I remember quite clearly Saturday nights in my home back in the late 80's. I was about 10 when The Golden Girls premiered on NBC. I initially hated the show. It was about 4 old women and my parents turned off what ever my siblings and I were watching so they could enjoy the show. The next 30 minutes were usually them asking us to be quiet or leave the room so they could enjoy the show.
As the 80's came to a close I did bond with the show. Not so much because I loved it as I didn't. I am still not sure I love the show, I really find it hard to connect with the comedy of Susan Harris. What I did love was watching the enjoyment my parents got from it. I am sure many of you can relate to watching someone you love watch something they love. My mother was not really a laughter so watching her face light up at the antics of the women is a memory I carry. In fact today when I am at my parents home reruns still play in the background and the show still brightens my mothers face.
I also loved the inclusion of the show. I am sure I was not the only unhappy kid who dreamed of moving in with the girls. Gay, straight, did not matter, you just knew if you went to live there you would not only be accepted but your life would be filled with love and laughter. Over the run of the show there were many gay themed episodes dealing with each of the characters and their acceptance of someone they loved who was gay. Sitting in my living room with my family it was at times pretty powerful stuff.
Over the past couple of years I have gained a greater appreciation for the show and it's cast. Through TV on DVD I have gone back and watched not only The Golden Girls, but Bea and Rue on Maude (a far superior show IMO). I also watched Betty steal many scenes on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I think Betty's best work was actually on the Family sketches on The Carol Burnett Show. As Ellen, Betty drives sister Eunice nuts and the attic sketch is one of my all time favorites. Although this show is not on DVD it has been wonderful to have been able to watch most of it on Youtube.
With highs come lows. The show is still popular in repeats and we all know the Year Betty White has had. With Betty, at 88, back and hot as ever it is sad that the remaining Golden Girls have left us, one a year over the past three years. Estelle Getty in 2008, Bea in 2009 and Rue this past year.
Bea left the limelight several years ago after hitting the stage again with her one woman show and a slew of successful tv guest shots. Rue spent the last couple of years appearing on 'Sordid Lives' and often appeared with the wonderful Jason Dottley and other cast members from Sordid in his stage show.
Both women were advocates for gay rights and it was not surprising when Bea died that she left a $300,000 donation to New York's Ali Forney Center, an organization supporting homeless LGBT youth. Although Rue appeared quite similar to her characters when interviewed, Bea on the other hand, was quite the opposite. I have watched many interviews with Bea and she often came across as not only condescending, but quite frankly very boring. Although this might in some cases cause one to like her less, with me it made me like her more. You can see clearly the talent the woman possessed to create such powerful characters, Maude especially when they are so different than herself. The Archive of American Television has a wonderful video series featuring Bea as well as many other greats from television. You can check that series out HERE:
Beatrice Arthur & Rue McClanahan by David Vance
Bea Arthur (1995)
"This photo was a promo shot for the play "Bermuda Avenue Triangle" written by and starring Joe Bologna and Renee Taylor.
Renee Taylor is a very funny woman by nature.... Bea Arthur who appeared in the dressing room door in her bare feet (didn't like shoes much, to get her hair and make up done... is not so funny... much more serious than you might expect. A great comic actress with a wonderful sense of timing. She didn't like having her make up done... she told me when I was half done... "That's enough. I don't like the whole make up thing... it's why I stopped doing television." i convinced her to let me finish. (:"
Below: Rue (2003)
"Shot this on stage when rue was at the Coconut grove playhouse doing "Six Dance Lessons In Six Weeks" with Mark Hamill (Star Wars). It was after an evening performance and i could tell she was tired, but such a trouper...let me do her make-up and take this photo.
Thank you David!
Please check out David's official site HERE: or go spend some time enjoying his work at his Print Site featuring many of his Nude Male Fine Art shots HERE: