The NBC sitcom The Facts of Life hit the airwaves in 1979. Featuring life at an all-girls’ boarding school, the show cut down on the cast in the second season to focus on four main characters: Blair (Lisa Whelchel), Jo (Nancy McKeon), Natalie (Mindy Cohn), and Tootie (Kim Fields), all under the watchful eye of house mother Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae).
Later in the comedy’s tenure, an aspiring young actor joined the cast. Now considered one of today’s hottest celebrities, he apparently didn’t make a huge impression on Whelchel.
George Clooney made his ‘Facts of Life’ debut in season 7
Playing handyman George Burnett, Clooney debuted on The Facts of Life in 1985 and appeared in 17 episodes. Working with Rae made a lasting impact on the actor, where he later commented on her welcoming spirit.
“You were such an incredible force in an early part of my career,” Clooney said 2016 in a video on Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family. “You were funny and kind and made a very young, not very skilled actor feel very much at home. … I couldn’t be more thankful for all the kindness you showed a young, not very bright actor.”
Clooney recalled Rae’s sense of humor, telling a story of how she would crack him up on set.
“I remember at one point you were always looking for something funny to do,” the Oceans 11 star explained of Rae, who died in 2018. “I was standing on the set watching you, and you were just walking around the set and you picked up a banana and you walked around in a circle around all the furniture with the banana in your hand and finally everybody was watching you, you looked over and said, ‘George, what can I do funny with a banana?’ We laughed for a long, long time.”
Shared smooch from superstar slipped Lisa Whelchel’s mind
Looking back on her favorite episodes almost 40 years after The Facts of Life premiered, Whelchel admitted the one scene that should top her list was the one she couldn’t recall.
“There were certainly lots of favorites,” Whelchel told Today. “I would say that the episode where I got to kiss George Clooney would have been a favorite – except that I didn’t even remember that I had done that until years later.”
After seeing proof on film, Whelchel still couldn’t draw many memories from the previous peck with Clooney. The Facts of Life alum noted that he wasn’t considered an A-lister when they shared their smooch.
“Somebody showed me a clip of it,” Whelchel explained. “And I thought, ‘How in the world could I have forgotten that?’ But back then he wasn’t George Clooney. He was just George.”
Whelchel added that her lack of recall had nothing to do with Clooney’s lip-locking talents.
“I don’t think that’s a commentary on him as a kisser, as much as a commentary on the fact that I’ve had three kids,” she said, according to the New York Post. “They say the memory leaves with the placenta.”
Focus on ‘friendships’ keeps ‘Facts of Life’ popular
Whelchel also described the Gravity star as somewhat of an older sibling to the cast during his stint on the series.
“It was fun having George Clooney on the show,” she raved. “He was very, just fun, and it was nice some testosterone after six years of, at that point, just estrogen. He was like a big brother to everybody.”
With the sitcom still beloved by loyal fans, Whelchel attributed The Facts of Life’s continued popularity to its foundation of friendships and camaraderie.
“It’s relationships – it’s friendships; it’s things that girls go through as they’re growing up,” she said. “And no matter what generation you’re in, you’re going to be going through the same things. And you’re going to want that same kind of relationships.”
The last episode of The Facts of Life aired in September 1988.
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