STREETERVILLE — Pals and confidants worldwide who traveled down the road in 2022 may be back again this month for a “Golden Girls” convention.
Golden-Con: Thank You For Being a Fan is scheduled for March 31-April 2 at the Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk, 301 E. North Water St. The three-day event will feature special guest appearances, live performances, a vendor market and more.
Organizers Zack Hudson and brothers Brendan and Brad Balof — who call themselves hardcore fans of the show, which revolves around characters Dorothy, Sophia, Rose and Blanche as they seek romance and friendship during their golden years — launched the event in 2022 at Navy Pier.
Hudson said he remembered reading a New York Times story in mid-2020 about what people were watching “during one of this country’s darker periods,” in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Hulu, viewers streamed more than 11 million hours of “The Golden Girls” just in April 2020.
“And the idea [of a convention] kind of kept germinating from there,” Hudson said.
The small fan celebration was initially going to take place at the Center on Halsted, an LGBTQ+ community center in Northalsted. But word of the fest went viral and it was moved to the Sheraton.
After attracting worldwide fan and media attention, more than 3,000 fans from throughout the globe attended the inaugural three-day event.
The first Golden-Con brought together fans of the show from around the world to celebrate the sitcom, which ran from 1985 to 1992 and starred Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty as four women sharing a home in Miami. Although the series ended more than 20 years ago, it has continued to reach a growing fanbase.
This year, organizers promise a closer look behind the scenes at the makings of one of TV’s greatest sitcoms. Fans can expect guest appearances and panel discussions with writers, producers and directors from every season of the show, as well as its spinoff series, “The Golden Palace” and “Empty Nest.”
Featured events include a disco dance party and a live performance by The Golden Gals featuring Ginger Minj, director and producer of “The Golden Gals Live!” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 7 finalist.
Minj said it was fans of her Golden Gals act and last year’s convention patrons who ended up connecting her with Golden Con’s organizers. She said she wanted to go to the convention in 2022 but “it just didn’t work out for us to make it.”
“So when we were invited to be an actual part of it this year, it made sitting out the first one a little bit of an easier pill to swallow,” Minj said.
MInj said the group’s members were fans of the show and its stars before they were impersonators of the characters.
“I mean, they pretty much raised us on television, and everybody in our group feels that way — so we want to make sure that every detail is right, down to the color of purse or the color of earrings or the type of strap on the shoe,” Minj said. “We wanna make sure that the fans coming in know how much care and time that we’ve really taken with this.”
Close friends, relatives and colleagues of the show’s four stars will share their stories throughout the weekend. Among the special guests attending the event are Cindy Fee, singer of the show’s theme song, “Thank You For Being a Friend.” Emmy Award-winning director Terry Hughes and Melinda McClanahan, Rue McClanahan’s sister, are also expected to be in attendance.
As of March 9, Hudson said more than 1,000 tickets for the convention were bought, and more than 400 rooms have been booked at the hotel.
Tickets for Golden Con are $25-$450, according to the event’s website. The convention’s full event schedule and guest list is available at thankyouforbeingafan.com.
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