The remaining cast of The Golden Girls commemorated actress Bea Arthur on Monday’s episode of The Early Show after her tragic death on Saturday. Arthur, who played the character of Dorothy Zbornak, passed away, aged eighty-six, reportedly of cancer.
“I learned from her,” said Rue McClanahan, who co-starred as the bawdy Blanche Devereaux in The Golden Girls. “I learned not comedy timing. I already knew that. We already had that together. I learned courage. I learned how to go out on a limb. Really go out on a limb. Go as far as you dared, and a little bit farther.”
Betty White, who played airhead Rose Nylund on the sitcom said: “Every once in awhile, something would tickle Bea, and she’d get the giggles… In rehearsal, we’d get to that point, and she was gone. And it made it great fun.”
Arthur was a Broadway veteran who won a Tony award for Mame. Later, in television’s All in the Family, she played Edith Bunker’s outspoken cousin, which led to the popular spin-off series, Maude.
In the 1990s, she joined the cast of The Golden Girls. In 2003, she performed her one woman stage show, Just Between Friends, in Johannesburg and Cape Town to critical acclaim.
Standing out thanks to her height and masculine voice, Arthur once quipped: “Let’s face it, nobody ever asked me to play Juliet.”
“I think of her very fondly,” Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfus told Entertainment Tonight. “She was a great inspiration to me, I loved her.”
Arthur’s final act before her death was writing a letter to Australian chef Curtis Stone, who has become popular in the US, asking him to stop promoting the use of Foie Gras.
“Dear Curtis, I am writing to express my disappointment at seeing foie gras in some of your most recent recipe collections,” Arthur wrote in the letter sent to the chef’s Los Angeles agent. It was released to the public by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
“I ask that you give the birds a break and stop using foie gras in your recipes, cooking demonstrations and TV shows. Since I discovered how ducks and geese raised for foie gras are treated, I haven’t stopped squawking about their plight,” wrote Arthur, who was a committed animal rights activist.
The Golden Girls has become an iconic series for many gay men around the world thanks in part to its strong and outspoken female characters.
The show, which ran from 1985 to 1992, dealt positively with gay characters and explored themes rarely seen on US television at the time including the coming out of Blanche’s brother, gay marriage, homophobia and HIV.
Co-star Estelle Getty, who played Dorothy’s mother, Sophia, in The Golden Girls died at the age of 84 in July last year.