Coming home on the plane from a week's road trip in Alberta, I was saddened to hear that the amazing Bea Arthur had died. What a great, brassy, outspoken, raunchy, lovable diva she was. I grew up watching Maude and then The Golden Girls, and her cynical comic timing was next to none. Do yourself a favour and get your hands on the CD of Bea Arthur On Broadway: Just Between Friends, a one-woman show she did a few years ago. Oh, it's just marvellous - I've been listening to it repeatedly this afternoon and chuckling away.
Long before her TV fame, she was an enormous success on Broadway, winning a Tony Award for Mame. This live recording is equal parts stand-up comedy and witty cabaret. She tells many jokes and recounts hilarious and touching stories from her life and career, such as working with Angela Lansbury ("mouth like a longshoreman") to getting a coveted part alongside Lotte Lenya in Threepenny Opera. In between the amusing and frank banter, she sings a variety of songs from the very funny "What Can You Get a Nudist For Her Birthday?" or "If I Can't Sell It, I'll Keep Sittin' On It!", to terrific renditions of Kurt Weill's "Pirate Jenny" and Stephen Sondheim's "Some People". And of course she reminisces about some of her favourite moments from her television years.
"For me, TV was so creatively rewarding," she says at one point. "Doing material that was bright and LITERATE (her emphasis) and original and adult and daring!" Those were the days. R.I.P Bea - you were truly a legend.