Bea Arthur, Golden Girl, Gay Buddy, Dies at 86

Actress Bea Arthur died today at 86 of cancer. Read the New York Times obit.

Arthur played some memorable roles: Vera Charles in Mame, both on Broadway and in the film; Maude Findley in Maude, and Dorthy Zbornak in the Golden Girls.

Someplace along the way, she became, if not a gay icon, at least popular among gay men. It's always hard for me to tell you how certain actresses --Joan Crawford, for example--become gay icons. (I once stayed in the "Joan Crawford Room" in a gay bed and breakfast. Decorated to the hilt in 40s and 50s Hollywood glam with lots of black and white stills. Creepy. But that's another post.) One thing about the women who become popular with gay men, they very often, as in Arthur's case, are tough, sassy, and unafraid.

Arthur was deep voiced, no nonsense, and mannish, and so she always wore the pants, no matter what she was in. Who knows if she enjoyed the adjectives used to describe her: caustic, brash, strong, domineering, but I suspect she was just fine with it.

As much as I like Maude and Dorothy, I am a sucker for Arthur's Vera Charles from Mame. Watch a You Tube clip of Arthur singing Bosom Buddies with Angela Lansbury on an awards show. The ton of gravel voice, the timing, the irony, it's all there. Vera Charles was the foundation for Maude and Dorothy.

Also, read a good article in EW embedded with a great segment from Maude. First, there a great quip about Maude's deep voice. Then, some very funny and honest liberal white guilt reveal when Maude first meets her new housekeeper Florida Evans, played by Esther Rolle.

A year ago, fellow Golden Girl Estelle Getty, another popular gal with gay men, died.

--Gay Guy


Anonymous said...

Hey G.G. - What gets overlooked in this and other celebrity eulogizing is that it is the writer that is responsible for the character. No matter how well played, Maude/Dorothy was the creation of a writer. I checked IMDB and the series had 25 writers over its history; only 5 were women. Most had long careers in comedy writing and did what they do best: capture the times with humor. Don't know, but will bet that most were straight. My personal theory is straight men are so wierdly competitive they secretly enjoyed seeing her ball-busting personna in action.

And while we're at it: what's up with gay men and "Mame"? I truly don't get it. I have friends who troll internet auction sites looking for scraps of "Mame" memorabilia to add to an already ridiculously prodigious collection. As musicals go, I give "Mame" about a C+, so am mystified by this obsession.

Gay Guy said...

Excellent input, Anon.

I'm with you on Mame. I just don't get the fuss. I've never seen the movie all the way through, so I'm no expert. I've heard the film version is really bad as compared to a stage version. But, I don't really like the music all that much. I always get confused if we need candles at the spinet and carols at the window or the reverse.

A friend and I sometimes go to Showtunes at a gay bar. When clips from Mame come on, he gets really excited. I just nod and try to be a Bosom Buddy.

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