Happy Birthday Bea Arthur !!

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MargOH Channing

 

“After being in the business for such a long time, I’ve done everything but rodeo and porno”– Bea Arthur

It was a hot and hazy day in Hollywood. I had been filming my part as Fembot # 6 in the Bionic Woman/Six Million Dollar Man crossover episode. It was a long day on the set and I was driving to my very small apartment in my brand new Plymouth Duster. It was pink with a black  trim down the side. I had made a few bucks from my days with Russ Meyer and some pin-ups I did over the summer. I loved that car until it broke down on the freeway. I got out of the car as the steam poured out from under the hood. I tried to open it but it was too hot and my boob popped out of my Charlie’s Angels tee. I leaned on the door and dangled my leg out to hopefully attract the attention of a man.

A car quickly pulled over! I was relieved. I was surprised when a very tall and sturdy woman got out of her Cadillac. I quickly realized it was Maude due the fact that the theme song was playing quite loudly from her 8 track player.

“OH! my dear, you’re Maude!”

“No, I’m Beatrice Arthur”, she replied

‘No, I’m pretty sure you’re Maude”, I replied

“What are you on your way to a casting couch?” she said as she looked down at my knockers and then back up to my face

“No,  I got the part already, I just played Fembot # 6, I didn’t have to do that this time”.

“Fembot? I can see that. Are those shows still on?”

“Yes, Maude”, I giggled

“Pop the hood, I’ll see what the problem is”, she demanded

“I already popped it but it’s too hot to lift” I sheepishly replied “You know about cars?”

“Yes, I drove trucks in World War II, you had to know how to fix em, they were broken down more than they ran”, she shook her head as if lost in a memory.

She lifted the hood and tried to bat the steam away to see and in a second, she said.

“Your water pump is corroded, you’ll need another one. I can drive you to pick you one up or give you a lift home to call a tow truck”.

“You sure you can’t fix it here?”

‘I’m an actress not a grease monkey” she growled “Get in the car, I’ll take you home and you can call a tow truck”, wagging her finger.

“I’ve got a better idea, let’s get a drink” I said putting my arm around her ‘I’ll buy”

“ I didn’t do anything” she smiled “to deserve a drink”

“OH! Maude, don’t be silly but you do make a lot more money than me so you can buy”, I laughed

We had the most lovely time at a place called Tommy’s Watering Hole, right off the freeway. We talked for hours about her career. Beatrice seemed so surprised of the success she had, though the gravel in her voice made it clear she was a diva. She seemed perplexed by my career choices. I explained to her that after being in a couple of Russ Meyer films I wanted less. Learning all of those lines can be exhausting. I got just as much satisfaction sitting at a table pretending to be eating than being a lead. Yes, the money isn’t as good but I still get to dress up and be pretty.

“You’re gonna come do an extra spot on Maude. We’re doing a scene with picketer’s next week, you can hold a sign can’t you?”

‘OH! yes of course I can. I can lean the stick right in-between here”, pointing to my knockers.

She started to blush. “Believe me if I had those things I’d been bigger than Monroe, If you do that I’ll make sure they pay you double”.

“Well these are triple EEE’s so shouldn’t I get triple the pay”, I crossed my arms and stomped my foot

“Indeed”, she roared.

So it was actually Bea Arthur who was responsible for me getting paid much more than the average extra. I became quite famous due to Bea’s support for, as she put it “Your two rather large standing ovations” (My boobs!) She never forgot me and I even did a couple of extra spots on Golden Girls. That’s how Bea was, if you were her friend, you were her friend for life. A lot of things would bother Bea and she was very serious about her life and her career. I know she’d always thought I was a loony but I think that’s why she liked me. I was different and she appreciated that.

A couple days after my car broke down it reappeared in front of my apartment. It had a note on the dashboard that read “And then there’s Maude”!

We all know how talented and funny Beatrice Arthur was and how hard she worked. I’m not sure though people know how giving she was. I was so touched when I read the story of her donation to the Ali-Forney Center after her death. Bea left $300,000 in her will to the center which supplies housing to homeless LGBT youth. It was said that Bea was so taken a back about how many kids get kicked out and disowned by their parents for being gay. In addition to her financial support she also gave her time to the LGBT community more than earning her status as a “Gay Icon”. She was also a generous and vocal supporter of animal rights causes over the years. Beatrice even has a dog park ‘The Bea Arthur Dog Park” named after her.

After her death from cancer on April 29, 2009  her co-stars from her 70 plus years career in showbiz spoke highly of Bea. Perhaps Adrienne Barbeau said it best “We’ve lost a unique, incredible talent. No one could deliver a line or hold a take like Bea and no one was more generous or giving to her fellow performers”.

I know for one I’m so thankful to her for being a friend.

I know when I’m feeling down the perfect remedy is watching an episode of Maude, The Golden Girls or listening to my worn out copy of Bea on Broadway.

Thank you and Happy Birthday Bea…

By MargOH! Channing


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