Stan Zimmerman – from Golden to Gilmore

Written by | Entertainment, People We Love

STAN ZIMMERMAN – Writer | Producer | Director

“Life will throw you many obstacles, but it’s how you deal with them that shows what kind of person you are.”

Stan Zimmerman is a man of many talents, and he’s been successful in all. His first big professional gig? Writing for Season 1 of The Golden Girls. As a young, Hollywood newbie, he was writing alongside veteran (and super straight) industry writers for the four Girls. His first idea pitch was greenlit and the episode, “Rose’s Mother,” won him and his writing partner, James Berg, a Writer’s Guild Award nomination. His one-liners have been made into memes (No, I will not have a good day!) and he appears at Golden Girls conventions, cruises, and his Q & A show An Evening on the Lanai, across the nation. As Golden Girls plays in constant syndication with no signs of losing steam with audiences, why does Stan think the show has such staying power? “Because we have good taste. Also, I think we can relate to the girls and the idea of a “chosen family.” There’s comfort in knowing that in our later years, we could thrive in a life surrounded by good friends. And most of us have to deal with a slutty friend.” Extremely popular in the gay community, the show didn’t exactly start off as the open environment you would have thought. “People find it hard to believe, but my writing partner and I were told to stay in the closet while writing on Golden Girls. Although we were exploring very progressive storylines on the show, like our episode “Adult Education” (about sexual harassment), Hollywood in the 80s was still a very straight, white male-run business. Like most businesses (and the world) back then.”

This March, Stan returns to the lives of an older generation (this time with gay men) with the world premiere of his play, Silver Foxes. After an all-star reading of the script in his living room with George Takei, the late Leslie Jordan, Bruce Vilanch, Melissa Peterman, Cheri Oteri, and more, the show was pitched to a variety of networks. Even with the success of Golden Girls, networks were still hesitant to showcase a show based entirely on the lives of gay men. The stage version is being directed by Michael Urie and opens at Dallas’ Uptown Players on March 2nd. Stan will be quick to point out, the show is not a reboot of the Golden Girls. “The piece was inspired by the documentary, Gen Silent, which spoke about elderly LGBTQ members having to go back into the closet when they move into assisted living communities. My writing partner and I were surprised by that fact and felt it was ripe to be dramatized, with Golden Girls sensibilities. Very funny, but also a very real situation for our three older gay male lead characters. We’ve worked really hard and against much resistance, to bring these unheard voices to light.”

After leaving The Golden Girls, Stan went on to write for Something Wilder with Gene Wilder, Roseanne, Wanda at Large with Wanda Sykes, and the highly successful fifth season of Gilmore Girls. He and James rewrote the Emmy and Peabody award-winning Annie for ABC as well as the hilarious Brady Bunch movies. He has ventured into writing several stage plays and web series and his projects feature a variety of colorful talent including Sandra Bernhard, Barry Bostwick, Mindy Sterling, Amanda Bearse, Garrett Clayton, Olivia d’Abo, Rachel Dratch, and the list goes on and on. His upcoming book, The Girls: From Golden to Gilmore, promises to entertain as well as spill the tea about the many projects he’s worked on. Can’t wait for the Roseanne Barr chapter.

Over the last few years, Stan has had the opportunity to direct and produce his own projects. Most recently, he’s moved from comedy to emotional and controversial pieces. Right Before I Go is based on letters written by those lost to suicide – celebrities, vets, victims of bullying, members of the LGBTQ community, and the clinically depressed – as well as those who have survived suicide attempts. Its premiere at Hollywood Fringe Festival was critically acclaimed and the piece continues to travel across the country, raising awareness and offering hope for suicide prevention. Ellen Burstyn, Judith Light, Michael Cerveris, Maulik Pancholy, Alice Ripley, Vanessa Williams, Wilson Cruz, Blair Underwood, and Virginia Madsen have all taken part in performances of the show, with Stan himself having the opportunity to play the narrator in a production. The show has also been performed by high school students, faculty, and school board members. Stan believes the stigma regarding mental health is getting better, but still has a way to go. “It may be diminishing in our community, but I’m concerned about the rest of society. There’s still so much shame around this subject. Just a year ago, I was set to act in it at a college with the students from their drama department. At the last minute, the head of their mental health department (yes, you read correctly), put a stop to it. He felt that talking about suicide would recreate more suicides. That’s old fashion thinking. Talking about it actually lets people know they are not alone in their feelings. And that there is help. I get thanked all the time at the post-show talkbacks for provoking discussion on this topic. Also, for my honesty in the play about my own struggles with being gay and bullied because of it.”

Stan’s reboot of the play version of The Diary of Anne Frank received much controversy as he cast all Latinx actors in roles and earned him a spot on CNN defending his choice. This season he is bringing the show back and he believes the timing couldn’t be better. “We were set to revive the play in April 2020 at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, a much larger theatre than we had been in. But Covid put a stop to those plans. Then with the recent rise in antisemitism and certain mean-spirited governors using immigrants as political pawns, I knew it was time to bring it back. I would love to tour America with this production, focusing on getting students to see it. Especially since I was shocked to learn that Anne Frank’s diary is no longer required reading in schools. I think those who take issue with my casting Latinx actors for the parts of the characters in the attic, are people who haven’t seen the play. Once they’ve attended, they understand my point of this staging is for these actors to literally put their feet in the shoes of the characters to feel how it must have been for them. The similarities and the differences. That’s pretty much my philosophy in life. To be sensitive about others, especially today when cruelty seems to be the order of the day.”

Stan’s work has made us laugh, cry, ponder big and small issues, inspired a younger generation of LGBTQ, and most of all, entertained. This is why he is a person we love. Stan’s biggest wish for our community this year? “Safety. We’re being attacked, verbally and physically, by so many people. From hate-filled politicians to bigoted entertainers and sports figures. As a writer, I know that words have power. They should know better. That’s why we must insist that our allies not stay silent. Our lives are literally on the line.”

Last modified: February 8, 2023