Beatrice Arthur, an icon of '70s TV as the star of Maude, and then one of the staples of '80s TV as one of the leads in The Golden Girls, has died at age 86. A family spokesman told AP the Emmy and Tony Award winner had cancer, and died peacefully at her home in Los Angeles.
Arthur's best-known roles came in popular sitcoms that didn't shy away from the serious issues of the day. On Maude, which aired from 1972-1978, Arthur's pantsuit-wearing, feminist title character had an abortion, which resulted in a flurry of viewer protests. Arthur scored five Emmy nominations and one win for the role. The ribald, hilarious Golden Girls -- which over seven seasons tackled hot-button issues such as menopause, homophobia, suicide, and racism -- found Arthur playing gruff, wisecrack-spewing divorcée Dorothy Zbornak, who shared a Miami home with her mother and two loopy friends. Arthur picked up four more Emmy nods and one win as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for the role.
Earlier in her career, Arthur tasted success on Broadway and on the big screen, even winning a Tony Award for her roles as Vera Charles, formidable pal of Angela Lansbury's title character in Mame. She would go on to play the same role in the musical's big-screen adaptation, though in that instance opposite Lucille Ball.
After leaving "The Golden Girls" in 1992, the acclaimed actress guest-starred on "Malcolm in the Middle" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and in 2005 appeared at the Comedy Central roast of Pamela Anderson, delivering a deadpan reading of excerpts from the blond bombshell’s book "Star: The Novel," in which Anderson provides her fans with anal sex tips. Arthur would also return to the stage and gain another Tony nod for "Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends," a personal collection of stories and songs. In 2008 Arthur was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame. Twice married, Arthur is survived by her two adopted sons Matthew and Daniel Saks. But in fact, she was a mother to many. Ask any of the "Daughters of Dorothy" all around the world.
For gays and lesbians, Arthur leaves behind a legacy as a beloved icon, perhaps best remembered as Dorothy on The Golden Girls, the acerbic and stoic schoolteacher who cared for her elderly mother with the help of her close friends.
While very much saddened by this late news, I find comfort in the thought that Getty is now with open arms and a "Come here, pussycat," welcoming her TV daughter into the great lanai in the sky.
Bea Arthur will continue to live on in timeless "Golden Girls” episodes that have made many of us laugh till we cried. But we all have our favorite Dorothy moments. What’s yours?