A Frank Lloyd Wright Situation

LORELAI: Mom, you know, if you’re not a little nicer to your help, you might find yourself in a Frank Lloyd Wright situation … Mrs. Wright apparently had this major problem with her help. She was very rough on them and they totally hated her. So this guy who had worked for her forever, he had finally had enough … Anyhow, Mrs. Wright invites this whole posse of people over for dinner and they’re all sitting around eating, and Mr. Disgruntled Servant Guy goes outside and locks all the doors and windows and douses the whole house in gasoline and sets the place on fire … So the house is on fire, and people are freaking out, so they run to the doors but the doors are locked, so a few of them try to get out through the windows, but Mr. Angry-Puss is standing outside with an ax hacking them to death and so they all died.

Lorelai refers to the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959). It’s often been speculated that he was one of the inspirations for the character of Howard Roark in Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead.

Although Lorelai typically gets her facts a little mangled, the seemingly outrageous story she relates about him is essentially true. The woman involved wasn’t Wright’s wife, but the woman he had left his wife for and was living with in a domestic partnership that was considered scandalous at the time.

Her name was Mary “Mamah” Borthwick, a translator who had left her husband and children to be with Wright in 1909, living together since 1911 (after her divorce came through), in a house Wright built for Mamah in Spring Green, Wisconsin, called Taliesin (“shining brow” in Welsh).

In 1914, their recently-hired servant Julian Carlton, a man from Barbados who was mentally unstable, set fire to their house and murdered seven people with an axe as they fled the burning structure. The dead included Mamah Borthwick, her two visiting children, aged 8 and 12, a gardener, a draftsman, a workman, and the son of Wright’s carpenter. Carlton attempted suicide straight after the attack, and starved himself to death in jail despite receiving medical attention.

Julian Carlton never did give a motive for his actions, but there’s some evidence that he had disputes with the workmen, and that he knew he was about to lose his job. There’s no evidence that it had anything to do with Mamah Borthwick herself, and the victims, apart from Borthwick and her children, were not dinner guests, but workmen employed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The devastated Frank Lloyd Wright rebuilt the house in Mamah’s honour, but it burned down again in 1925 after being hit with a lightning storm. It was rebuilt again, and this third version of Taliesin is now open for tours and events.

[Photo shows Taliesin as it was in 1911]

Salad After the Main Course

LORELAI: You know, Mom, in Europe, they eat the salad last and the main course first.

I’m not sure how many European countries this rule supposedly applies to, but in France and Italy at least, it is customary to eat the salad between the main course and the dessert, as a palate cleanser (it’s probably falling out of favour, like a lot of customs). Lorelai’s idea is actually pretty practical!

Liam Neeson

ANDREW: [in background] You went out with Liam Neeson! Are you kidding me?

William “Liam” Neeson (born 1952), actor from Northern Ireland. He began his career in the Belfast theatre scene, and his first film role was in Excalibur (1981). He rose to prominence playing the title role in Schindler’s List (1993), starred in dramas such as Nell (1994) and provided the narration for Everest (1998). In November 2002, his most recent films were Stars Wars: Attack of the Clones and K-19: The Widowmaker, although Gangs of New York was just about to come out. He has received numerous honours, including an OBE in 2000.

Liam Neeson was married to actress Natasha Richardson in 1994, a marriage which lasted until her death in 2009. Presumably, Andrew’s dance partner went out with Liam Neeson prior to his marriage (or prior to him meeting Richardson, which took place in 1993).

“Find a pirate to sit on”

JAMIE: Yes, talking to you would’ve been a distraction.

PARIS: I know. I heard you already. My God, find a pirate to sit on, okay?

Paris refers to the popular stereotype of pirates having a pet parrot sitting on their shoulder (meaning that Jamie is repeating himself, like a parrot). It stems from the character of Long John Silver in Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson [pictured] – for ever after, the idea that pirates and parrots go together has sunk firmly into our collective imagination.

Although there are no accounts of pirates having parrots in real life, exotic birds would have been very valuable at that time, and well worth stealing. It’s more likely that pirates had parrots as profitable cargo, rather than as pets.


RORY: Who’s Stanley Appleman?

LORELAI: Oh, he’s brand new in town. He works over at the hardware store, and the best part is, he used to be part of the touring company . . . of Riverdance.

Riverdance, theatrical show that consists mainly of traditional Irish music and dance. With a score composed by Bill Whelan, it originated as an interval act during the Eurovision Song Contest 1994. Shortly afterwards, it was expanded into a stage show, which opened in Dublin in 1995. Since then, the show has visited over 450 venues worldwide and been seen by over 25 million people, making it one of the most successful dance productions in the world.

Riverdance comes to Hartford every year. Did Stanley join the company while it was in Connecticut, or did he like the area so much he decided to stay there? How do you go from touring with Riverdance to working in hardware in a small town?

Tennessee Williams

TAYLOR: No, we have that money. The Tennessee Williams lookalike contest last month put us right over the top.

Thomas Williams III, known by his pen name Tennessee Williams (1911-1983), playwright and screenwriter. He is considered to be one of the foremost playwrights of the 20th century. Williams had his first success with The Glass Menagerie in 1944, followed by a strong of successes, including A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955) and Sweet Bird of Youth (1959). Much of his work has been adapted for the cinema. In 1979, he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

It isn’t clear why Stars Hollow would hold a Tennessee Williams lookalike contest, although Williams’ literary agent did live in Connecticut, so there is a local link of a sort. Later on, it seems as if the town is keen to have fundraisers with a literary connection.

Taylor tells Luke they have enough money to restore the bridge now, and are currently raising money to buy a tarpaulin to cover the bridge, to ensure it doesn’t get further damaged during the winter before it can be restored. (Not only are tarpaulins not that expensive, Luke is able to locate and sew together numerous tarpaulins in a single night in the show’s final episode!). Despite this, Stars Hollow continues raising money for the bridge throughout the run of Gilmore Girls.

Mad Cow Disease

LORELAI: Pale means sickly.

LUKE: Or sunscreen.

LORELAI: Or mad cow disease.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease, is an incurable and inevitably fatal neurodegenerative disease of cattle. It can be spread to humans if they eat meat from infected cows.

In humans, infection can result in Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (CJD), also known as subacute spongiform encephalopathy or neurocognitive disorder due to prion disease, an invariably fatal degenerative brain disorder. Early symptoms include memory problems, behavioral changes, poor coordination, and visual disturbances. Later symptoms include dementia, involuntary movements, blindness, weakness, and coma. About 70% of people die within a year of diagnosis. Pale skin isn’t one of the symptoms.

There was an outbreak of mad cow disease in the UK which lasted from 1986 to 2015, reaching a peak in 1993. There were a few cases in North America from 1993 to 2012, which had an impact on the US beef industry.

Dance Marathon

In this episode, Stars Hollow is holding a dance marathon to raise money. Dance marathons began in the 1920s and were at their peak in the 1930s, with people vying to win the cash prize at the end, that could be for as much as a year’s salary. Today they are generally held as charity fundraisers, and only last for twelve to twenty-four hours, not the thousands of hours they went on for in times past, which sounds like absolute torture (and they were often rigged as well).

We learn that the dance marathon is an annual event, that Lorelai has been close to winning it for four years in a row, since 1998, and that the previous year she only lost at the eleventh hour. It’s possible the one in 2001 took place around the same time as Mia’s visit (she may have come back for it). The one in 2000 presumably took place after Lorelai’s date with Max.

According to the banner in the town square, this is the 50th annual dance marathon in Stars Hollow, so the first one was held in 1952. In fact, this is around the time dance marathons began to decline in popularity. Could Stars Hollow have really been thirty years behind the trends?

Garvey Avenue

LORELAI: “Oh, and lots of cars stopped at a blue light on Garvey Avenue. Why a blue light? Well, ‘cause blue’s the new red.”

Garvey Avenue is a major road in the San Gabriel valley of Los Angles’ Eastside district [pictured]. For the purposes of fiction, there may be some confusion or conflation with Garvey Street, which is in the city of Everett in Massachusetts, three miles north of Boston, once a part of Charlestown and still bordering it. That might possibly be seen as confirmation that Christopher and Sherry live in the Charlestown area of Boston.

Rand McNally

RORY: She’s [Sherry’s] very up on traffic flow and rush hour and all that.

LORELAI: She’s Rand McNally.

Rand McNally, publishing and technology company that provides mapping for both electronic gadgets, and for educational purposes, well known for producing school atlases and road maps. William Rand opened a printing shop in Chicago in 1956, and two years later hired Irish immigrant Andrew McNally; the two men founded Rand McNally & Co in 1868. The first Rand McNally map appeared in a 1872 railway guide, and their first road map was published in 1904.

Lorelai and Rory left Boston at 6 pm, on Sherry’s advice. That means it would be around 8 pm when they get back to Stars Hollow and egg Jess’ car.