In S1E18, Sookie is trying to reassure Lorelai about Gran giving Rory trust fund money. Sookie says, “Rory’s like the most unmaterialistic kid in the world!” Lorelai responds, “No, it’s not about what she would buy. I don’t care if she buys a house or a boat or the Elephant Man’s bones! It’s just that… you know, it’s about the freedom.”
“The Elephant Man” refers to Joseph Merrick, a man born in the late nineteenth century who developed severe growth defects including thick lumps and bony growths on his head, hands, and feet. He was an exhibit at a freak show as a young man until he was admitted to the London Hospital, where he lived until his death at age 27. It is believed Merrick had Proteus syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes overgrowth of body parts. Merrick’s story was made into a movie called “The Elephant Man” in 1980, starring John Hurt as Merrick.
In S1E18, Madeline and Louise are contemplating spying on Tristan and Paris as they talk about some unknown subject in the hall. Rory is against it, but Louise says, “Those who simply wait for information to find them spend a lot of time sitting by the phone. Those who go out and find it themselves have something to say when it rings.” Rory asks, “Nietzsche?” Louise answers, “Dawson.”
Frederick Nietzsche was a 19th century German philosopher. He was believed to be an atheist, often remembered for his bold statement, “God is dead.” Most people equate Nietzsche with nihilism, although he did seem to find hope in the idea of “working for the future.”
I think Louise is talking about the character Dawson Leery from the television show “Dawson’s Creek.” It premiered on the WB in 1998 (the same network as Gilmore Girls). The story followed the life of Dawson and his friends, Joey and Pacey, as they attend high school in a small Massachusetts town. (I can’t find this exact quote, but it does seem like something Dawson would say, and I can’t find any indication of another “Dawson” Louise might be talking about).
In S1E17, Rory and Lane go to Madeline’s house for a party. Lane is freaking out about the house. She asks Rory, “Is this what your grandparents’ house looks like?” Rory says, “No. I mean, it’s big, but it’s not this… Hearst castle-y.”
Hearst castle is a mansion on the California coast, built in the early 20th century for newspaper tycoon (and Nazi) William Hearst. The structure was inspired by a Spanish cathedral. Other names for the estate include “The Ranch,” “La Cuesta Encantada,” and “San Simeon.” Today it is a popular tourist attraction.
In S1E16, Chase Bradford tells Emily that because of a computer model at his work, he could “practically pinpoint” the day she was going to die. Lorelai says cheerfully, “Go ahead! Ask her the questions!” Emily says, “I think I’ll pass.” Chase answers, “No, NO, Lorelai. I’d have to feed the information into a computer to get the answer. I’m no Kreskin!”
The Amazing Kreskin was an American mentalist who had a television show, “The Amazing World of Kreskin” from 1970 to 1975. He also frequently appeared on “The Tonight Show” and other late night talk shows. Kreskin does not claim to have any psychic or supernatural ability; he performs his tricks through observation and suggestion.
In S1E16, Lorelai is ranting to Rory about how she made a fool of herself in front of Luke’s ex-girlfriend, Rachel. She says, “And he’s looking at her like she’s Miss September, and she’s looking and him like he’s Johnny Depp, and I was just babbling like a moron. What is wrong with me?” Lorelai proceeds to yank on Rory’s hair too hard and gets kicked off “hair duty.”
Johnny Depp is an American actor who rose to fame on the 1980s TV series “21 Jump Street.” He also acted in many successful films in the 1990s, including “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?,” “Benny and Joon,” and “Edward Scissorhands.” Since this episode aired, Johnny has become even more popular through the “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, “Sweeney Todd,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and many others.
In S1E16, Rory comes home to find Lorelai sitting at the kitchen with a baking mix in her hands. Rory says, “No, put that away!” Lorelai replies, “I wanna cook!” Rory says, “You can make soup.” Lorelai says, “No, I wanna really cook, like on the food channel. I wanna saute things and chop things and do the ‘bam!’ And I wanna arrange things on a plate so they look like a pretty little hat. I wanna be the Iron Chef!”
Ok, let’s unpack this. The food channel is actually called “Food Network” and was launched in 1993 (“Food Channel,” strangely enough, is a website and not a television channel).
The “bam!” comment was referring to Chef Emeril Lagasse, a celebrity chef who has hosted multiple cooking shows on the Food Network. “Bam!” is one of his catchphrases.
Iron Chef America was not created until 2005, so Lorelai was talking about the original Iron Chef, a Japanese cooking show that premiered in 1993 on the Fuji Network. In the show, visiting chefs compete against a master “Iron Chef” to create the best dish centered around a specific ingredient.
In S1E15, Richard puts Rory on the spot in front of Strobe and Francine, Rory’s other grandparents. Rory doesn’t know what to say, so to rescue her, Lorelai yells, “I hate President Bush!”
George W. Bush was the newly elected president during the airing of this episode. He attended Harvard and Yale, and belonged to the Republican party. He worked in oil and owned a baseball team before being elected in 2000 and serving as president from 2001 to 2009. Many of his policies and decisions remain controversial, especially his response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, although this episode of Gilmore Girls aired before that.
In S1E15, Christopher comes to town and runs into Jackson and Andrew in the bookstore. Jackson says, “Boy, I gotta tell you, did they get your description wrong.” Christopher asks, “Really?” Jackson replies, “Oh yeah, much more George Clooney than Brad Pitt. Hey Andrew, don’t you think he’s much more George Clooney than Brad Pitt?” Andrew says, “I’m going with a Billy Crudup comparison, myself.”
Brad Pitt (left photo), born in 1963, is an American actor known for “A River Runs Through It” and “Ocean’s Eleven,” which he starred in with George Clooney. He and his wife Angelina Jolie are also very involved in humanitarian work.
George Clooney (middle photo), born in 1961, is an American actor known for the television series “ER” and the 2001 remake of “Ocean’s Eleven.” He was named one of Time magazine’s “Most Influence People in the World” in 2009 for his humanitarian work.
Billy Crudup (right photo), born in 1968, is an American actor known for “Almost Famous” and “Big Fish.” He was also a theater actor, winning a Tony Award for his performance in “The Coast of Utopia” in 2007.
In S1E14, Rory is telling her grandparents about the bird (Stella) that she had to take care of for class. Rory says, “Everything has to be logged. Eating habits, sleeping habits…” and Lorelai chimes in, “Houdini habits.”
Harry Houdini was an American magician and escape artist in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He escaped from straightjackets, graves, and even wooden crates that had been dropped into rivers.
In S1E14, Emily and Richard are making fun of their dead friend’s taste in decor as they plan to rent his old vacation home. Lorelai jokes, “Well, he’s dead now, so he got his!” Emily looks horrified and replies, “Lorelai, you’re being morbid.” Lorelai says, “I’m being morbid?” Rory interjects, “New subject, please,” and Lorelai tells her, “Joan and Melissa Rivers think I’m being morbid!”
Joan Rivers, born in 1933, was a comedian and actress known for her sharp and yes, sometimes morbid sense of humor. Her daughter, Melissa Rivers, is also an actress and has appeared in several collaborative projects with her mother. After Joan’s death in 2014, Melissa took over her hosting spot on the show Fashion Police.
A few noteworthy morbid jokes from Joan:
“The fashion magazines are suggesting that women wear clothes that are ‘age appropriate’… for me that would be a shroud.”
“I knew I was an unwanted baby when I saw that my bath toys were a toaster and a radio.”