Golden Con in Chicago Will Thank You For Being a Fan, and Honor Betty White's Life and Legacy in the Process

Golden Girls' fan convention in Chicago welcomes fans and superfans alike

Zack Hudson is not a "Golden Girls" fan. Nope. When it comes to the sitcom featuring four women of a certain age living together in Miami that aired from 1985 to 1992 (but we don't have to tell you that), Zack Hudson is a superfan.

“I’d say most people who have television sets in the United States are 'Golden Girls' fans,” Hudson tells Pride Source. “It’s hard to meet somebody who doesn’t have a fond memory of the 'Golden Girls.'”

As for people who say they don’t like "The Golden Girls"? “I automatically don’t trust them,” he says.

A superfan, however, is more than just a casual viewer. “A superfan can tell you the name of guest stars who were only on the show for one episode,” he says. “A superfan can tell you trivia about minute aspects of the show.”

Some superfans will also show you their Golden Girls tattoo. While Hudson doesn’t have one, he’s seen quite a few since the announcement of Golden Con, a "Golden Girls" fan convention scheduled to take place April 22-24 at Chicago's Navy Pier, the new location after high demand forced organizers to find a space that could accommodate more fans. Hudson is co-producing the event along with his producing partner, Brad Balof.

A superfan will also have a “Thank you for being a friend at Christmas” tree, “Which I do,” Hudson says. The tree is decorated with Golden Girls tchotchkes, memorabilia, ornaments and art. It includes a full set of Golden Girl Funko Pops at the top.

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Hudson is also a Madonna and Dolly Parton fan, hence his “Like a Virgin Birth at Christmas” tree and his “I Will Always Love You at Christmas” tree.

“It’s nuts, and I fully concur that I need help,” he says.

Why does Hudson love “The Golden Girls” so much? “It’s funny,” he says, borrowing a quote from Betty White, the 99-year-old actress who played Rose and was the last living Golden Girl until her death on Dec. 31. Estelle Getty, who played Sophia, died in 2008; Bea Arthur, who played Dorothy, died in 2009, and Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche, died in 2010. The actresses were all considered great comedic talents, and White was still keeping busy — in 2019, she voiced a toy tiger in "Toy Story 4."

Hudson hopes Golden Con will give White mourners an opportunity to grieve our collective loss together as a community — "a chance," he says, "for them to celebrate her life and maybe process some of that grief." He said actors, writers, government officials and mere lovers of the legendary actress will be on hand to pay tribute to her one-of-a-kindness."Betty White seemed — to a TV viewer like myself — to be one of the happiest, most optimistic people who walked this planet over the past century," Hudson told Pride Source. "Her death is sad, but not a tragedy. I believe that. ... Her work, her optimism, her spirit meant so much to me while she was alive even though I didn't know her. And I still feel little pangs of grief when I think about the fact that she's gone. May God bless the people far and wide who loved her and were uplifted by her positive thinking, hard work, and seemingly unstoppable ability to make folks laugh."

As for the timeless show, Hudson likens its appeal to its cast of “four vibrant women” who defy the shallow stereotypes so many women play on TV, then and now. “We’re going to make our own lives, we’re going to make our own happiness, we’re going to make our own fun.” Hudson says of the cast. “And they’ve also made millions of people laugh over the past four decades.”

It wasn’t just humor that fostered Hudson’s love of the show. “The other thing I like about it is they are friends, they are people who love each other,” he says. “I was just drawn to that as a very young gay kid.”

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The comfort that Hudson sought in these four friends living together in Miami is why “The Golden Girls” is more popular than ever. Hudson points to the show’s performance on Hulu. The streaming service released a large number of Golden Girls episodes in April 2020, the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown. According to The New York Times, Hulu viewers watched 11 million hours of “The Golden Girls” in April alone.

“It’s as big as it ever was,” Hudson says.

It was also ahead of its time in a lot of ways, dealing with subjects like AIDS and homosexuality, not to mention the fact that it showed that women over 50 had stories worth telling and that there was a wide audience for those stories.

Hudson says that his favorite Golden Girl is Rose. “And the reason why is because when I am rising to my best self, which is not every day I can promise you, I am having an attitude like Rose has, which is optimistic, positive and helpful.”

This attitude no doubt helps when it comes to planning Golden Con.

“Initially, I approached my co-producer Brad Balof with an idea about setting up a one-day thing and maybe getting some vendors and maybe one or two guest stars,” he says. “Brad immediately said this is a good idea, but we need to go bigger.”

Golden Con, which is not officially connected to or sponsored by the show, will include live “lost episode” parody shows from Hell in a Handbag Theater Company, a “Greatest Gift” vendor’s market, a "St. Olaf and a Picture It, Sicily" story slam competition, a costume parade, special guests and, of course, some cheesecake

“This is a convention for fans,” Hudson says. “Come and laugh and celebrate friendship and jokes and comedy, and maybe forget our troubles for a while.”


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