Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Thank you for Bea

While my wife doesn't like it, she got used to my "interest" in certain celebrities. But what really weirded her out was how often I mentioned Bea Arthur. I argued it was comedy, she was always a good punchline. But just like my wife knew that calling Maura Tierney “talented” meant so much more, she wondered and worried why I was always bringing up Bea Arthur and what was wrong with me.

Why would any GUY make regular references to The Golden Girls - what kind of bizarre, Harold & Maude type fixation did I have? And worse, why did I sometimes sing the theme song in the shower? (OK – first, it’s catchy and second, in fairness, I'm Jewish but sing Christmas carols in the shower year round.)

With Ms. Arthur's passing, half of our cable channels have been running Golden Girls' marathons and my wife mocked me until I sat down with her and watched an episode. Here's the thing - it was really funny. The writing was strong, and the lines were delivered impeccably. Here was a show with four talented actresses at the top of their game having a great time. As a reference point, we happened to catch an old episode of St. Elsewhere (the ER of the 1980s), featuring a very young Denzel Washington. The show had not aged well at all – it was barely watchable.

There is no way around it, Bea Arthur was GOOD. It is no small thing for a middle-aged woman to burst onto TV and become the hot thing. Bea Arthur did it after a striking appearance on All in the Family (true she was a highly regarded stage actress at that point). She got her own show, Maude and then another, The Golden Girls.

Arthur developed her persona, at least in part, because people found her height off-putting. As the father of a daughter who is (based on current projections) going to be about 9 feet tall, I am glad Bea Arthur helped make room for big women with big talent and personalities. We see so far only because we stand on the shoulders of giants - and my daughter should see and go very far!

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