Beatrice Arthur (born Bernice Frankel; May 13, 1922 – April 25, 2009) was an American actress, comedian and activist.
From 1940–1951 Spivy ran her own nightclub, Spivy's Roof, on New York's East 57th Street. The club was noted for its tolerance of gay performers and patrons; Spivy herself was a lesbian in private life. Among the artists who performed there were Frances Faye, Mabel Mercer, Moms Mabley, Thelma Carpenter, Paul Lynde, Martha Raye, Bea Arthur, Liberace, and actor-magician Fred Keating.
Arthur began her career on stage in 1947. She won the 1966 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for playing Vera Charles in Mame. She went on to play Maude Findlay on the 1970s sitcoms All in the Family, appearing 1971–1972, and Maude (1972–78), as well as Dorothy Zbornak on the 1980s / 1990s sitcom The Golden Girls (1985–92). She won Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 1977 for Maude and 1988 for The Golden Girls. Her film appearances include Lovers and Other Strangers (1970) and Mame (1974). In 2002, she starred in the one-woman show Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends.
Considered a longtime gay icon, she embraced the gay community who had supported her since the 1970s. Late in life, Arthur took up the cause of LGBTQ+ youth homelessness. She raised $40,000 for the Ali Forney Center with one of her final live performances, a revival of her one-woman Broadway show in 2005, after she had fallen ill with cancer. She would go on to advocate for the center until her death, telling Next Magazine, “These kids at the Ali Forney Center are literally dumped by their families because they are lesbian, gay or transgender — this organization really is saving lives.”
A private and introverted woman according to her friends, Arthur died of lung cancer at her home in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles on April 25, 2009. She was two and a half weeks short of her 87th birthday.
Arthur bequeathed $300,000 to the Ali Forney Center, a New York City organization that provides housing for homeless LGBTQ+ youths. The center was heavily damaged in October 2012 by Hurricane Sandy, but has since been restored and re-opened. The Bea Arthur Residence, which opened in 2017, is an 18-bed residence in Manhattan for homeless LGBT youth operated by the Ali Forney Center.
My published books:
BACK TO HOME PAGE