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.