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7 Things to Know About Charlotte Rae, the Jewish Star of ‘The Facts of Life’

Charlotte Rae

“You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life.”

If you grew up in the 1980s, chances are the theme to the sitcom The Facts of Life has been imprinted on your brain for life.

The series, about a group of girls at an elite boarding school, grew to be so popular that it’s easy to forget that it started as a spinoff of another sitcom, Diff’rent Strokes. The connection between the two? Edna Garrett — played by veteran actress Charlotte Rae — whose vivacious character went from being a Park Avenue housekeeper on Diff’rent Strokes to a boardinghouse den mother on The Facts of Life.

Mrs. Garrett — or “Mrs. G.,” as she was sometimes known — was equal parts wise and wisecracking. Her character was a much-loved glue that held the series together.

Rae, who was nominated for both two Emmys and two Tonys, died on Sunday, Aug. 5 at age 92. As she is being mourned by media and TV fans around the globe, here are 7 facts about the Jewish actress you may not know.

Her full name was Charlotte Rae Lubotsky

Rae was born to Russian Jewish immigrants and grew up in Milwaukee, where her dad, Meyer Lubotsky, owned a tire shop.

 Her mom was friends with Golda Meir

Israel’s future fourth prime minister — who lived in Milwaukee as a young girl and teen — was childhood pals with Rae’s mom, Esther.

 Rae attended Northwestern University

Though she didn’t complete her studies, she made at least one significant friendship: fellow actress Cloris Leachman, who would (much later!) be brought onto The Facts of Life to play her replacement, Mrs. Garrett’s sister, Beverly Ann Stickle.

She was married to composer/music editor John Strauss for 25 years

Strauss won a Grammy for his work on the soundtrack for the movie, Amadeus (which, interestingly enough, probably puts the degree of separation between Rae and Falco at only one or two degrees). The couple had two children, Larry and Andrew. Strauss came out as bisexual in the 1970s.

 The pair were apparently close to Woody Allen

Strauss collaborated with director on a number of films, including Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask). Rae appeared as Allen’s mother in the movie Bananas.

 Norman Lear was a major fan

The uber-producer cast Rae for guest spots in his early sitcoms, including All in the Family and Good Times, before offering her the life-changing role of Edna Garrett on Diff’rent Strokes.

 Leaving The Facts of Life was her idea

Playing Mrs. Garrett is what made her a star — but Rae decided to call it quits after seven seasons, saying, “I needed some time for the rest of my life.” Still, she went on to act, including in voiceover roles (for 101 Dalmations: The Series) and a cameo appearance in You Don’t Mess With The Zohan, which our sister site, JTA, called “a liberal Zionist manifesto.”

Header Image via TVGuide.com

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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