Volvo Sedan

LORELAI: Oh yeah. A Volvo sedan, are you kidding?
CHRISTOPHER: This is a great car.
LORELAI: For driving to bingo.

CHRISTOPHER: I’ve got Alpine head units, two subs, and two twelves. In exchange, no passenger-side airbag.

Volvo is a Swedish brand of luxury cars founded in 1927; the name is Latin for “I roll”. It was founded upon the concept of safety, and their cars have long been marketed as safe and reliable; many of the Volvo’s safety innovations have now become standard or even compulsory. Lorelai sees it as an old person’s car, because of its staid and rather boring image.

I think Christopher’s car is a 2001 Volvo S80, an executive sedan. He describes the car’s sound system as Alpine brand head units, with two sub woofers, and two twelve-inch sub woofers (maybe he means two amplifiers and two twelve-inch sub woofers?), which means he had to give up passenger-side airbags, a major feature of the S80. So he’s bought a safe car, and made it less safe (for the person who’s not him), so he can enjoy music.

As Lorelai notes, Christopher has given up his cool motorcycle for a sensible car, but the old (selfish) Christopher still lives. Take warning!

(There is an immediate shot of the Massachusetts license plate, to remind us Christopher has moved to Boston. It begins with 169, which seems like a naughty joke, although it’s not a vanity plate, so not deliberate on Christopher’s part).

The Compact Oxford English Dictionary

RORY: The Compact Oxford English Dictionary!
CHRISTOPHER: I promised you I’d get it. I’m just sorry it took so long.
RORY: That’s okay.
CHRISTOPHER: On the bright side, this is the new edition. If I’d gotten you the old one, you wouldn’t have the word ‘jiggy’ in it.
RORY: Thank you. I love it, I’m gonna go look things up right now.
CHRISTOPHER: Wait, wait. [hands her magnifying glass]

The Compact Oxford English Dictionary, previously discussed as Rory’s dream book, which Christopher couldn’t buy her six months ago because his credit card was declined.

This time he is able to buy her the 2001 edition, which contains the American slang word “jiggy”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “Excitedly energetic or uninhibited, often in a sexual manner; to get jiggy: to engage in sexual activity”.

The Compact Oxford English Dictionary has such fine print that it comes with its own reading glass.

Neil Young and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

DEAN: It’s the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
RORY: And doesn’t Neil Young look cool? … If you’ll notice, he’s wearing a tux.
DEAN: Neil Young looks cool because he’s Neil Young, not because he’s wearing a tux.

Neil Young (born 1945) is a Canadian-American singer-songwriter, musician, and activist. His career started in the 1960s, and includes membership of critically-acclaimed rock band Buffalo Springfield, folk-rock supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, and solo work backed by his band Crazy Horse. His distorted electric guitar playing has earned him the nickname “Grandfather of Grunge”. He has won several Grammy and Juno Awards, and been named one of the great musical artists in history, defined by his guitar work, deeply personal lyrics, and signature high tenor vocals.

Neil Young has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame – in 1995 as a solo artist, and in 1997 as a member of Buffalo Springfield. He has served to induct others into the Hall of Fame six times: The Everly Brothers (1986), Woody Guthrie (1988), Jimi Hendrix (1992), Paul McCartney (1999), The Pretenders (2005), and Tom Waits (2011).

However, Neil Young doesn’t seem to have worn a tuxedo for any of his appearances at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, preferring a more casual (and occasionally more cowboy) look. When he was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1982, he did dress in evening wear: not a tuxedo, but tailcoat, ruffled shirt, waistcoat and bow-tie [pictured].

It seems awfully unlikely, but just possibly they are watching an old video of this somehow (or it appears in a documentary or clip show???), and Dean mistakes it for the Rock and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. It feels as if Rory and Lane might have put it on expressly to persuade Dean that men can still look cool in formal wear.

Dean as Rory’s Escort for the Debutante Ball

We never see Rory ask Dean to be her escort for the ball, but we can safely assume he agreed with the greatest reluctance, because the first time we see him in this episode, he seems bewildered, dismayed and rather sulky as he discovers just what escorting Rory to her debut entails.

In real life, it is not recommended debutantes ask their boyfriends to be their escorts. Not only would a break-up put everything in jeopardy, but relationship dramas can create an unwelcome distraction. Some debutante committees even ban them outright, and it’s common for the committee to pair girls up with a suitable escort of their choosing – usually a boy or young man who has experience of cotillions and debutante balls. The DAR would have probably chosen someone rather like Tristan to be Rory’s escort (which could have been an interesting take on the episode).

As Rory is a very late entry, perhaps she has organised her own escort, along with her own dancing lessons and so on.

Famous Debutantes

CHRISTOPHER: Well, did you tell her about Barbara Hutton, Doris Duke, Gloria Vanderbilt?
LORELAI: Yes, and she’s perfectly willing to marry Cary Grant, get offed by her crazy butler, and start designing blue jeans as soon as the ball ends.

Barbara Hutton, previously discussed. She was first dubbed the “Poor Little Rich Girl” at her lavish debutante ball in 1930. She married seven times. Her third marriage was to Hollywood actor Cary Grant in 1942; although he genuinely seemed to care for Hutton, they divorced in 1945. Grant did not seek or receive money from her in the divorce settlement. He was probably her best husband.

Doris Duke (1912-1993), billionaire tobacco heiress and socialite, dubbed the “Richest Girl in the World”. She was presented as a debutante in 1930, at a ball at the family home in Newport, Rhode Island. She was widely travelled, with an interest in the arts and horticulture. She was the first non-Hawaiian woman to take up the sport of surfing. A keen philanthropist, she donated money to AIDS research, medicine, and child welfare, including supporting the education of black students in the South. Duke died from a stroke, but rumours persist that she was murdered by her Irish butler, Bernard Lafferty (1945-1996). No charges were ever laid, and Lafferty died in his sleep only three years later. He wasn’t “crazy” so much as an alcoholic.

Gloria Vanderbilt (1924-2019), heiress, socialite, artist, actress, and fashion designer. During the 1930s she was the focus of a scandalous child custody case between her mother and her paternal aunt, Gertrude Whitney, which Gertrude won after Gloria’s mother was declared an unfit parent. Gloria made her debut in 1940. Vanderbilt studied both acting and art, managing to have successful careers in both, as well as becoming an author. A model at 15, she ventured into the fashion industry in the 1970s, and in 1976 launched a line of blue jeans which were an immediate success.

(The picture is Gloria Vanderbilt as a sixteen-year-old debutante).

Helsinki, the Girl Band, and the Nordic Set

CHRISTOPHER: Where are you?
LORELAI: Helsinki.
CHRISTOPHER: Really.
LORELAI: Yeah, I finally got the girl band together and after a week opening stateside, we headed across the Atlantic and now we’re huge with the Nordic set.

Helsinki is the capital of Finland with a population of over 600 000, although the greater Helsinki urban area is over 1.5 million. It is the most northerly metropolitan area with more than a million people, and the most northerly EU capital city. It has one of the world’s highest standards of living, and has been rated among the world’s most livable cities.

Lorelai told Max that her dream was join The Bangles, and this is another reference to Lorelai forming a girl band. The Bangles did tour Scandinavia in 1986, but never played Helsinki.

“The Nordic set” is a media phrase, more common in the early 2000s, for the fashionable Scandinavian crowd (such as Danish supermodel Helena Christensen).

“Isn’t it a little late?”

VIVIAN LEWIS: Why don’t you present Rory there?
EMILY: Oh . .. uh . . . Well, I don’t know. Isn’t it a little late?
SUNNY: Oh please. For Emily Gilmore, I’m sure they’ll bend the rules.

Generally you’d need to apply for a debutante ball several months in advance, and commit to a ten to twelve week course of dancing and etiquette lessons in preparation. It’s more than a “little late”, and they won’t be “bending” the rules for Emily Gilmore, they’ll be smashing them to pieces!

Naturally rules are only for mere mortals, not for the glorious Gilmore girls. In this case, it’s practical for the show, because it cuts down months of ball preparation (snigger) into less than two weeks.

Daughters of the American Revolution

VIVIAN LEWIS: Well you know, the Daughters of the American Revolution Debutante Ball is next week.

The Daughters of the American Revolution, previously discussed.

The Daughters of the American Revolution really do hold debutante balls. They are often held on patriotic dates, and as this episode takes place in September, the ball might be held around the date of Constitution Day, which is September 17. In 2001, it was a Monday, but the ball could be held the following Saturday. This is also around the date of the Fall Equinox, giving the ball a Harvest Festival feel, as if the young girls are ready to be “gathered” or “picked”.

In real life, the DAR chapter for Hartford is called the Ruth Wylls Chapter. It was founded in 1892, making it one of the oldest chapters. It has over 50 members.

We already know that Emily is a member of the DAR, which means that she is a direct descendant of someone involved in the American Revolution, meaning Lorelai and Rory are eligible to join too. In real life, the easiest way to join the DAR is to have a blood relative who’s already a member, as your ancestry is proven. This becomes a plot point later in the show.

Emily’s Charities

The Starlight Children’s Foundation

Founded in 1982, it provides clothing, games, and deliveries directly to hospitalised children through a network of more than 700 children’s hospitals and medical centres in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia.

Emily has been the co-chair on its board for the past eight years, which seems unlikely – the foundation’s headquarters are in Los Angeles, it doesn’t have co-chairs, and its board is made up people with high profiles in medicine, finance, and media. I think we are meant to assume this is a (fictional) local fundraising branch for Hartford.

The Black and White Ball is their main fundraising event. This is a masquerade ball in which everyone is dressed in either black or white. They are intended to be extremely glamorous and exclusive events, with high ticket prices.

Hartford Zoological Silent Auction

A fictional organisation of which Emily is a board member. Hartford doesn’t actually have a zoo. The nearest Zoological Society is in Bridgeport, Connecticut, to support Beardsley’s Zoo.

A silent auction is one where bidders write their bids down on a sheet of paper, with the highest bid winning. They are common at charity events.

The Mark Twain House Restoration Fund

The Mark Twain House is a museum in Hartford, once the home of the author of Huckleberry Finn. Restoration began on the house in 1963, and its fundraising arm is the Friends of the Mark Twain House and Museum. They’ve been fundraising since 1954. This must be the organisation that has Emily as a board member, and is holding the charity luncheon Emily has been forced to turn down.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Literacy Auction

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) was an American author and abolitionist, best known for her 1852 anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The Harriet Beecher Stowe House & Center is in Hartford, next door to the Mark Twain House and Museum. Emily seems to be on the board of both these museums.

Emily’s strong community involvement, which is the major part of her social life, is very much like Lorelai’s enthusiastic support of every festival and celebration in Stars Hollow, right down to a cat’s wake. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree in this case.

Luke’s Approved Social Activities

Kabbalah Studies

Kabbalah is an esoteric discipline in Jewish mysticism, containing a set of teachings explaining the relationship between God and the universe. It dates to around the 12th century and originated in Spain and southern France. There are different traditions and streams of thought within it, that might focus on theosophy, meditative practices, or (more controversially) white magic. It has been a strong influence on Jewish philosophy and mysticism.

Since the 1960s, universalist schools have opened up which teach Kabbalah to people of all faiths and ways of life, one of the contributors to New Age spirituality. You can also sign up for six week courses in introductory Kabbalah, making it very accessible. Possibly such courses are held in Stars Hollow, although it is slightly surprising Luke knows about them and approves, as he doesn’t seem the most mystical person. The show did seem to just give random Jewishness to characters whenever it felt like it.

Freeway (a mistake for highway????) beautification projects

Community groups often sponsor a section of highway in the US in order to maintain it, and provide volunteers to work on it. Such projects might include planting trees, shrubs and ground cover plants, mowing grass, weeding, mulching, and removing roadside litter. It seems like something Taylor would almost certainly organise for a highway near Stars Hollow.

Color Me Mine pottery painting

A chain of studios, founded in 1996, where people can paint their own pottery and ceramics. In real life, there aren’t any Color Me Mine studios in Connecticut (but plenty in California, where the writers live).

Humorously, Luke’s suggestions of social activities he might approve don’t sound like anything most teenage boys would be interested in.