Castro

EMILY: And this is what we need to discuss right now?
LORELAI: These [Emily’s maids] are women from countries that have dictatorships and civil wars and death squads and all of that they survived, but five minutes working for Emily Gilmore, and people are begging for Castro.

Fidel Castro (1926-2016) was a Cuban communist revolutionary and politician who governed Cuba as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976, and as President from 1976 to 2008. He was also First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from 1961 to 2011. Under his administration, Cuba became a one-party communist state, industry and business were nationalised, and socialist reforms implemented. Castro was the longest-serving non-royal head of state in the 20th and 21st centuries.

More than a million Cubans left their country to emigrate as political refugees, mostly to the United States, with Florida being the US state with the most Cuban-Americans. Lorelai suggests that at least a couple of Emily’s maids were Cuban-American, and there are more than 10 000 Cuban-Americans in Connecticut, with the highest number in Bridgeport.

Mother Teresa

RORY: I’m like ten years behind on my extracurriculars.
DEAN: What are you talking about?
RORY: Paris has been accumulating these things since she could walk. I mean, she has a list of good deeds that could bump Mother Teresa off the Harvard list.

Mother Teresa, born Anjezë Bojaxhiu (1910-1997) was an Albanian-born Roman Catholic nun and missionary who lived most of her life in India, caring for the poor. In 1950 she founded the Missionaries of Charity, which cares for the sick, and manages soup kitchens, orphanages, and schools.

Mother Teresa won numerous awards during her life, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Sh was canonised as a saint in 2016, and in 2017 named one of the patrons of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calcutta.

Bette Midler and Chicken Kiev

LUKE: And then after all that planning, the [wedding] reception will still be a disaster because no matter what you do or how carefully you plan, halfway through one of those nauseating Bette Midler ballads, someone’s getting drunk, someone’s sleeping with someone else’s wife, and someone’s Chicken Kiev is landing on the cake.

Bette Midler (born 1945) is an American singer, songwriter, actress, and film producer. She began her career on the stage, and was in Broadway shows such as Fiddler on the Roof in the late 1960s. In 1970 she began singing in a gay bath house, and built up a core following as a solo artist; she has released 14 albums and many of her songs have become hits, including ballads such as The Rose, and Wind Beneath My Wings (possibly the sort of songs Luke is thinking of). She made her film debut in 1979 in The Rose, and has starred in a number of films, such as Ruthless People (1986), Beaches (1988), and The First Wives Club (1996). In her career spanning more than half a century she has won three Grammy Awards, four Golden Globes, three Emmy Awards, and two Tony Awards, as well as selling over 30 million records worldwide.

Chicken Kiev is a Russian dish of chicken fillet stuffed with butter, coated in egg and breadcrumbs, and either fried or baked. It may date to the early 19th century, and is claimed to have been the invention of French chef Marie-Antoine Carême, who spent several months at the court of Tsar Alexander I. However, it only became commonly known in the mid-twentieth century. It is popular in the US, and often included on wedding menus.

Xuxa

LORELAI: Hey, whatever happened to Xuxa?

Xuxa – pronounced SHOO-sha – is the stage name of Maria da Graça Meneghel (born 1963), a Brazilian television host, singer, dancer, model, and businesswoman. She began modelling as a teenager, and became known in the US during the 1980s as a Playboy model.

Xuxa became a highly successful children’s television entertainer in Brazil in 1986, and by 1991 she was on the Forbes Rich List – the first Brazilian to join the list. Her albums were best-sellers through Latin America, Europe, and North America, and in 1993 she hosted an English-language version of her show called Xuxa on US television. Although the show was sold around the world, the taping was gruelling, and Xuxa withdrew due to stress-related illness.

Because she disappeared from US television in the mid-1990s, Lorelai wonders what happened to her. However, Xuxa has continued her career, and is still very successful; she is the richest t female entertainer in Brazil with a fortune of over one billion, and the second-highest selling female Brazilian singer. Twice winner of the Latin Grammy Award for Best Children’s Album, she is known as “The Queen of Children”.

A.J. Benza

LOUISE: Princess Grace didn’t go to college.
PARIS: Thank you for the history lesson, A.J. Benza.

Alfred Joseph “A.J.” Benza (born 1962) is an American gossip columnist and television host. He began as a gossip columnist on the New York Daily News, and in the mid-1990s began appearing on The Gossip Show on E! Entertainment Television, leading to appearances on several chat shows. From 1998 to 2001 he was the host of Mysteries and Scandals on the E! Network.

Princess Grace

PARIS: You have to go to college.
LOUISE: Princess Grace didn’t go to college.

Princess Grace, born Grace Kelly (1929-1982) was an American actress who began her career on television and starred in several Alfred Hitchcock films, such as Dial M for Murder (1953), Rear Window (1953), and To Catch a Thief (1955). She also starred in the classic western High Noon (1952) and the musical High Society (1956), winning a Best Actress at the Academy Awards for The Country Girl (1954).

She retired from acting to marry Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956, becoming Princess Grace of Monaco, and having three children. As a princess, she founded children’s charity AMADE, formed the Princess Grace Foundation for artisans in Monaco, and became known as a fashion icon, being inducted into the Best Dressed Hall of Fame in 1960.

Louise is correct – Princess Grace, who came from a wealthy family and attended prestigious private schools, was rejected by Bennington College in 1947, due to her low scores in Mathematics. However, she graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, the oldest acting school in the English-speaking world, so she did have a distinguished tertiary education.

Diana

LORELAI: And then there’s the full on Diana [veil].
RORY: Right, right.
LORELAI: Which is nice, but it just might be a little …

Lorelai is referring to Diana, Princess of Wales, born Diana Spencer (1961-1997). Diana married Charles, the Prince of Wales and heir apparent to the British throne, in 1981. At their wedding in St. Paul’s Cathedral, she wore an ivory silk and lace vintage-style wedding dress with a 25 foot long train; her tulle veil was likewise very long, and floated behind her as she walked.

Diana and Charles divorced in 1996 – another famously disastrous marriage to give a hint to Lorelai.