Golden Girls star Bea Arthur, if she’d never been an actor, knew what she wanted to do instead.
Instead of entertaining us all with The Golden Girls or Maude, the actress said she’d be running a hospice. She earned a degree to be a medical lab technician, so Arthur was familiar with the scientific part of a hospice.
Her heart also knew how to deal with end of life issues.
“And for a lady who they don’t think of as that, but it’s true,” Arthur said in an interview in the mid-1990s. She was speaking with Dann Dulin.
For context about the interview, Arthur already had finished her run as Dorothy on The Golden Girls. The show was a favorite for millions of fans from 1985-1992. And each of the four stars on the show earned Emmys for their performances. The show still lives on and is finding new fans via reruns and streaming services.
Bea Arthur Was Pondering Her Life, Post Golden Girls
So Arthur was pondering her life, post Golden Girls. She’d already made it clear she did not want to accept another full-time television role. Instead, she did one-woman shows on Broadway or on tours across the country.
And with no TV series dictating her life, Arthur had time for a private life and personal causes. She always was an activist for humanitarian issues close to her heart. She was an activist for animal rights. Arthur once sent a yellow rose to each member of Congress who voted to end a $2 million subsidy to the mink industry.
She also wanted to help people who had AIDS. The interview in which she brought up owning a hospice was for A&U, America’s AIDS Magazine. Dulin was one of the magazine’s editors.
Before the Golden Girls was a series, she had a friend named Tom Rasmussen, who was dying of AIDS. He was the costume designer for Amanda’s, a short-lived TV show that starred Arthur. And he was the first person she knew who had contracted the disease.
“I was there every day watching the progression of the disease,” Arthur said, adding that she was between shows, so she had the time. “I am very aware of how horrendous it is; ending with dementia, diarrhea, and the whole thing. He died there. I really saw it up close.”
Arthur also took care of her mother as her life near its end. Her mother was almost blind and nearly deaf. Arthur contacted a doctor in the Netherlands who gave her advice on helping her mother with assisted suicide.
It all made Arthur wish she could do more for people, hence the idea of a hospice.
“I wish there was something more that performers could do other than get out there and sing at benefit performances,” Arthur said. “I wish I felt that if I had an empty room I’d like to bring in someone and make it a hospice, but I’m not Mother Teresa, I can’t do that.”
Arthur died in 2009. She was 86.