‘The Golden Girls’: How Betty White and Bea Arthur Bonded Over the Loss of Their Parents

by Josh Lanier

The women of The Golden Girls were all close and remained so, they’ve all said over the years. But Bea Arthur and Betty White bonded early over the shared grief of losing their parents.

Closer Weekly spoke with the director of a number of The Golden Girls episodes, and he explained how their relationship formed so quickly.

Bea Arthur lost her father in the early 1970s, but her mother lived on for many years. However, they were difficult years. Arthur said her mother was basically deaf and blind when she died shortly after The Golden Girls started filming.

Betty White also lost her mother around the same time. Their grief was so intense that there were discussions the show would go on hiatus to allow them time to process their losses.

“We were ready to shut down the show for as long as they needed,” director Lex Passaris told the magazine. “But both ladies said, ‘No. We need to work.’”

There were rumors during the production of the show that Arthur disliked White because of her constant cheery demeanor. Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche Devereaux, said that was absolutely untrue.

“Bea wouldn’t go to dinner between shows unless Betty would walk with her,” Rue once recalled, according to Closer Weekly. Bea Arthur’s son Matthew Saks agreed, telling the magazine, “Betty would pick my mom up in the driveway, or my mom would pick her up.”

‘The Golden Girls’ McClanahan, White Also Close

Betty White said The Golden Girls cast was one of the closest she’d ever worked on. They all emotionally supported one another and spent time together off stage.

“We adored each other,” Betty, now 99, once said. “It was such a special experience. Between scenes, instead of going to our dressing rooms, we’d sit there and yak about very intimate things.”

But her and Rue McClanahan had worked together before and were dear friends long before the show started.

“She was everything as far as a friend is concerned,” Betty recalled, Closer Weekly said. When the show was filming its first season, McClanahan was going through her fifth divorce and was struggling. “They confided in each other,” a source told Closer. “Rue was a great listener and a sympathetic shoulder. She had a sounding board in Betty as well.”

When Rue McClanahan died in 2010, White said it was more painful that she could have imagined.

“It hurts more than I even thought it would — if that’s even possible,” Betty White recalled of McClanahan’s death, OK Magazine said. “She was everything, as far as a friend is concerned.”