him or make life decisions for him. Over the course of ten letters, he instead provided essays on how a poet should feel and seek truth in experiencing the world around him. They offer insights into Rilke’s poetic ideas and themes, and his work processes.
Kappus did meet Rilke at least once, and despite his concerns about pursuing a military career, he continued his studies and served for 15 years as an army officer. During the course of his life, he worked as a journalist and reporter, and wrote poems, stories, novels, and screenplays. However, he never achieved lasting fame.
This is a book which features a future journalist – but one who yearns to become a poet. Is it a sign that Rory secretly wishes she could become a creative writer instead? Is she hoping that being successful in journalism will help her become a published author (it’s definitely a help in getting novels published, or at least considered). Is it even a hint that she will become a writer in the future, as she does in A Year in the Life, but is not destined to become famous from her writing? (Most published writers, even quite successful ones, don’t get famous, after all).
And is this correspondence between a poet and a student at a military academy meant to suggest that Rory is still thinking of Tristan, who went away to military school? Are she and Tristan actually writing to each other, or is the show leaving the door open for Tristan to possibly return in a future season, since they didn’t know how long One Tree Hill was going to last?
LUKE: Jess? [Luke turns the music off] How can anyone sleep through that? It’s like the Huns are attacking and you’re just – well, you’re oblivious and that’s why you can just lie there while the rest of the world is going – . [he knocks over his little television] Great! Dammit! Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!
The Huns were a nomadic people who lived in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe between the 4th and 6th centuries. Most likely originating from the Central Asian steppes, Europeans first reported Huns living east of the Volga River, in what was called Scythia at the time. By 430 they had established a vast, if short-lived, dominion in Europe, conquering the Goths and other Germanic tribes, and driving them into Roman territory.
Under their formidable ruler Attila, they made frequent, devastating raids into the East Roman Empire, and invaded Gaul and Italy. After Attila’s death in 453, they ceased to be a major threat to Rome, and lost most of their empire. The Huns may have helped stimulate the massive tribal migrations which were a factor in the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Memories of them were preserved in the lives of the saints and in Germanic legend, where they appear as the antagonist.
Modern culture popularly considers them as cruel and barbaric, partly because the Huns encouraged this thinking. They were probably no more so than other people of the time, although certainly fearsome in battle.