Thursday, April 30, 2009

Be Funny, Be Wry, Bea Arthur

Poor Bea Arthur, ravaged by a cancer unbeknownst to her quietly rabid fan base, and eventually lowered six feet under a career marked by stupendous comic timing and brilliant dry wit. Perhaps it was the manner in which she cut through absurdity with a flippant wave of the hand and cleverly pointed quip – shrewdly gaming the less sophisticated ruffian with a sarcasm-soaked dismissal – or that gravely voice more suited for a geriatric sex operator; but whatever the attraction (from those, which logic dictated, should not be attracted), Ms. Arthur had rightly steered a talent for droll retorts into a financially rewarding canon of work. Armed with a resumĂ© of near legendary hyperbole, her towering frame projected the authority to uproot mighty sequoias from their base, to batter airplanes like King Kong with a single swat of her enormous hands, to trample the intellectually doltish with a Sasquatch-like stomp and husky laugh. New York born, she was virtually immortal and self-assuredly invincible; a Broadway diva, a sitcom star, an Amazonian gigantess, all without compromise.

This writer’s first exposure to Ms. Arthur was via ‘Golden Girls,’ the sitcom for incontinent octogenarians and young viewers alike. Every Saturday, the prehistoric and the adolescent could equally bond over well-crafted humor showcasing four mature women of varying temperaments and intelligence sharing a Miami home. As divorcĂ©e Dorothy Zbornak, Arthur was the perfect straight foil to Betty White’s dunderheaded Rose of St. Olaf, Rue McClanahan’s sassy tart Blanche Devereaux, and Estelle Getty’s brazenly unfiltered Sophia Petrillo. Although McClanahan’s unbridled sexuality – as spun through the lens of a post-prime southern belle cougar – was tempting for those trolling the upper end of the MILF spectrum, I’d have been much more comfortable (if, say, a shotgun were held to my temple), unclasping Arthur’s tightly hooked collars, thus resigning my life to buttoned-up blouses and matronly scowls. After all, beauty fades and dumb is dumb, but funny lasts forever.

Breaking from the usual dollop of self-serving egotism, The Bastard assumes a back seat when saluting Man of The Century (20th, that is) Bea Arthur. Comedy need not descend into the curse-laden or unrefined to extract hilarity. Sometimes the biggest laughs can be found in the most unassuming of androgynous beanstalks. Bea, may the light of heaven reflect eternally from your geode brooch.

And with this eulogy, dear reader, be sad. Be disheartened. Be dismayed over the loss. But be not dispirited, as memories be forever salvaged on celluloid. And for that, be thankful. Yes, be delighted. In fact, be singing. Do-be-do-be-do. Bea Arthur.

17 comments:

Expat From Hell said...

A great tribute, my friend. Bea will be sorely missed. And by those of us who were forever transformed and impressed by Maude, as well. Thanks for writing this.

EFH

Suldog said...

My goodness. You... I'm having trouble wrapping my head around this; give me a minute... you seem to have a soft and caring side.

Am I at the right blog?

Just kidding, of course. Wonderfully well-written tribute.

Ron said...

Beautifully written eulogy!

Wasn't Bea the bomb? I remember first seeing her in the movie Mame (playing Vera Charles) and there was a scene with her having fallen asleep in a bathtub after she had been drinking all night. When she opened her mouth to speak...I honestly couldn't tell if she was and man or a woman!?!?!

That voice was so distinct and classic!

And Golden Girls...I mean, does a show get any better than that???

I'm sure she's looking down from heaven right now and saying, "Thank you Essential Bastard."

MVD said...

Suldog - Bea Arthur was, to use modern parlance, a motherfucker. And she is saluted for upholding this exemplary self-confidence until the bitter end.

The Essential Bastard is not a stranger to occasional tributes. Mickey Rourke got the treatment back in February:

http://essentialbastard.blogspot.com/2009/02/mickey-rourke-he-needed-money.html

MVD said...

Expat & Ron - Man or woman (I'm still uncertain) Ms. Arthur struck a chord with this writer in his more formative years. Don't get me wrong, her image didn’t adorn my bedroom walls like, say, Samantha Fox. It was much more a cerebral attraction.

Jen said...

Great minds do think alike. Bea Arthur was on my mind as well this morning as I churned out my post. Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I had to reply to that one on my site. Anyway, Bea was a great comedienne and a master of timing. She will be sorely missed. I'm sure she would have appreciated your tribute.

Chris said...

"Beauty fades, dumb is dumb, but funny lasts forever." Thank you, Essential Bastard, for composing my epitaph. Good ol' Maude.

MVD said...

Hey Chris - Glad to help you through the interment plans. I suppose your chosen epitaph works better than "geriatric sex operator" or "androgynous beanstalk," either of which might risk excommunication for your surviving family.

I'd expect a quotation credit on the headstone, of course.

Theresa said...

Touching sentiments to the original "Pat". Kudos. If I were going to have a headstone (I'm not, because I'm going to be burnt to a char) I'd make sure you were hired to write my epitaph as well.

MVD said...

Theresa - Perhaps I can pen the incription on your urn.

lingoslinger said...

She always sounded like she'd just finished a pack of cigs and washed it down with JD. She was her own kinda woman!

Blanche... What a slut. I had no idea that you could still be a trollop well into your golden years. I'll have to remember that when my tits look like fried eggs and giving a gummer is my best offering.

Can you write my eulogy? :)

Tina said...

RIP. Golden Girls was one of my favorite shows growing up. Great tribute.

MVD said...

Hey Lingo - Fried eggs can be a nice floppy treat for the friskier convalescent home residents. Especially with a shot of Tabasco on the side.

But unless John Wayne Bobbitt was in town, I think you'd have trouble selling yourself on the gummer.

blunt delivery said...

aw, i just came over here after writing my blog, where i did give a quick shout out to good old dorothy.

oh dorothy, so so androgenous. seriously though, i mean, how tall are you? i mean, how low, exactly, is your voice? I don't know. Perhaps she wasn't as androgenous as we once thought.

MVD said...

"Perhaps she wasn't as androgenous as we once thought."

If you're implying that Ms. Arthur had a penis, well, that's certainly a valid argument.

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