Right on, Maude (Rue McClanahan remembers Bea Arthur.)
Women of my daughter's generation will never fully appreciate, I fear, how hard the women of my mother's generation worked to blaze trails in politics, literature, and entertainment. When Bea Arthur came on the scene in "Maude", the scripts were nothing less than groundbreaking. Maude spoke her mind, and not softly. Maude worked. Maude voted. Maude had an abortion.
"No one but Bea Arthur could have played that character," Rue says in her memoir My First Five Husbands. "The first (and only) sit-com to successfully portray the emerging feminist sensibilities of the 'Women’s Lib' movement in a way people were willing to embrace. (Well, some people, anyway.) Like All in the Family, it presented prickly issues to the mass audience with whip-crack comedy writing and a super-talented cast...I found Bea wonderful to work with—-and to watch. She was powerful, smart, statuesque, with surgically precise comedic timing, and she wore her star quality like a cherry on top."
On a more personal note, Rue tells how Bea took her in after her mother's funeral:
Thanksgiving day, I flew back to LA and walked into the dark, empty Palisades house at dusk. Not a soul in the place. As the desolate dusk swept over me, I picked up the phone and called the strongest person I could think of.
Bea said, "You’re coming out to my house. Right now."
When I arrived, there were maybe ten people around the table, including her mother, who lived with her and her husband and their boys. Bea made me a plate of food, then tucked me into bed in a guest room. Her tender, gentle care finally brought me peace, and I slept soundly.
The theme song played at the start of every episode of The Golden Girls was a little ditty called “Thank You For Being a Friend.” A bouncy little bit of bubble gum music. Hardly a tear-jerker. But those words probably don’t get said enough. A friend in a moment of deepest need—that’s truly something to be grateful for. I shall never forget Bea Arthur’s loving kindness that night.
Go with God, Bea. And may I just say, Right on, Maud.