Old School Americana & Nostalgia


‘The Golden Girls’ Writer Addresses Rumor Bea Arthur Thought Betty White Was ‘Two-faced’

‘The Golden Girls’ Writer Addresses Rumor Bea Arthur Thought Betty White Was ‘Two-faced’

By the time Bea Arthur and Betty White joined up as part of The Golden Girls cast, they had established themselves in sitcoms. Arthur found herself in one of Norman Lear’s big hits in the 1970s, Maude. Meanwhile, White found herself as part of an ensemble cast on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Getting them together should have been a match made in heaven. That, though, is allegedly not how the situation unfolded.

According to Stan Zimmerman, author of The Girls: From Golden to Gilmore, there was some unseen tension between Arthur and White. “During our time on set, I never felt tension between the two,” Zimmerman writes in his book. “I only heard stories and recently learned, from producer Marsha Posner Williams on a podcast, that Bea thought Betty was two-faced.”

This is a bit shocking because you see them work so well together on The Golden Girls. Then again, these were two pros going out there knocking it out of the park every week. It might have all come down to just having different personalities.

‘The Golden Girls’ Writer Says Bea Arthur Liked ‘Real People’

“Bea liked real people,” Zimmerman writes. “I had the sense that Betty was more like Sue Ann Nivens, the character she played on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, than she was like Rose. More conniving than the innocent airhead from St. Olaf.”

Despite whatever differences there might have been between them, Arthur and White made occasional appearances in support of the show. In one instance, Arthur, White, and Rue McClanahan gathered together to sign DVDs of The Golden Girls‘ third season.

Even today, The Golden Girls draws new and old viewers alike to their reruns. Of course, Estelle Getty stole her fair share of laughs on the show as Sophia. Getty, though, also played an important part in Zimmerman’s life.

When he was a writer on the show, Zimmerman, a gay man, hid his sexuality. At one point, Getty spoke with Zimmerman and figured out that he was gay. She promised to keep it a secret to protect Zimmerman at that time. In his book, Zimmerman expresses his thanks to Getty and writes that he’ll always be “a Sophia.”

Episode On Sexual Harassment Still Stands Out

In their writing work, Zimmerman and writing partner James Berg penned some of the show’s most remembered episodes. One of them is titled Adult Education and it’s where Blanche (McClanahan) is sexually harassed by her professor. Zimmerman remembered this show.

“The producers of the show told us very early on, ‘Don’t write it like a Facts of Life ‘Very Special Episode,’” Zimmerman said in an interview with People. “With [The Golden Girls], be honest, be real, be really funny, but just make it a part of their lives so that it wasn’t something that stood out, like we were standing on a soapbox and shaking our finger at people.”

He said that the way this episode approached the subject matter was “unheard of” at that time in the world of TV. “I learned early on from Golden Girls that people are much more open to taking in new ideas when they’re laughing,” Zimmerman said.

Another addition to the world of television writing came from an expression Zimmerman and Berg used. “We wrote [the phrase] ‘Dorothy shoots her a look. And that’s become a thing in writing now, ‘shooting a look,’” Zimmerman said. “But that’s something very few actors could do. Bea Arthur could nail a look, and you knew exactly what she meant.”

His book is now available for purchase online or at a local bookstore.