Season One, Episode Six: “Rory’s Birthday Parties”

Season 1, episode 6: “Rory’s Birthday Parties”
Original air date: November 9, 2000
Directed by: Sarah Pia Anderson
Written by: Amy Sherman-Palladino

IMDb summary: It’s Rory’s birthday. She gets two parties. An elegant and horrible affair thrown by her grandmother and an informal fun party thrown by Lorelai (IMDb).

Indigenous Land Acknowledgment: In beginning my work on this guide, I’ve come to realize just how many references (however subtle) Gilmore Girls contains to the Revolutionary War and the colonial history of the United States. It is important and necessary to acknowledge the people whose lands were usurped when these events took place, though this is not a simple question. Please visit the main page to view the results of my research and read the full acknowledgment.

reference – 00:20
EMILY: Everything’s a joke, everyone’s a punchline.
LORELAI: Okay, I’m sorry.
EMILY: My daughter, Henny Youngman.
RICHARD: Well, what did I miss?
LORELAI: I was being impossible, and then I turned into a Jewish comedian.
— Henry “Henny” Youngman (born Henry Yungman, 1906-1998) was an English-born US comedian known for his snappy one-liners, his most famous being, “Take my wife. Please.” Instead of elaborate setups, his comedy routines consisted of rapid-fire punchlines, sometimes with violin interludes. He was dubbed “the King of One-Liners” by US newspaper columnist Walter Winchell.

mention – 04:00
RORY: You couldn’t get her to cave.
LORELAI: No. But she did agree to make the string quartet learn “Like a Virgin.”
“Like a Virgin” is a 1984 dance-pop song by US singer Madonna. It was released as the lead single for her album of the same name.
— Singer-songwriter Weird Al Yankovic released a well-known parody version, “Like a Surgeon,” in 1985.
— Madonna’s marriage to actor Sean Penn was mentioned in episode three at 32:00.

+ mention – 04:15
RORY: So is this party grandma’s having gonna be a big deal?
LORELAI: Not really. The government will close that day. Flags will fly at half-mast. Barbra Streisand will give her final concert…again. Now, the pope has previous plans, but he’s trying to get out of them. However, Elvis and Jim Morrison are coming, and they’re bringing chips.
— Barbra Streisand (born Barbara Streisand, 1942) is a US singer, actress, and filmmaker. Her 1999-2000 Timeless tour was ostensibly her last, but she has held additional concerts subsequent to her “final” one on September 28, 2000, leading to some skepticism about her intention to retire. She told Deadline in 2018, “Every time I finish doing some concerts, I say, ‘Never again… When can I stop doing this,’ and then, years later, I go, ‘Well, maybe I should do another one or two.'”
— The pope is “the bishop of Rome, chief pastor of the worldwide Catholic Church, and head of state or sovereign of the Vatican City State” (Wikipedia). The pope at the time this episode was St. John Paul II, who reigned from 1978 until his death in 2005.
— Elvis Presley (1935-1977) and Jim Morrison (born James Morrison, 1943-1971) were both highly influential mid-century US musicians. Elvis was a solo performer, sometimes referred to as “the King of Rock and Roll,” and Morrison was lead singer and frontman of rock band the Doors. Both died prematurely, and urban legends have circulated for years claiming that they are not dead, but rather going about their lives anonymously.

reference – 04:50
SOOKIE: It’s too bad you couldn’t get your mom to relinquish Friday night.
LORELAI: No, she has her Vulcan death grip on that one.
— Vulcans are a humanoid species within the Star Trek universe. In the 1968 episode, “The Enterprise Incident,” from the 1966-1969 Original Series, the Vulcan character Spock (Leonard Nimoy) pretends to administer a Vulcan death grip to Captain Kirk (William Shatner) in order to trick their enemies into believing Kirk is dead. However, there is no such thing as a Vulcan death grip. What Spock actually administers is a Vulcan neck, or nerve, pinch, a martial technique intended to render the victim unconscious and, in this case, simulate death.

reference – 05:50
SOOKIE: How did you do this?
LORELAI: You didn’t build one of those machines like in The Fly, did you? We’re not gonna find you wandering the streets with a raspberry head, crying, “Eat me”?
The Fly (1958) is a US science-fiction horror film directed by Kurt Neumann. “The film tells the story of a scientist who is transformed into a grotesque creature after a common house fly enters unseen into a molecular transporter he is experimenting with” (Wikipedia). In one scene, the transformed scientist is caught helplessly in a spider’s web and screams, “Help me!”
— The film is based on George Langelaan’s 1957 short story of the same name. It was remade by director David Cronenberg in 1986.

+ reference – 06:40
LORELAI: Lucy, I’m home!
RORY: Kitchen!
LORELAI: And Justin is just so dreamy, he can’t marry Britney, I’ll just cry and cry and cry.
— On the classic US television sitcom I Love Lucy (1951-1957), husband Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz) calls out, “Lucy, I’m home!” to his wife, Lucy (Lucille Ball), upon arriving home from work. The phrase has become a widely recognized part of TV history.
— US pop singers (and former All-New Mickey Mouse Club cast members) Justin Timberlake (born 1981) and Britney Spears (born 1981) were a music industry “It” couple at the time this episode aired. They were never married, however, and broke up in 2002 after three years of dating.
— Spears was also mentioned in the pilot at 14:10, and Timberlake’s band, NSYNC, was mentioned in episode three at 22:55.

feature – 08:15
“Happy Birthday” by Altered Images
Episode context: Tristan shows Rory an invitation to her own birthday party, sent out by Emily without her permission. A demoralized Rory walks down the hall and overhears other students snidely discussing the upcoming “obligation party.” The scene transitions to Lorelai and Emily shopping at a department store.
— A single from the 1981 album Happy Birthday. Altered Images was a new wave/post-punk band from Scotland.

reference – 08:45
EMILY: Oh, isn’t this lovely?
LORELAI: Oh, yeah! As soon as we have her crowned Queen of England, we’ll give it to her.
— Female members of the British royal family have been known to wear elaborate, and occasionally outrageous, hats to public functions. Queen Elizabeth I, in particular, is always eye-catching in her brightly colored overcoats and matching hats.

mention – 09:20
LORELAI: Mom, she’s a young girl. Think of something young.
EMILY: A Montblanc pen?
LORELAI: To put on her desk at the law firm?
EMILY: She needs to write!
LORELAI: Well, not with a $200 pen she doesn’t.
— Montblanc is a German company that produces a wide range of luxury goods, including watches, jewelry, and pens. Their pens typically cost hundreds of dollars.
— The company is named for Mont Blanc (Italian: Monte Bianco), the highest mountain in the Alps and Western Europe.

reference – 09:50
EMILY: Please be serious. We’re shopping for Rory.
LORELAI: No, mom, I’m shopping for Rory. You’re shopping for your imaginary granddaughter, Barbara Hutton.
— Barbara Woolworth Hutton (1912-1979) was a US socialite and daughter of retail tycoon Frank Winfield Woolworth. She was heiress to one-third of her father’s estate. Hutton “was dubbed the ‘Poor Little Rich Girl,’ first when she was given a lavish and expensive debutante ball in 1930, amid the Great Depression, and later due to a notoriously troubled private life” (Wikipedia).

mention – 09:55
EMILY: Well, you wanted me to get her a Filofax and a mermaid eraser.
LORELAI: It’s one suggestion.
— Filofax is a UK brand of personal organizers and other stationery goods. The traditional Filofax is a leather-bound six-ring binder containing loose leaf papers. These organizers were very popular in the 1980s and were used to store telephone numbers, addresses, lists, and notes–hence the name Filofax, from “a file of facts.”

reference – 10:00
EMILY: Oh, yes, and there was the t-shirt with the Farrah Fawcett face.
LORELAI: A hero to many who aspire to the perfect feather flip.
— Farrah Fawcett (born Ferrah Fawcett, 1947-2009) was a US actress and model best known for her role on the first season of Charlie’s Angels (1976-1981). Her voluminous, feathered hairstyle–known as the “Farrah flip” or simply “Farrah hair”–became an international trend, influencing women’s hairstyles through the 1980s.

reference – 12:55
LORELAI: So, now tell me, why Miss Lemonhead today?
— Lemonhead is a US brand of sour candy produced by the Ferrara Candy Company. The Lemonhead logo and mascot is a boy with a literal lemon head–a sideways lemon with hair, a smiling face, and a bow tie. The tapered ends of the lemon somewhat resemble ears.

reference – 13:15
LORELAI: Maybe we should really embrace the whole tulle thing. Go totally modern Cinderella.
— The folk tale “Cinderella” has existed in various forms around the world since ancient times, but I’m guessing that Lorelai is alluding to the full-skirted silver-blue gown worn by the title character in Disney’s animated musical fantasy film Cinderella (1950).
— The story of Rhodopis (Greek: Ῥοδῶπις), a Greek slave girl who marries the king of Egypt, is believed to be the earliest known variant of the Cinderella story. It was recounted by the Greek geographer and historian Strabo between 7 BC and AD 23. Popular later versions include the French Cendrillon, ou la petite pantoufle de verre (English: Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper), written by Charles Perrault in 1697, and the German “Aschenputtel” (English: “Cinderella”), from the 1812 Grimms’ Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm.

reference – 14:15
RORY: So do I look older?
LORELAI: Oh, yeah. You walk into Denny’s before five, you’ve got yourself a discount.
— Denny’s is a US chain of 24-hour diner-style restaurants. Some diners offer what is known as an early bird special, a discounted dinner served earlier than traditional evening meal hours. This is stereotypically associated with senior citizens and other price-sensitive customers.

reference – 15:10
RORY: I wonder if the Waltons ever did this.
The Waltons (1972-1981) is a US television series about a Depression-era family living in rural Virginia. The show is known for closing most episodes with the family’s “goodnight” ritual. In the signature scene, we see an exterior shot of a mostly darkened house, and in voice-over, the characters say goodnight to each member of the family in turn.

reference – 18:30
LORELAI: Wow, you really went all out, huh?
EMILY: Well, I wanted everything to be perfect. What do you think?
LORELAI: I think Edith Wharton would have been proud, and busy taking notes.
— Edith Wharton (born Edith Newbold Jones, 1862-1937) was a US writer known for her stories of late 19th-century high society. Born to a wealthy and socially prominent family, Wharton “drew upon her insider’s knowledge of the upper class New York ‘aristocracy’ to realistically portray the lives and morals of the Gilded Age” (Wikipedia).
— The phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” is said to refer to Wharton’s father’s side of the family, according to one possible explanation.

reference – 19:10
RORY: What is it?
LORELAI: A Shirley Temple.
RORY: What are you drinking?
LORELAI: A Shirley Temple Black.
RORY: Wow.
LORELAI: I got your good ship lollipop right here, mister.
— Shirley Temple (1928-2014) was a US singer, actress, and dancer “who was Hollywood’s number one box-office draw as a child actress from 1934 to 1938” (Wikipedia). In one of her films, Bright Eyes (1934), she performs a song called “On the Good Ship Lollipop.” In 1950, she married Californian businessman Charles Alden Black, making her Shirley Temple Black. She retired from acting at age 22 and later forged a career in diplomacy.
— The non-alcoholic mixed drink that Lorelai brings for Rory is named after Temple. It is traditionally made with ginger ale, a splash of grenadine, and a maraschino cherry garnish. It is a popular cocktail among minors (people under the age of 21, in the United States) who cannot legally be served alcohol. A Shirley Temple Black, like Lorelai drinks, is an alcoholic version using dark rum. Temple, herself, disliked the drink, telling NPR in 1986, “I had nothing to do with it. But all over the world, I am served that. People think it’s funny. I hate them. Too sweet!” (Wikipedia).

feature – 23:45
There are three posters hanging in Lorelai’s childhood bedroom. The largest is a promotional poster for Echo and the Bunnymen’s 1984 album Ocean Rain. On the back of the door, there is one Duran Duran poster, and another I can’t identify. Over the bed, there are three vinyl records: Porcupine (1983) by Echo and the Bunnymen, Seven and the Ragged Tiger (1983) by Duran Duran, and “The Wild Boys” (1984), a single by Duran Duran.
— Echo and the Bunnymen and Duran Duran are both English new wave bands that formed in the late ’70s and released a number of hits in the 1980s. Their top songs include Echo and the Bunnymen’s “The Killing Moon” (1984) and Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf” (1983).

reference – 24:00
RORY: I’m sorry I snapped at grandma.
LORELAI: Yeah, huh? That was a pretty Freaky Friday moment we had back there.
Freaky Friday (1976, dir. Gary Nelson) is a comedy-fantasy film about a mother (Barbara Harris) and daughter (Jodie Foster) who switch bodies and, in effect, lives. It is based on Mary Rodgers’ 1972 novel of the same name. A remake starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan was released in 2003, almost two years after this episode aired.
— The first edition of Rodgers’ book featured cover art by US writer and artist Edward Gorey.

reference – 25:15
RORY: What did you fight about?
LORELAI: Well. I was pregnant.
RORY: Oh, that.
LORELAI: And I said something at the table about the pâté smelling like Clorox, and one thing led to another.
— The Clorox Company is a US producer of cleaning products. While they own many subsidiaries and produce a wide range of products today, they began in 1913 as a producer of liquid bleach. When the word “Clorox” is used on its own, it’s bleach that’s implied.

reference – 27:55
LORELAI: Mom, come on, give her a break. You invited all these Chilton kids without even asking her.
EMILY: They’re her schoolmates. I assumed they were her friends.
LORELAI: Well, you know what they say when people assume things.
EMILY: No, what do they say?
LORELAI: That you…shouldn’t.
— There is a saying in US English that goes, “Never ASSUME, because when you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and ME,” a play on the spelling of the word “assume.” This aphorism was famously included in a 1973 episode of The Odd Couple called “My Strife in Court.” According to the 2006 TV Land documentary The 100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catchphrases, writer Jerry Belson remembered hearing the phrase from a teacher and incorporated it into the episode. Clearly, the saying was in circulation prior to the episode, but The Odd Couple likely popularized it.

mention – 30:55
PARIS: You can go somewhere else. Go to Brandeis. Brandeis is nice.
RORY: I’ve only ever wanted to go to Harvard.
— Brandeis University is a private research university with a liberal arts focus in Waltham, Massachusetts, near Boston. It was founded as a nonsectarian institution by the Jewish community in 1948 and is named for Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish justice to sit on the US Supreme Court.
— Brandeis is a small school, with only 5,800 students on its suburban campus in 2018 and a 2019 endowment of about one billion dollars. Harvard, by contrast, had almost 21,000 students on its urban campus in 2019 and a 2020 endowment of almost 42 billion, the largest of any US academic institution.

feature – 32:00
“This Old House” by the Brian Setzer Orchestra
Episode context: The scene opens on the Gilmore house at night, strung with colored lights. The camera tracks Miss Patty as she enters the party, and the song continues as Rory opens her present from Lorelai. It ends as Sookie brings in Rory’s birthday cake.
— From the 1998 album The Dirty Boogie. The Brian Setzer Orchestra was one of a number of swing revival bands to emerge in the 1990s.
— The song “This Ole House” (sometimes written as “This Old House”) was written by Stuart Hamblen and published in 1954. It has been recorded by numerous artists, including Rosemary Clooney in 1954 and Shakin’ Stevens in 1980. (The latter version was released in 1981.)

feature – 32:25
Rory receives a new iBook from Lorelai. As Lorelai says, “it’s blue, and it has a handle.”
— “iBook is a line of laptop computers designed, manufactured, and sold by Apple Computer, Inc. from 1999 to 2006. The line targeted entry-level, consumer and education markets… It was the first mass consumer product to offer Wi-Fi network connectivity” (Wikipedia).
— Based on the color of the laptop and timing of the episode, I’m guessing that the model Lorelai gives to Rory is an original iBook. It is one of the “Clamshell” designs based on the look of the iMac (Apple’s line of desktop computers) at that time. This was the era when iMac monitors had bulbous bodies of transparent, colored plastic.

feature – 32:40
“Happy Birthday to You” by Patty and Mildred J. Hill (disputed)
Episode context: Sookie sets Rory’s cake in front of her, the party guests all sing this song, and Rory blows out the candles on the cake.
— This song is traditionally sung on a person’s birthday before they blow out the candles on their birthday cake. Though the song has a somewhat obscure history, US sisters Patty and Mildred J. Hill (a kindergarten principal, and a pianist and composer, respectively) are usually credited as the authors. Their original version was called “Good Morning to All” and had different lyrics. The tune was first published in 1893.
— “Happy Birthday to You” is the most recognized song in the English language (according to the 1998 Guinness World Records) and its base lyrics have been translated into at least 18 others. It is currently in the public domain in the United States and the European Union.

feature – 34:00
“Why Does It Always Rain On Me” by Travis
Episode context: The song begins as Rory welcomes her grandparents to the party. Miss Patty makes a pass at Richard, and Lorelai goes to the kitchen to talk to Sookie and fix a drink for Emily. Emily comes to the kitchen, meets Sookie, and compliments her on her catering.
— From the 1999 album The Man Who. Travis is a rock band from Scotland.

mention – 34:35
LORELAI: Mom, dad, can’t I get you a drink?
EMILY: No, thank you.
LORELAI: Oh, now, mom, you’re gonna need one, and I have wine glasses that say Holiday Inn on ’em.
EMILY: Stoli on the rocks with a twist.
— Holiday Inn is a British-owned US hotel chain. Lorelai’s comment implies that they sell branded merchandise, or perhaps she took the glasses from a room she once stayed in. The chain is named after the 1942 Christmas-themed musical film Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.
— Stolichnaya (Russian: Столичная), often shortened to Stoli, is a Russian brand of wheat- and rye-based vodka. The name translates to “capital city,” in its adjectival form in Russian.

feature – 35:55
“The Lathe of Heaven” by Scott Abels, Aaron Owens, Matthew W. Parker, David Fuentes, and Brian Dixon
Episode context: Lorelai brings Richard a drink as he inspects the structural integrity of the fireplace. Lorelai and Sookie discover the party has run out of ice, but Luke arrives just in time with more.
— This is another song that seems to have been created specifically for use in film and television productions, rather than public purchase. Gilmore Girls Soundtrack agrees.

mention + feature – 37:10
RORY: I brought you something to read. It’s not The Wall Street Journal, but there’s a quiz in there that determines whether you’re a summer or a fall.
Rory hands Richard an issue of Cosmopolitan.
The Wall Street Journal is a business-focused US daily newspaper. While it claims impartiality in its news pages, its editorial section tends toward conservative viewpoints.
Cosmopolitan is a US fashion and entertainment magazine marketed toward women. It includes dating and relationship advice and is especially known for its explicit sex tips. Fortunately, the quiz that Richard takes merely concerns his optimal color palette.
— Seasonal color analysis is a style tool used to determine what colors suit a person best based on their “color type” (i.e. whether they are a winter, spring, summer, or fall).

feature – 37:30
“What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong
Episode context: The assembled party guests tell embarrassing childhood stories about Rory. Lorelai notices Emily going upstairs and follows her to her (Lorelai’s) room. The song continues faintly in the background as Emily and Lorelai talk.
— This song was written by Bob Thiele (under the name “George Douglas”) and George David Weiss. It has been recorded many times, but Louis Armstrong’s version was the first. It was released as a single in 1967 and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
— The song was also included in Barry Levinson’s 1987 war comedy-drama film Good Morning, Vietnam.

reference – 42:20
LORELAI: Next year, we are going to a McDonald’s with one of those slides, and that’s it.
— McDonald’s was also mentioned in episode four at 4:00. The McDonald’s Corporation is a US chain of fast food restaurants specializing in hamburgers and french fries (British English: chips). Some McDonald’s have playgrounds (branded as McDonald’s PlayPlace) with colorful plastic crawl-tubes, slides, and ball pits.

References Consolidated by Category


  • 30:55 – Brandeis University

Brand Names

  • 09:20 – Montblanc
  • 09:55 – Filofax
  • 12:55 – Lemonhead
  • 14:15 – Denny’s
  • 25:15 – Clorox
  • 32:25 – Apple iBook
  • 34:35 – Holiday Inn
  • 34:35 – Stolichnaya
  • 42:20 – McDonald’s

Famous Figures

  • 00:20 – Henny Youngman
  • 06:40 – Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears
  • 08:45 – Queen Elizabeth II of England
  • 09:50 – Barbara Hutton
  • 10:00 – Farrah Fawcett
  • 18:30 – Edith Wharton
  • 19:10 – Shirley Temple Black

Film & Television

  • 04:50 – Star Trek
  • 05:50 – The Fly (1958)
  • 06:40 – I Love Lucy
  • 13:15 – Cinderella (1950)
  • 15:10 – The Waltons
  • 24:00 – Freaky Friday (1976)
  • 27:55 – The Odd Couple


  • 37:10 – The Wall Street Journal
  • 37:10 – Cosmopolitan



  • 04:15 – the pope

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