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All the world adores the amazing Betty White, but “Golden Girls” co-star Bea Arthur did not!

(L-R)  Actresses Rue McClanahan, Betty White and Beatrice Arthur arrive at the  6th annual "TV Land Awards" held at Barker Hanger on June 8,  2008 in Santa Monica, California.They are two of the most successful sitcom actresses in television history and starred for seven seasons together on The Golden Girls.
But the late Bea Arthur had an intense dislike for Betty White, the 88-year-old phenomenon whose career is currently on fire thanks to Facebook and her own enduring stamina and comic timing.

Betty, the recent Saturday Night Live host whose new sitcom Hot in Cleveland is off to a strong start in the TV ratings, played the sweet and innocent Rose Nyland opposite Bea’s acerbic Dorothy Zbornak, Rue McClanahan’s slutty Blanche Devereaux and Estelle Getty’s feisty Sophia Petrillo.

After Bea died last year, Rue (who herself died earlier this month), addressed the issue in an interview with TV Guide and shed some light on the strained Bea-Betty relationship: “Bea never confided in me why she felt the way she did about Betty. … Betty always asked me, ‘Why?’ And I’d always say, ‘You know how Bea is, Betty. Bea gets a bee in her bonnet, and just doesn’t like certain things…and I don’t know why.’ Bea, for instance, didn’t like people who wore their baseball caps backwards. That really got to her. We were interviewing directors one time and if someone came in with a baseball cap worn backwards, he didn’t stand a chance.”

Ironically, Betty did not feel the same way toward Bea and even attended her Tony Award-nominated show three times.Said Rue: “Betty was a big fan of Bea. Bea’s feelings about Betty were not mutual. She really did love Bea.” witnessed Bea’s coldness toward Betty first-hand at an event at the Museum of Television in Beverly Hills where the three women did a Q & A. With Rue planted between them like a referee, Bea did not engage Betty once despite Miss White’s efforts to draw her in.

Then after the event ended, I was standing near the stage as Bea hugged Rue  goodbye but left without saying anything to Betty who followed her backstage and called after her. (The bottom photo is from that evening in Beverly Hills).

It made me feel a bit sad for Betty. But that’s not to say that I didn’t think Bea was terrific. Not only was I a huge fan, but I was in attendance about six months before she died and was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. We were briefly introduced and she promised an interview. When we didn’t have the time to do it that night, she called the next day, we had a nice chat, and she could not have been more lovely.

So, whatever their personal relationship, Betty and Bea were total professionals and just utter magic together on television!

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(All comments are reviewed before being published, and I review submissions several times per day.)

8 Remarks

  1. June 18th, 2010 at 12:50 pm
    JontheMoonspinner says:

    I’m guessing, but I think Bea was more worldly than Betty (or felt she was more worldly) and possibly was a bit of a show business snob. She perhaps thought Betty didn’t walk and work in the same circles she did. That said, I recall seeing them together once on “Dinah!” (while Bea was doing ‘Maude’ and Betty was playing Sue Anne Nivens) and they did a impromptu song & dance which was absolutely wonderful. So they did have good times :)

  2. You might be able to find a source on this, Greg, but in some of the tributes to Rue McClanahan after she died she was quoted (on CNN, in Newsweek, I don’t remember where) as saying that Bea Arthur, as “The Golden Girls” years wore on, really didn’t like being a part of an ensemble. Bea, she said, was used to being the star. That certainly was true of “Maude” and at least the first two episodes of season 1 of “GG” would indicate the show was intended to be a star vehicle for Bea Arthur. Remember, too, that Betty White won the first Emmy for that show and both Betty and Estelle were nominated more than Rue and Bea combined. Hollywood egos, as you well know, are notoriously and famously fragile. So Bea didn’t like Betty. So what? Bea’s gone now and Betty is, seemingly, ruling the world. If there was conflict I choose not to think about it as I don’t want it to color my memories of what was (arguably) the funniest sitcom of the 80′s. I would, however, commend Rue for her attempts to be a peacemaker. I miss Rue and Bea and Estelle; each time it was like one of my one family died. Thanks for letting me vent. Mike

  3. Great now I’ll never be able to watch the Golden Girls in peace :p

  4. Don’t let it get to you, Dennis.

    On some of television’s most critically revered and popular programs, there were personality clashes and rifts between co-stars, which didn’t and doesn’t negate the quality of those shows, nor the talents on them one iota.

    On one of TV’s most respected series, William Frawley and Vivian Vance (“Fred & Ethel Mertz” on “I Love Lucy”) maintained a mutual hatred society of two until the day Frawley died, to the news of which Vance raised a champagne toast (as she was dining out when informed of her former sitcom spouse’s passing).

    For his part, Frawley had once said Vance was “one of the finest gals he’d known from Kansas (and I’ve often wished she’d gone back there).” While Frawley was later working on “My Three Sons,” the Desilu studio for which was located next door to “The Lucy Show” (on which Vance was then co-starring), Frawley instructed his young co-stars–Tim Considine, Don Grady and Stanley Livingston–to stage impromptu Frisbee games, making sure to “lob a few” through the connecting door to hit Vance and piss her off.

    And though Vance’s boss and co-star, Lucille Ball, for the most part genuinely liked and respected Vance, still there were periods where the two gals waxed hot and cold, Ball sometimes calling Vance a “cow,” while Vance didn’t always love Lucy, referring to her on more than one occasion by that term also reserved for a female canine.

    And, of course, there was no love lost between Suzanne Sommers and her “Three’s Company” co-stars and show producers, resulting in “Two’s Company” and “Three’s A Crowd,” after Sommers ultimate departue from that series.

    Reportedly, also, Eddie Albert once said “Arnold” wasn’t “the only pig” he worked with on “Green Acres,” meaning Albert’s “Oliver” concurred with Eva Gabor’s “Lisa” about New York being the place she’d “rather stay” while he was “smelling hay.” I guess better a haystack than a pig sty?

    I’m sure there are many more examples of TV series’ dischord, and, after all, many people out of show business have worked at jobs with and for co-workers and bosses they’ve despised. It’s a fairly common phenomenon. It’s just that the egos and publicity attendant with show business make such negative situations more pronounced.

    Still, no reasons to not continue enjoying and being entertained by favorite TV shows. Remember, it’s all only make believe.

  5. i so agree. there is something very upsetting in acknowledging the idea that bea and betty did NOT get along. i know it is a silly fantasy to wish that the “girls” really were a “family”, and that they mutually adored and respected eachother on and off set. like many people, i have almost come to view the golden girls as part of my family. it is the ONLY show that can make me happy when i am oh so sad, and it does hurt to think that “rose” and “dorothy” may not have said (excuse the cheesiness) “thank you for being a friend.” i think it has a lot to do with the fact that no matter what problem the girls faced, they were ALWAYS able to resolve the matter at the resolution of each show while so brilliantly reminding the viewers that families come in many different forms. if bea and betty had their differences in real life, then that is okay. the important thing is that you would NEVER know it by watching the show, and thats what counts. the show has and always will bring joy and happiness to everyone everywhere, regardless of age or gender, and that in and of itself is a true blessing. the golden girls is by far the best television show ever, (in my humble opinion) and i just want to say thank you to rue, betty, bea, and estelle…you ladies have brought more laughter and fun into countless lives, and that really is “golden.” R.I.P. girls, and much love and thanks to betty! xoxo

  6. June 3rd, 2011 at 3:12 am
    Robert in the Bay Area says:

    I like Bea and Betty but I could see why Bea was a bit of a snob. Bea was a great comic actress but I thought her singing SUCKED. She couldn’t carry a voice. As far as Betty goes she is from the ole school TV shows. I hear Betty years earlier as not the nice Rose you see on tv.

  7. People are people and we all have our ways some good some not so good. I just pray Bea got right with God who is LOVE before she left this life. I read some of her statements about Betty and they were not nice. I pray that the closer one gets to death’s door, the more would be laid aside so that there is nothing separating us from the love of God and Heaven’s portal. I wish Betty White well and that is a personal love relationship with LOVE Himself, The Lord Jesus Christ. I love the Golden Girls TV shows but knowing they are with God is best.

  8. The “girls’ were all diva’s. They wouldn’t have agreed to work together if there wasnt some sort of an initial professional bond. Naturally, while working together for 7 years; there were tense times. Maybe they did eventually have ill will towards one-another…Who cares; it was a great show…a show which lives on…They are legends…and ALL legends have ‘tude and drama.

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