'Golden Girl' Remembered With Love, Laughs
By PopEater / Wire Services Posted Sep 14th 2009 07:03PM
Bea Arthur filled Broadway's Majestic Theatre Monday as friends, family and co-stars recalled the tall, baritone-voiced and supremely funny actress who died last April of cancer at the age of 86. They remembered with love -- and a lot of laughter -- the star of television's 'Maude' and 'The Golden Girls' and provided a little R-rated humor too.
A large photo of Arthur, dressed in a stylish black suit stared down during the lengthy celebration, which was hosted by Angela Lansbury. The actress first worked with Arthur in 1966 in "Mame," playing Mame Dennis opposite Arthur's tart-tongued Vera Charles.
"On stage, yes, we were bosom buddies (the title of their famous 'Mame' duet) but it wasn't until years later after we both had successful TV series under our belts that we really got together," Lansbury recalled. "That's when we became ... bosom friends."
Rue McClanahan told of the time her 'Golden Girls' costar opened in her own 2002 one-woman Broadway show and graciously invited McClanahan and her husband, Morrow Wilson, to the opening-night performance and party afterwards. Admitting Arthur often wasn't at her best when she was drinking, McClanahan said an intoxicated Bea told Wilson when he introduced himself to her, "Rue, I love." But when McClanahan quoted Arthur's description of another costar ("Betty's a c---"), an audible gasp ricocheted through the crowd – before it erupted into the longest and heartiest laugh of the afternoon.
Other tributes included comments from comedian Rosie O'Donnell. She recalled the first time she met Arthur, going up to the actress at a West Side night spot and drunkenly singing the theme song from "Maude" to her (which O'Donnell also sang Monday). It was a bonding moment, according to the comedian."She really taught me and every other woman my age how to be a feminist at a time when that was a dirty word," O'Donnell said. "And without her, I think, there would not be as many funny women on television today."
Among the other participants were "Maude" producer Norman Lear, "Fiddler" lyricist Sheldon Harnick, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, and several of Arthur's television co-stars including Rue McClanahan and Adrienne Barbeau.
"No one seems less gone to me or more alive to me than Bea," said Lear, who also created the television classic, "All in the Family," which is where Arthur's character of the feminist, liberal Maude Findlay first appeared.
"I am sure that's because laughter lingers and no one made me laugh like Bea Arthur," the producer explained. "I have spent most of my life in the company of extraordinary laugh-makers, performers and writers, killers of the art, but Bea Arthur had me laughing in nooks and crannies of my body, places I didn't even know existed."
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