- “Back in St. Olaf...”
- — Rose's catchphrase.
Rose Nylund (née Lindstrom) was a fictional character featured on the popular 1980s situation comedy The Golden Girls and its spin-offs The Golden Palace, Empty Nest and Nurses. She was portrayed by Betty White for 8 years and 208 episodes.
Rose was comically portrayed as naïve and simple, although arguably the most kind-hearted. She was best known for her rambling, nonsensical stories about her bizarre hometown, St. Olaf, Minnesota, that her roommates endured with exasperated silence—and the occasional muttered insult.
Rose was born on March 12, 1930, out of wedlock to a monk and his lover, Ingrid Kerklavoner. Her biological mother died during childbirth, and her father returned to the monastery. Her first eight years of life were spent in an orphanage; during this time she developed a conviction that her biological father was Bob Hope, a belief she would retain until she met her real father toward the end of the series. She was adopted by Gunter Lindstrom and Alma Lindstrom and raised on a dairy farm in St. Olaf, Minnesota, a Norwegian farming settlement. She is a Lutheran. She had eight siblings (two of whom were sisters and also named after flowers: Holly Lindstrom and Lily Lindstrom) and grew up very happy; she stated her parents loved all nine of them equally. It was growing up on a farm that gave Rose her deep love for animals. Her childhood friend was named Ingrid, and the two would play in a treehouse together.
Rose’s teenage years are somewhat of a mystery. It was stated that she was valedictorian in her high school graduation (fourth out of nineteen, and was chosen valedictorian because she drew the longest straw), she attended St. Paul Business School, Rockport Community College, and St. Gustaf University (where she studied Pig Latin) but also that she had never graduated from high school (due to a case of mono). She also lost the St. Olaf Butter Queen pageant as a teenager due to a case of "churn tampering." Her parents did not allow her to date until she was a high school senior, and between then and her wedding day, she had about fifty-six boyfriends. One of these boyfriends was Charles "Charlie" Nylund, Sr., a World War II veteran whom she had known since she was seven years old (he sold her an insurance policy on her little red wagon). Charlie and Rose fell in love at a Glenn Miller dance (though it wasn't his orchestra, it was Dick Singleton and the Single Tones), got engaged in 1946 and married in 1948. Rose was a virgin on her wedding night.
Charlie and Rose had a long and happy marriage and had five children: Bridget Nylund, Gunilla Nylund (pronounced "Janella"), Kirsten Adams, Adam Nylund, and Charlie Nylund, Jr. Charley Adams was Rose's granddaughter and Kirsten's daughter. She was named after Kirsten's father, Charley's grandfather, Charlie. Of her children, only Bridget and Kirsten appeared on the show (although Kirsten was played by two different actresses).
Charlie and Rose were married for 22 years when he died in 1970 (it was mentioned in the 1985 pilot episode that Charlie had been dead for 15 years). However, it was mentioned on the episode, "Job Hunting" that she had been a housewife for 32 years. His heart attack came when he and Rose were in bed together, and this gave Rose a fear of sexual intimacy for several years thereafter. She mentions this was due to the confusion caused by her husband's last words, "Rose, I'm going, I'm going!" Years later another boyfriend of Rose's died in a similar fashion and Rose had to inform the man's wife how he died (Rose did not know he was married until after his death).
After Charlie died, Rose stayed in St. Olaf for a while, but the harsh weather and houseful of memories prompted her to sell her house in 1976 and move to Miami where she found work at a grief counselling centre (she was not very good at the job, being barred from manning the suicide hotline, herself stating "I have the highest suicide rate at the centre!"). Shortly before the series began, Rose was thrown out of her apartment for violating her lease (she found a stray cat and kept it as a pet; in a continuity error, it is revealed in a later episode that Rose is allergic to cats). She went to a supermarket bulletin board to find a new place to rent and ultimately met Blanche Elizabeth Marie Devereaux there. She gave the cat to a little boy in the supermarket shortly after meeting Blanche. Blanche offered her the room after seeing this kind act, and Rose moved in.
In the late-first-season episode Job Hunting, Dorothy states that Rose is 55 years old in 1986, which would put her birth year in 1930 or 1931. This makes her 54 or 55 when the series begins and 62 or 63 when the final season of The Golden Palace goes off the air in 1993.
In 1984, she tried to call Indira Gandhi but she didn't take the call. She said, in The Engagement, that she'd be alive if she had taken her call.
Rose was laid off from her job at the grief counselling centre in 1986 and briefly worked a minimum wage job as a waitress at a coffee shop before being rehired at the counselling centre shortly after.
In December 1987, Rose briefly considered leaving Miami for Boston to move in with an old wartime friend of Charlie’s named Buddy Rourke. Dorothy Zbornak found out that Rourke was a fraud who repeatedly conned army wives out of their money, but couldn't tell Rose in time. As it turned out, Rose turned down his offer because, although she enjoyed reminiscing with him, she didn't love him. She thanked him for rekindling her memories of Charlie and said goodbye. Dorothy wanted to tell Rose the truth about Buddy Rourke, but Sophia convinced her that, “if Rose is happy and there’s no harm done, let her have that.”
Rose won St. Olaf’s highest award, Woman of the Year, in November 1988. Unbeknownst to Rose, Dorothy and Blanche altered her list of achievements, making it impossible for Rose to lose. On the way to St. Olaf to the award ceremony, however, she found out about what Dorothy and Blanche did and refused to accept the award. The town named Rose the Woman of the Year anyway, stating that she exhibited the principles for which the award stands (and because the runner-up, who would have won the award instead of her, was disqualified for 'a skeleton in her closet'; this being St. Olaf, it was a literal skeleton, her husband's).
In October 1989, the company Rose’s husband worked for went bankrupt and eliminated their pension plan. As a result, Rose was forced to look for a higher-paying job. She eventually found one, as a personal assistant at a local TV news station. Later that year, Rose began dating college professor Miles Webber, her first significant relationship since Charlie’s death.
Although Rose had known she was adopted since she was a little girl, she did not know the identity of her birth parents (and had come to believe that Bob Hope was her father) until September 1990, when her birth father was a patient in the hospital at which she volunteered. Although she was initially angry with her father for never wanting to meet her, she quickly forgave him. Like most of the main characters’ relatives, Rose’s birth father was never again seen nor mentioned on the show.
In January 1991, Rose found out that Miles was actually an accountant from Chicago named Nicholas Carbone, and had been placed in the Witness Protection Program due to his involvement with the mafia. After one of the mobsters, Miles had put away died, Miles was able to leave witness protection and go back to Chicago. Rose eventually realized that she still loved Miles, and decided to move to Chicago with him. When it was revealed that the mobster had faked his death, Miles was forced to re-enter the program, and said goodbye to Rose. He returned to Miami in March 1991 because he missed Rose too much, but by then Rose had begun dating a man named Karl. Karl reveals himself to be the mobster who is after Miles, but soon is rearrested, leaving Miles free to stay with Rose in Miami. Rose and Miles briefly considered marriage in February 1992, but ultimately decided against it.
In May 1992, on the eve of Dorothy’s marriage to Blanche’s uncle Lucas Hollingsworth, Rose initially decided to move in with her daughter Kirsten, but changed her mind when she realized she would not be needed there. Rose, Blanche, and Sophia stayed in Miami after Dorothy’s wedding, and on September 1992 they purchased the Golden Palace Hotel, where Rose was in charge of housekeeping. While at the Golden Palace, perhaps because of the absence of Dorothy's authoritative presence, Rose began to become more confident and assertive. Her biting barbs at Blanche's promiscuity became more overt and frequent, and frequently stood up for causes she believed in (such as not allowing obvious adulterers to check into the hotel.) In one instance, when Dorothy visited, Rose was so assertive Dorothy stated: "When did SHE become the strong one?" It was while working at the hotel that Rose discovered Miles had cheated on her.
During the show's seven-year run, St. Olaf was only seen twice in flashbacks and once when the girls visited during an episode in which Rose was nominated for St Olaf's woman of the year award, ultimately winning a gold trophy, or rather, a milk chocolate trophy wrapped in gold-coloured foil. According to Rose, St. Olaf is a Norwegian farming settlement in northern Minnesota, known on local license plates as "Big Statue Country.". According to Dorothy, however, St. Olaf is "the cradle of idiocy."
The town was nevertheless referred to in almost every episode through Rose's protracted and comic (yet entirely irrelevant) anecdotes about its eccentric inhabitants, bizarre customs, and peculiar history. Men named Hans, Lars, Ingmar, Sven, various experiences with herring, Viking imagery, and a stunning lack of common sense displayed by the townspeople, figured into many stories. For example, Rose was the one to bring back the idiom "don't you have enough sense to come in out of the rain?" after visiting rival city St. Gustaf ("the city that never naps"). One of St. Olaf's chief attractions is a giant black hole, which the townspeople enjoyed standing around and looking at - which prompted Dorothy to refer to St. Olaf sarcastically as the real "entertainment capital of the world." St. Olafians also celebrate various oddly themed festivals.
Although all four women volunteered their time, Rose was arguably the most involved in charity work. She drove a bookmobile, was a candy striper at a hospital, and helped organize a charity talent show, among other things. She listed cheese making as a hobby on her resume, as well. She was a perennial runner up for a Volunteer of the Year award, even coming in second one-year to a woman who was already dead. According to the episode Nice and Easy, Rose was also a fan of the hit television series Miami Vice, and is quite adept in the show's trivia.
Rose is also seen as quite creative and artistic. She enjoys playing piano and songwriting/singing. Rose has also been shown molding clay in the season 2 episode “And Then There Was One” as well as being a skilled painter, skilled enough to have four paintings offered to be hung within a museum. Rose also displays her creativity in her baking, giving her food smiley faces or cutting them into cute shape. Like Sophia, Rose is often seen sewing or knitting illustrating her interest in textile arts as well as fine arts. Further along this note, Rose is also crafty and handy. She installed a new toilet with the help of Dorothy, and an alarm system all on her own.
Rose is also quite domestic. She is seen cooking or preparing food just as much as Sophia is. Whereas Sophia tends to cook savory dishes, Rose is skilled at cooking and baking. She is often whipping up a Scandinavian dessert from pies, to cookies to cakes and even Sparehooven Krispies. Her loved for baked goods stems from her sweet tooth that she mentioned she had in the season 1 finale, but it could also be from living on a dairy farm, as dairy is a key ingredient in many baked items.
Rose is also shown on many occasions to be an animal lover. Whether it’s dogs and cats or cows and chickens, Rose loves all creatures big or small. In fact, she even claims to understand animals communicating with a mouse that found its way into the house back in season 1. Her love for animals can be at the cost of her friend’s annoyance since Rose often shelters animals without warning Blanche and Dorothy.
Rose is portrayed as a naïve, simple-minded yokel. While this is largely true, there are occasionally other sides to her personality as well. She has a nasty competitive streak, which is featured prominently in a November 1985 episode involving a bowling tournament, and a January 1989 episode, in which she coaches a children's football team. She also stated that she once had to change schools because of a "nasty field hockey incident." She also shows a surprising skill in practical tasks, on one occasion putting in all-new plumbing in the bathroom virtually single-handed.
Another example of her craftiness is shown in the episode Vacation, where the girls are shipwrecked on an island, with 3 boys who they were forced to share the room in a really bad hotel. After nearly drowning, Blanche, Dorothy and the boys argue and bicker, blaming each other for the situation, Rose ultimately raises her voice and takes charge. "Everybody now shut the hell up, I am in charge here, if you want to make it alive out of this, you better listen to me." She claimed to be the most decorated scout in all of northern Minnesota, who could start a fire with rocks, build a 100-foot rope bridge, and filter seawater to freshwater (although she later admitted that she lacked the right tools for it, but said it anyway in the heat of the moment). Rose aggressively takes charge, instructing the boys to scout for water, while instructing Blanche and Dorothy to start breaking up the boat for firewood. Her changed stance intimidates even Blanche and Dorothy, who meekly follow her orders. Later they are shown to have a bonfire burning. Which shows that she was indeed competent in her claims.
Rose has a tendency to become scared easily, as illustrated in a November 1985 episode, in which the ladies' house is robbed. Rose cares deeply for her friends and family, as well as all animals. She is also surprisingly agile for a woman her age; more than once, she has demonstrated her strong dancing skills, including her ability to do cartwheels. She also seems to be an accomplished pianist, as she once came up with the St. Olaf High school fight song. She is also seen playing songs, like "I Got You, Babe", on the piano very well on more than one occasion.
In the episode called It's a Miserable Life, she also tried to be as nice as possible to a mean old lady, named Frieda Claxton (Nan Martin), who was hated by everybody. (She was in fact, so hated, that one Halloween, all the neighbourhood kids wore Frieda Claxton costumes, according to Dorothy.) Mrs Claxton had aroused the ire of the neighbourhood when she wanted a 200-year-old tree removed from her property. The situation escalated when Mrs Claxton and most of the residents of the neighbourhood, including Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia, and Rose, faced off in court. Rose made a final plea to Mrs Claxton to change her mind to cut the tree down and even asked her how she could hate a living thing. Mrs Claxton responded by saying nonchalantly, "I hate you." This proved to be the last straw for Rose, who lost her temper and verbally berated her for being so cruel and selfish. Mrs Claxton was shocked, as no one had ever spoken to her that way before. Rose finally told her to sit still and shut up while she and the rest of the neighbourhood had their say about the tree, and if she didn't like it, then she could just drop dead. Seconds later, she actually did "drop dead". Due to a mix-up at the funeral home that had Mrs. Claxton's body cremated by mistake, plus the fact that Mrs Claxton had no living relatives, Rose took her ashes and spread them onto the tree, telling the courts that "you can't disturb someone's final resting place", thereby saving the tree.
Rose is something of a pushover who rarely stands up for herself. On one occasion her blind sister Lily tried to guilt Rose into moving to Chicago to take care of her. At Dorothy's urging, Rose said no to Lily which forced Lily to learn how to care for herself.
Despite telling St.Olaf stories to the point that she drove the others mad with them, Rose understands that she can use them for her advantage like for example to waste time in The Days and Nights of Sophia Petrillo, Dorothy remembered one in the episode Mary Has a Little Lamb to convince their neighbour to forgive his daughter and in Goodbye, Mr. Gordon she threatens Blanche and Dorothy with them if she is fired.
Rose is the fool of the group and has been the centre of a few running gags. The most common being that she would ask a really stupid question, the others would look at her oddly and then say something sarcastic (most noticeably Dorothy and Sophia), such as on the episode Transplant from Season 1, where Blanche's sister Virginia comes to visit. Blanche, tired of her sister always wanting something of hers is shocked when Virginia reveals she is dying and needs a kidney transplant. When Blanche tells the girls that Virginia wants her kidney, Rose asks "Why would she need a kidney?" Dorothy explodes "TO FEED THE CAT, ROSE!". In another episode, Dorothy and Blanche were talking about the film Dirty Dancing, with Dorothy saying how "well" they dance in that movie. Rose, in the meantime, who was not in the conversation asked "what movie?" and Dorothy snapped at Rose and sarcastically says, "Lawrence of Arabia, Rose!" This came back to bite them when on a couple of episodes where the roof was leaking, Rose walks out of her room carrying two buckets in her hands and Dorothy asks if the ceiling in her room is leaking too and Rose says "No, Dorothy, I just finished milking the cow I keep in my closet!" She then says "Gee, with only 3 hours of sleep I can be as bitchy as you!" and on another episode (where her sister Holly comes to visit, much to the dismay of Rose) Rose says she's a flautist. Dorothy asks Rose if she plays the flute, and Rose comes back and says, "No, Dorothy, she plays a 'flaunt'. It's a big instrument that looks like a tuba and has hair at the bottom of it. Of course, she plays the flute!". At one extremely rare point where Dorothy and Blanche had gotten into an argument, both of them at the same time say, "Shut Up, Rose!" (another noticeable line said by the other girls) and leave. Then Rose, with a puppy in her hand, says, "It's alright, Rose. I used to live with a couple of bitches myself." (imitating the puppy, as if he was speaking). Rose's hair color is something debated from time to time. She claims it's her natural color but several characters have said it was cheap hair dye. Once, while Rose was talking about how she never lied, Dorothy asked her what her natural hair color was. She left the room. On one occasion, Sophia remarks that she is known as a dumb blonde. In another episode, while Blanche was discussing her hair's "natural hue" Rows (as she spelled it out for an acquaintance once in an episode later in the series) had mentioned, "To be perfectly honest -I use a touch of peroxide". This confession, of course, came out of the blue irrelevantly (in this particular episode) and was immediately followed by an irritated Dorothy who shouted: "OH, SHUT UP ROSE"! One occasion Sophia asks Rose "Hey how come your head moves but your hair doesn't"
In January 1987, Rose had an esophageal spasm that caused a near-death experience. In March 1989, she came clean about a decades-long addiction to prescription painkillers. Rose also endured an AIDS scare in February 1990, when she was alerted that a blood transfusion she had received during an operation several years before may have been tainted with HIV. In late April/early May 1992, Rose suffered a major heart attack and had to have triple bypass surgery.
- Rose once said that Indira Gandhi would still be alive if she had taken her phone call.
- If Rose were still alive as of 2021, she would be 91.
- Back in Saint Olaf....
- "Hi". (First line)
- "I forgot my hot milk!" (last line)
|~The Golden Girls~|
|Blanche Devereaux - Dorothy Zbornak - Rose Nylund - Sophia Petrillo |
- Stanley Zbornak - Miles Webber -