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Why Bea Arthur Wanted To Quit, Plus Nine More Secrets From “The Golden Girls”

by Dan Tracer April 06, 2016

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Bust out the cheesecake — it’ll go great with this extra large pot of tea.

A new Golden Girls tell-all (because the world needs such things) reveals that life on set of the iconic seven-season show could be just as bumpy as the characters’ scripted mishaps.

The biggest bombshell in Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind The Lanai is that Bea Arthur, who played Dorothy, wanted to quit the show on numerous occasions (Secret #1, if you’re counting).

The book’s author, Jim Colucci, says it had a lot to do with what the show’s writers called “Dorothy bashing.”

“Bea was offended,” Colucci told FOX411.


“When the writers called Rose [Betty White] dumb or Blanche [Rue McClanahan] a slut or Sophia [Estelle Getty] old, it could roll off those women’s backs because they were not like their characters.”

“Unfortunately, the things that were said about Dorothy were that she was big and ugly.  And that wears on an actress after a while.”

Colucci interviewed some 250 former members of the show’s cast and crew for the book, and has plenty of odd footnotes to add to the cult TV hit.

He describes Bea Arthur as a “quirky and complicated woman” who had little tolerance for birds or gum chewing.

Related: WATCH: “The Golden Girls” On Marriage Equality

“If you were chewing gum on the set, she would try to have you fired.” he says.

“She also never wanted to wear shoes.  She had it written into her contract that she was allowed to not wear shoes as long as she agreed not to sue the producers if she hurt herself.” We’ll call those #’s 2,3 and 4.

Seven years is a long time for an actress to play a role, and by the end, Colucci says Bea was ready to call it quits.

“By the start of the 7th season, Bea made it very clear that she was done,” he says. “She thought the quality was starting to slip.  She wanted to go out while it was still a good show and she felt she was done with it.”

Related: ABC Family Airs Youngest Same-Sex Kiss In Television History On The Fosters

The irony is that when the show was initially cast, NBC opposed Arthur playing Dorothy, worried that audiences were turned off from her because her character had an abortion in Maude.

Executives had someone else in mind, too — Elaine Stritch. #5 & #6, ladies and gents.

“They wanted a bawdy broad and Elaine was cut from the same cloth,” Colucci says.

“But they ultimately relented when [writer] Susan Harris said, ‘I wrote this role for Bea and I want Bea.’” And that spells #7.

What’s that? You want more GG gossip?!


Here’s some more from Colucci:

8.  Producers wanted a different theme song
“They approached the publishing company for Bette Midler’s song, ‘Friends,’  but it was too expensive.  Eventually of the producers remembered Andrew Gold’s song, ‘Thank You For Being A Friend.’”

“They licensed it and hired a session singer named Cynthia Fee.  Even though the recording session was slated to last for an hour, she did it in one or two takes — maybe 20 or 30 minutes — and planned on never thinking of it again.  The irony is that thanks to unions, every time your song gets played, you get paid.  So this job she did on a random weekday in 1985 has put her kids through college.”dance

9.  Betty White and Rue McClanahan switched roles at the last minute
“Betty was cast as Blanche because she played Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show so she could play man hungry.  Rue was cast as Rose because she had been Vivian on Maude and Aunt Fran on Mama’s Family.”

“The director of the pilot, Jay Sandrich, had an idea and said to Rue that he wanted to try her to prepare lines for Blanche.  Betty wasn’t particularly happy with [the switch] at first but she learned to like it.”

10.  The whole thing started as a gag
NBC presented a live spoof comedy sketch to press and advertisers in the fall of 1984 featuring Doris Roberts and Selma Diamond.  “They did this schtick where they were confused thinking there was a show on NBC called Miami Nice. ‘Oh, it must be about old people in Miami.  That does sound nice.’  When people laughed, the president of the network thought, ‘There might be something there.’”

Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind The Lanai is in bookstores now.

Dan Tracer
Dan Tracer


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