Happy Days and the Valley Girl Song

LORELAI (to two girls in the dormitories): Oh, cool. We’re just kinda hanging out between classes. We got Chef next. So, we’ll probably see you at the Phi Alpha Beta thing tomorrow, right?
GIRL 1: Maybe.
LORELAI: Yeah, I know, we’re not sure either. They can be so totally lame. Gag me.
GIRL 1: Yeah. See ya. [Students leave]
RORY: You do realize that all of your college kid jargon comes from Happy Days and the Valley Girl song?

Happy Days, previously mentioned, is an American sitcom that presented an idealised portrait of Midwestern life in the 1950s and ’60s. It starred Ron Howard as innocent teenager Richie Cunningham, and Henry Winkler as his friend Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli, a cool biker and high-school dropout. Aired between 1974 and 1984, it became one of the biggest hits in television history, and was the #1 TV program in 1976-77. It turned Henry Winkler into a major star, and Fonzie into one of the most merchandised characters of the 1970s. It also spawned a number of spin-offs, including Joanie Loves Chachi, previously discussed. Happy Days is still on American television in reruns.

Valley Girl is a 1982 song by Frank Zappa and his daughter Moon Zappa, then aged 14. The song consists of Frank playing riffs on the guitar while Moon performs the lyrics in “Valspeak”, the slang and intonations of the teenage girls of the era from the San Fernando Valley. The song went to #32, and was Zappa’s only Top 40 single. Although intended as a savage parody, the song popularised the Valley Girl stereotype, and led to an increase in Valspeak. The fad directly inspired the 1983 Nicolas Cage movie Valley Girl.

Lorelai’s “They [frat parties] can be so totally lame. Gag me”, is pure Valspeak.


STUDENT: Okay. So I’ll see you in class. And maybe at that Phi Kap party tonight?
LORELAI: Ginchy!
STUDENT: Cool. Bye.

Ginchy is dated teen slang meaning “cool, neat, sexy”. The word was popularised by “Kookie” Kookson, played by Edd Byrnes, in the hit private detective television series 77 Sunset Strip, which aired from 1958 to 1964. Kookie, who was a wisecracking, hair-combing hipster and assistant to the detectives, is an obvious forerunner to the character of Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli on Happy Days.

The word ginchy is 1930s slang related to ginch, meaning an attractive woman.

Past Graduates of Harvard

LORELAI: Past graduates. Henry James … isn’t that a beer?
RORY: And a novelist. Go on.
LORELAI: John Adams. That’s a beer!
RORY: Our second president. He’s very in right now.
LORELAI: W.E.B. Du Bois, Yo-Yo Ma. Oh cool! Fred Gwynne.
RORY: Who?
LORELAI: Herman Munster. Now I’m impressed.

Henry James (1943-1916), earlier mentioned, was an American-born British author, often considered one of the greatest novelists of all time. He is best known for his novels and stories depicting interactions between Americans, English people, and Continental Europeans, such The Portrait of a Lady, and The Ambassadors. Henry James’ style closely examines the psychology of his characters in an ambiguous or contradictory way. There is no beer named Henry James that I know of. Henry James attended Harvard Law School in 1862, but soon discovered he had no interest in law, and pursued a literary career instead, so he isn’t actually a graduate.

John Adams (1735-1826) was an American statesman and Founding Father of the United States who served as the Vice-President of the US, and as the second President of the US from 1797 to 1801. Adams tended to be a rather obscure president for many years, with many Americans knowing nothing about him, until the publication of his biography John Adams by popular American historian David McCullough in May 2001. It was very favourably received, and brought about a resurgence in Adams’ reputation. Rory seems to be referring to this book by saying Adams “is very in right now”, and has almost certainly read it. There is actually a beer named John Adams. John Adams entered Harvard in 1751, graduating in 1755 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

William Edward Burghardt “W.E.B.” Du Bois (1868-1963) was an American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, and writer. He was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909, and was the leader of the Niagara Movement who worked for equal rights for blacks. A prolific author, Du Bois’ 1903 essay collection The Souls of Black Folk was a seminal work in African-American literature, and his 1935 Black Reconstruction in America was his greatest work. The Civil Rights Act, embodying many of the reforms for which Du Bois had campaigned, was enacted the year after his death. W.E.B. Du Bois attended Harvard from 1888 to 1890, where he received his second bachelor’s degree, graduating cum laude.

Yo-Yo Ma (born 1955) is a French-born American cellist. A child prodigy, he has performed as a soloist with orchestras around the world, recorded more than 90 albums, and received 18 Grammy Awards. He has received several prestigious awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Yo-Yo Ma received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard in 1976, and in 1991 Harvard awarded him an honorary doctorate.

Frederick “Fred” Gwynne (1926-1993) was an American actor, singer, artist, and author, best-known for his roles in 1960s sitcoms such as The Munsters, where he played Herman Munster, who resembled Frankenstein’s monster. He also sang professionally, painted, and was a successful children’s author. Fred Gwynne graduated from Harvard in 1951, and was highly involved in Harvard life, including as a member of the Hasty Pudding Theatricals.


David Lynch

LORELAI: We are not gonna have this fight in a flowery bedroom with dentists singing Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves [sic] in the background. It’s too David Lynch!

David Lynch (born 1946) is an American film maker, musician, actor, and artist. His first feature-length work was the surrealist horror film Eraserhead (1977), which became a cult classic, and he gained mainstream success with the biographical film The Elephant Man (1980), previously mentioned. The science-fiction epic Dune (1984) was a failure, while his mystery film Blue Velvet (1987) was controversial upon release, but now regarded as one of the greatest films of its era.

He is well known for his mystery horror television series Twin Peaks (1990-1991), which was a smash hit around the world, quickly gained a cult following, and caused him to be labelled the “first popular Surrealist”. He also directed Wild at Heart, earlier mentioned as a film Nicolas Cage starred in.

It becomes apparent during the show that Lorelai is a David Lynch fan.

Behind the Music

LORELAI: You know, if I was in a rock band touring and stuff, I’d make the bus driver stop at every Haden’s Nut House we pass.
RORY: Wow, your Behind the Music is gonna be really wild.

Behind the Music is a documentary music television series. Each episode, a particular band or musical artist is profiled and interviewed. The show has been broadcast since 1997.

Perfect Situation for a Fool

A small part of this country song written by Jai Josefs and Roy Brown and sung by George Highfill plays on the radio before Lorelai switches stations. It seems to have been written as music for film and television, and has been included on the soundtracks of other shows, including Supernatural.

Rather unbelievably, there is nothing on New England radio except country music and Christian rock – they are driving through Massachusetts, not Alabama!

Janet Jackson and Celine Dion

LORELAI: Hey, where were you after you broke off from the group?
MICHEL: Oh, I sat at a table with Janet Jackson and Celine Dion. Very nice guys.

Janet Jackson (born 1966) [pictured] is an American singer, songwriter, dancer, and actress who has been a prominent figure in popular culture for thirty years. The youngest of the famous Jackson family, she began her career on The Jacksons variety show in 1976, and appeared on other television shows in the 1970s and ’80s, including Fame, previously mentioned. After signing a record contract in 1982, she became a pop icon in the second half of the 1980s, and a sex symbol in the 1990s; she was one of the biggest recording artists of the 1990s. One of the best-selling musical artists, she holds the record for the most consecutive entries in the US Top Ten singles chart by a female artist, at 18. A long-time supporter of LGBT rights, she received special praise for her 1997 album The Velvet Rope, which spoke out against homophobia and embraced same-sex love. The albums’s second single, Together Again, is a tribute to the loved ones Jackson lost to AIDS, with a portion of sales going to AIDS research. She has received several awards for her charity work on behalf of AIDS education, and suicide prevention among gay youth. She is currently working on a documentary about transgender people.

Celine Dion (born 1968) is a Canadian singer. First becoming a star in the French-speaking world as a teenager, she gained international recognition in the 1980s when she won the 1982 Yamaha World Popular Song Festival, and the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest, where she represented Switzerland. In 1990, she released her first English-language album, Unison, establishing her as a star in North America and the rest of the English-speaking world. She has had several #1 hits, including My Heart Will Go On, and The Power of Love, and has won five Grammy Awards; Dion is the best-selling Canadian musical artist. She is a resident performer in Las Vegas, and is the highest-paid, receiving $500 000 per show. Michel getting along well with a drag queen dressed as Celine Dion seems to be the beginning of his obsession with the singer. Although Celine Dion does have a gay following, her inclusion seems to be in tribute to Yanic Truesdale, who plays Michel, as they are both French-Canadians.

Get Happy

When the company enters the bar for Lorelai’s bachelorette party, a drag queen dressed as Judy Garland is lip-synching on stage to this song.

Get Happy is a song written by Harold Arlen, with lyrics by Ted Koehler; the lyrics mimic gospel and evangelical songs. It was first performed by Ruth Etting in the 1930 Broadway show Nine-Fifteen Revue, and although the musical was a disastrous flop, Get Happy was successful and recorded several times, including by both Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker.

Judy Garland sang the song in the 1950 musical film Summer Stock, her last movie for MGM. In a let’s-put-on-a-show plotline, Garland performs the number wearing a tuxedo jacket, fedora, and stockings and high heels in the movie’s most iconic scene, often copied by other singers and dancers.

Judy Garland had been a gay icon since The Wizard of Oz became popular TV viewing, so having this song playing as they enter is a stereotypical way to signal it’s a gay club.

“Poor Jan”

MAX: We’re coming out of the restaurant and we’re heading toward our next stop when my brother decides to leap frog over a parking meter.
LORELAI: Why did he do that?
MAX: Middle child.
LORELAI: Poor Jan.

Lorelai is referring to Jan Brady, played by Eve Plumb, a character from the sitcom The Brady Bunch, which showed the daily lives of a large blended family. In the show, Jan was the middle of three girls, and often portrayed as being jealous of her popular older sister Marcia (Maureen McCormick), or otherwise worried about her awkward position as the middle daughter, which sometimes led her into attention-seeking behaviour.

The Brady Bunch originally aired from 1969 to 1974. It was never a big success during its original run, but became a popular staple when it went into syndication, especially among children and teenaged viewers. This success led to several TV reunion movies, and two satirical comedy films in the 1990s. It is now seen as a cultural icon, and is still on American TV in reruns.

ElectraWoman and DynaGirl

LORELAI: We wore him out.
RORY: We tend to do that.
LORELAI: Well, we are ElectraWoman and DynaGirl.

ElectraWoman and DynaGirl is a live action children’s science fiction television show, a female version and parody of Batman and Robin, with Deirdre Hall playing caped crusader ElectraWoman, and Judy Strangis playing her teenaged sidekick DynaGirl. It aired as part of The Krofft Supershow in 1976-77, when Lorelai was aged 8 to 9. ElectraWoman’s real name was Lori, similar to Lorelai (DynaGirl’s was Judy).