Bea Slams Rumours

by Jennifer Gilbert

The Golden Girl talks about her ‘health scare’, her ‘mad marriage’ and not making whoopee!


BeaGolden Girl Bea Arthur is furious that a routine operation performed on her last year made headlines as a “cancer scare,” with her three co-stars praying for her life at her hospital bedside.

“I cannot tell you how it made me feel,” Bea revealed during her recent Australian visit.

“It’s so cheap, so demeaning—anybody can send a tip-off to these sleazy magazines in America and get paid $100. Obviously, someone saw me in hospital—I made no secret of it—and next thing, it’s plastered all over one of the scandal rags that I had suffered a cancer scare.

“Then it went on to say that all of the Girls were at the hospital praying for me. Betty White was supposed to have brought me a teddy bear and Estelle Getty baked me her special chocolate chip cookies.

“When Estelle read that, she said, ‘I don’t even know how to bake!’
“They weren’t even there and there was no scare. It was an out-and-out lie.”

The truth, says Bea was that her gynacologist recommended she have a hysterectomy as her uterus was enlarged and would eventually cause her pain.

Despite her contempt for the story, Bea has no plans to sue.

“To hell with it!” she shrugs, and laughs that distinctive, throaty laugh. “It’s all so cheesy. Next week, they’ll be on to something else.”

In the flesh, Bea seems softer, smaller and shyer than her commanding alter ego Dorothy Zbornak, although she insists they are both “bubble prickers—we both see through the nonsense”.

In preparation for a flight later that day to London, she also looked somewhat less glamorous than the immaculately groomed and coiffed Dorothy.

The older of her two sons, 31-year-old actor Matt Saks—who joined Bea for a brief holiday—reprimanded his mother for her in-flight attire of Wily Coyote sweatshirt, track pants and bare feet.

“You have all these great dresses to wear to dinner and look what you put on for a photo!” he marvelled.

Gazing at the panoramic harbour view from her Sydney hotel suite, Bea wished she could stay longer but was committed to taping a show in London with British comedian Bruce Forsythe.

Other than that, her future is undecided. For the first time in seven years, Bea Arthur is a free agent.

Last month, she taped her final episode of The Golden Girls (to be screened on the Seven Network around September), in which she is swept off her feet, up the aisle and out of the Emmy-award winning series by Naked Gun star Leslie Nielsen.

The remaining Girls – Estelle Getty (as Dorothy’s mother, Sophia), Rue McClanahan ( as Blanche) and Betty White (as Rose) – will be spun off into their own series, entitled Golden Towers, in which they will run a hotel. Bea plans to make guest appearances.

“Oh, it was a beautiful wedding!” she chuckled, recalling her last day as a Golden Girl. “I’m delighted they didn’t kill me off in a fire or something awful.

“Leslie Nielsen plays Blanche’s father’s kid brother, Lucas Hollingsworth. He comes to visit but Blanche has a hot date that night so she talks Dorothy into going out with him…”

As dashing a screen bridegroom as Leslie apparently makes, Bea had some serious reservations about her co-stars love of practical jokes—in particular, for making loud offensive noises with his trademark “whoopee” cushion.

“You know, Leslie is such a nice man and so intelligent. I don’t know what this obsession of his is all about,” Bea pondered, shaking her head.

“I’ve seen him do it on TV before—he makes those noises every other minute. Oh please, it’s so offensive1

“So when he arrived on the set, I said to him, ‘I’m not shaking hands with you – I want you to stay away from me!’ And you know, he never once used that thing in front of me!”

Bea has nothing but wonderful memories of The Golden Girls but has no doubt she made the right decision to leave. “I’ve been doing sitcoms for exactly 20 years, starting with Maude. I feel my life has been spent in a little box.

“So I decided to leave while The Golden Girls was still nice and fresh and successful. At my age (she will turn 66 next month) and with the emotional and financial stability I have achieved, I feel it’s time to stop and do what I want. What that is, I don’t know yet.”

However, after spending so many hours a week together on set, Bea said the Girls did not socialize. In fact, she insists, she had no social life at all.

“I’d get home, eat and fall into bed. On Saturdays, I’d have a shower but stay in my pyjamas all day.

“If I saw friends, it would only be on Sundays. And if I had a week off, I’d do the laundry. That was my life.”

Suffice to say, her workload put a wet blanket on Bea’s love life, too.

She divorced theater and film director Gene Saks in 1979, after a lengthy marriage, and if you question Bea as to whether there is a special man in her life now, you will get a polite but succinct: “Nope!”

Then she adds with a wicked laugh: “And certainly not Leslie Nielsen!”


*article from Australian Woman’s Day magazine, April 27, 1992

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