Saturday, April 25, 2009

RIP: Bea Arthur, 86

Years ago, when I first emerged from the hospital. This would be 1993 or 94. I was too thin and emaciated to walk. I slept most of every single day. It would be the beginning of a long road to recovery.

But that first day, I was lying on the couch, half asleep. And when I opened my eyes to look over at Jimmy's chair, Bea Arthur was sitting there.

I didn't know Bea Arthur and she didn't know me, but we had a mutual friend in the late Charles Pierce, female impersonator extraordinaire. (If you've ever seen anyone imitate Bette Davis, twirling the cigarette and speaking in her famed staccato breath, they're all imitating Charles Pierce imitating Bette Davis).

Bea had heard about me from Charles and insisted on coming over and giving me a few words of encouragement.

She was always available for groups like the LA Gay Men's Chorus or AIDS benefits. She loved her fans and she loved doing things for others, despite her reputation for being a little gruff. It was all a ploy to cover up a sweet, generous heart.

Bea was one of a kind. She was a brilliant actress on the stage and on the screen -- and with both "Golden Girls" and "Maude," she has left a legacy of great characters and screen moment few will ever forget.

Thank you for being there for me, Bea Arthur. You didn't have to come to greet a stranger dying of AIDS. But you did. And you did it because you wanted to.

All of us who loved her will miss her.

Rest in peace.
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New article in Arts & Understanding (with amazing photos)

http://aumag.org/2017/05/10/steve-schalchlin-advocate/