‘Golden Girls’: Bea Arthur Had Quirky Demand and Routine During Show’s Rehearsals

by Matthew Wilson
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“Golden Girls” star Bea Arthur had a particular quirk when it came time for her and her fellow co-stars to rehearse an upcoming episode of the show. Arthur had a favorite chair that she always sat in.

Not only that but Arthur insisted on a particular arrangement for herself and the rest of her co-stars at rehearsals. Arthur wanted Rue McClanahan to her right and co-stars Estelle Getty and Betty White seated across of her.

McClanahan remembered Arthur’s particular demand in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. McClanahan reflected on Arthur and her career after the actor’s death. Arthur passed away after a battle with lung cancer in 2009. Likewise, McClanahan herself died just a year later in 2010.

But for years on “The Golden Girls,” Arthur’s co-stars appeased the actors demand of always sitting in a certain seating arrangement.

“Bea always sat in the same chair at rehearsals. Always,” McClanahan told the outlet. “And she always had to have me on her right, and Betty [White] and Estelle [Getty] across the table from her. And we could not change seats from year to year, or even from week to week.”

Bea Arthur and Her Co-Star

Not all the actors on “The Golden Girls” got along in real life. There were reported tensions between Arthur and White. But during the show, Arthur and McClanahan became friends. As for her relationship with Arthur, McClanahan said she learned a lot about being a comedian by watching Arthur’s performances on various sitcoms.

“What I got attached to, as an actress, was her impeccable timing,” McClanahan said. “And I loved playing scenes with her. She taught me, by watching her, even back during ‘Maude,’ to be outrageously courageous as a comedienne, to go out on a limb, to go farther than I’ve ever dreamed of going. [On ‘The Golden Girls’], Blanche had to say and do things that Rue found difficult. And it would always be Bea who said [deepens voice to perfectly imitate Arthur] ‘Oh say it! It’s funny!'”

But in real life, Arthur wasn’t like her sitcom character. She was often quiet and sometimes emotional as well. McClanahan remembered a time when someone made the actor cry after making a comment.

“As a friend she was giving and loving to me,” McClanahan said. “She was a very close, quiet, rather timid person, very gentle. I saw someone say something once that they didn’t mean to be a cutting remark, but it hit her wrong, and she immediately burst into tears. That was not seen very often, but those emotions were right under the surface.”

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