The “Hidden” Kennedy Family

LORELAI: I can’t believe [the Beales] were related to Jackie.

RORY: Well, the Kennedys kind of hid them in the background for many years.

LORELAI: Well, when you’re a Kennedy, how do you even choose who in the family to hide?

I’m not sure that there’s much evidence that the Kennedy family “hid” Jackie’s relatives away. Jackie and her sister Lee Radziwill certainly didn’t seem to pay them much attention until they began to be featured in the tabloid press as eccentric upper-class hoarders.

However, it’s said Jackie and Lee paid for Grey Gardens to be cleaned up to some extent – the house in the documentary is actually much less of a hovel than it had been previously. And it was Jackie and Lee who approached the filmmakers about the documentary, hoping it could be a way for the Beales to make some money, so they actually helped give them publicity, rather than hid them away.

Lorelai’s snarky comment reflects the number of scandals the Kennedy family have had over the years. She may be specifically thinking of Rose Marie “Rosemary” Kennedy (1918-2005) [pictured], the sister of President John F. Kennedy. Due to a difficult birth, she was developmentally delayed, although it is unknown to what extent, as the Kennedy family kept her life private.

When Rosemary was in the early twenties, she became increasingly irritable, and went into convulsions, as well as attacks of rage in which she would hit other people. At the age of 23, her father, Joseph Kennedy, agreed to her being lobotomised to help control her violent mood swings – he did not tell his wife until the procedure had taken place.

The lobotomy had a devastating effect on Rosemary, whose mental capacity became that of a two year old. She couldn’t walk or speak intelligibly, and was incontinent. She was immediately institutionalised, and separated from her family for over 20 years – her siblings did not know where she was, and the press was told she was “reclusive”. After her father’s death in 1969, she gradually became part of the family again. By that time, she had learned to walk, although with a limp.

Some say that Rosemary was one of the inspirations for Eunice Kennedy Shriver to later found the Special Olympics, although Eunice said that the Games were never about one individual.

George Michael

EMILY: What can we do in a bathroom?

LORELAI: Meet George Michael.

George Michael, born Georgios Panayiotou (1963-2016), English singer, songwriter, and record producer. He is considered one of the leading icons of the MTV generation, and a leading creative force in music production, songwriting, vocal performance, and visual presentation.

George Michael rose to fame as one half of the music duo Wham! Their first two albums, Fantastic (1983), and Make it Big (1984), went to #1 in the UK and the US, and their biggest hit singles include “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go”, and “Last Christmas”.

George Michael’s first solo single was “Careless Whisper”, which was released on Make it Big, and went to #1 globally. His debut solo album Faith was released in 1987, going to #1 around the world, and producing four #1 hit singles. He was the best-selling musical artist of 1988, and Faith won a Grammy in 1989. He released three more best-selling albums between 1990 and 2004.

Lorelai refers to the fact that George Michael’s sexuality became public knowledge after he was arrested in 1998 for soliciting an undercover policeman in a public toilet in Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverley Hills, California. The charge was public lewdness. He was fined $810 and sentenced to 80 hours community service. He later made fun of the incident in the music video for his song “Outside”.

George Michael was accused of taking part in anonymous public sex in a toilet on Hampstead Heath in London in 2006, and in 2006 and 2008, he was arrested for possession of drugs in public toilets in London. But that’s all in the future at this point.

Helena Bonham Carter

EMILY: Richard Gilmore, you are going to give these girls the wrong impression.

RORY: What impression is that, Grandma?

LORELAI: That you were the Helena Bonham Carter of the society set?

Helena Bonham Carter (born 1966), English actress. She rose to fame in 1985 film A Room With a View, and became a favourite choice for playing a virginal “English rose” in period dramas – something she was uncomfortable with. Bonham Carter gained worldwide recognition in the 2000s, and has had many major roles, including awards for biographical film and TV The King’s Speech, Enid, and The Crown.

Lorelai is referring to the fact that in 1994, Helena Bonham Carter began an affair with fellow actor Kenneth Branagh while they were filming Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, even though Branagh was married to actress Emma Thompson at the time (they married in 1989).

Branagh and Thompson divorced in 1995, and Bonham Carter and Branagh broke up in 1999. They have all made peace with one another now, and the three of them had major roles in the Harry Potter film series. Helena Bonham Carter married director Tim Burton in 2001, the year before this episode aired. They divorced in 2014.

Amy Sherman-Palladino seems to have modelled her image very heavily on Helena Bonham Carter, who is known for her eccentric fashion and dark aesthetic, and for playing quirky female roles. I’d imagine she would be one of Sherman-Palladino’s favourite actresses, as well as her style icon.

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]

Princeton University and Ivy League College Consultant

PARIS: My panelists are Jim Romaine, admissions officer at Princeton University, and Ivy League college consultant, Rose Samuels.

Princeton University, previously discussed. Paris’ boyfriend attends Princeton – I don’t know whether that had any bearing on Paris getting their admissions officer on their panel. I wouldn’t put it past Paris, though.

Jim Romaine and Rose Samuels are of course fictional characters, played by Philip Pavel and Karen Bankhead respectively.

In real life, an admissions officer at Princeton University, Stephen LeMenager, had just been removed (in August 2002) after gaining unauthorised access to student’s files on a Yale admissions website the previous April. The investigation and subsequent scandal may have been what put the idea of using Princeton in this episode – they could have had a representative from any Ivy League university, after all.

Ivy League college consultants, also called independent education counsellors, work with students and their parents to decide which schools a student should apply to. They also guide them through the application and essay-writing processes. Top tier college consultants can cost a small fortune, so this is yet another area where being very wealthy can help you on your path to college.

French Skating Judges

RORY: We are not supposed to be brokering backdoor deals and pushing through agendas with intimidation and bribery. I mean, what are we, French skating judges?

Rory refers to the figure skating scandal of the 2002 Winter Olympics, held in Salt Lake City, Utah, in February of that year.

It was alleged that the pairs’ figure skating competition had been fixed, in which a French judge had compromised scores. The Russian team was awarded the gold, to a furious reaction from Canadian commentators, who believed that their team’s performance was clearly superior. The US press supported Canada, and suspicion quickly fell on the French judge, Marie-Reine Le Gougne. Le Gougne admitted being pressured to choose the Russian team, but later denied any wrongdoing.

After limited investigation of the issues, a second award ceremony was held, and two pairs teams received gold medals: the Russian team, and also the silver medalists, from Canada [pictured]. As a result of this scandal, the International Skating Union suspended two officials for three years: Marie-Reine Le Gougne, and the head of the French skating federation. A Russian organised crime boss was arrested for fixing the Olympics while in Italy, but released due to lack of evidence.

“I did not have sexual relations with that woman”

PARIS: [sleep talking] I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

Paris refers to the Clinton-Lewinsky sex scandal, involving then-President Bill Clinton (born William Blythe III in 1946) and 24-year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky (born 1973), which took place in 1998. Their sexual relationship lasted between 1995 and 1997.

Clinton ended a televised speech in late January 1998 with the statement that he “did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky”. Further investigation led to charges of perjury and to the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1998 by the US House of Representatives. He was subsequently acquitted on all impeachment charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in a US. Senate trial.

Harry Thomason worked as an image consultant during the scandal, ending up testifying before the Lewinsky Grand Jury. This seems to be why Paris mentions him during her dream argument – she appears to be having an argument about the Lewinsky scandal, although whether she is supporting either party in the case is unclear.

Jessica Hahn

LORELAI: Instead, I got pregnant. I didn’t finish high school, I didn’t marry your father and I ended up in a career that apparently Jessica Hahn would think was beneath her.

Jessica Hahn (born 1959), model and actress. She accused televangelist Jim Bakker of rape while employed as a church secretary. After the 1987 scandal, Hahn posed nude for Playboy, appeared in several television shows, including Married … with Children, and was a frequent guest on The Howard Stern Show on radio in the 1980s through to the 2000s.

Charlie Rose

MISS PATTY: Transcript?

LORELAI: Yeah, Taylor, this isn’t Charlie Rose.

Charlie Rose, television interview and talk show, hosted by journalist Charles “Charlie” Rose (born 1942). Rose interviewed thinkers, writers, athletes, politicians, entertainers, business people, leaders, scientists, and fellow journalists. It was broadcast on PBS from 1991 to 2017, only coming to an end when Rose was accused of sexual harassment. The show was then replaced by one hosted by Christiane Amanpour. Transcripts of the show were made available online after broadcast, and in fact many of them still are.

Florida People and Anita Bryant

RICHARD: Oh, I always start my breakfast off with half a grapefruit.
LORELAI: Hm, do the Florida people know about you? Because Anita Bryant left this huge gap that has yet to be filled.

Anita Bryant (born 1940), previously mentioned. Singer who had a string of hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and was Miss Oklahoma 1958.

In 1969, she was chosen as the ambassador for the Florida Citrus Commission, with commercials featuring her singing Come to the Florida Sunshine Tree, and saying the tagline, “Breakfast without orange juice is like a day without sunshine”.

In 1977 she became a controversial figure as an anti-gay rights activist, leading a coalition of conservative Christians who wished anti-discrimination legislation to be repealed. They were successful, but earned the ire of gay-rights activists, who organised a ban against orange juice. She became an object of ridicule, and after her divorce in 1980, the Florida Citrus Commission allowed her contract to lapse. This is the “huge gap” that Lorelai suggests Richard might like to fill. It also seems to be another comment about censorship.