My heart is a bit heavier today with the passing of Bea Arthur, who starred in two television series, Maude and Golden Girls. Bea played the part of Dorthy Zbornak on Golden Girls. She was preceded in death by her Golden Girls co-star, Estelle Getty, last year. I absolutely adored Golden Girls when it came out, and once in a while, I still will search for old episodes of that show on cable.
What is it about the characters in these fictionalized TV series that grabs our hearts so much? Part of the genius of writing a successful character part is that the character taps and reaffirms some part of ourselves. I love ALL of the characters on Golden Girls: dopey-headed Rose (Betty White), who goes on and on with inane stories of her Norwegian family in Minnesota, slutty and superficial Blanch (Rue McClanahan), who’s got to have every man who comes her way, and Dorothy’s Sicilian mom, Sophia (Estelle Getty), full of wise-cracks, good meals and phony wisdom. Certainly, I identify with them all. God knows I have bored many people with stories of my Belgian, German and Irish ancestry. I did spend about 10 years “playing the field,” which according to some of my more prudish or jealous friends, put me in a slutty category. And God do I love to cook and dispense cornball wisdom!
Recently, however, I was shown with certainty why it is that my heart beats fastest when Dorothy Zbornak (Bea Arthur) holds forth over her Florida senior citizen girlfriends. I took the Facebook test “Which Golden Girl Are You?” Was there ever any doubt?! Once I had taken the test and had been lured into inviting several of my facebook friends to take the test, I was identified as . . . ta tata ta tata . . . Dorothy! And here is what it said:
You are the center of any group but have serious trouble in the dating world. You typically pick the wrong partner. Your dry wit and intellegence may put some people off. You may also have issues with your mother. And you enjoy long flowing pants suits.
Lest I be banned from the bedroom, I must quickly add that FINALLY at age 45, I did pick the right partner. But . . . most of the time during my decade of decadence, I was either lonely or alone. And, yes, I did do a little drag in those days, too, although it was usually gowns, not flowing pants suits. And mom, well, we did have a life-long wrestling match, much like the one between Dorothy and Estelle. But now I miss mom so.
I have to admit that it’s really Dorthy Zbornak that I mourn for, the Dorthy Zbornak who remained regal and proud despite the fact that in some ways, life had shat upon her. I certainly haven’t followed the career of Bea Arthur with the intensity that I have some of my other favorite actresses, like Nicole Kidman or Meryl Streep. But I really don’t see how anyone else could have given birth to the Dorothy Zbornak that I so identify with. Bea Arthur, you really made my life a better, more fun, more enjoyable one. I am so grateful for your existence on this planet, and I mourn your passing.