I owe Bea Arthur about 16 years, she added that much time to my life. Laughter can do that.
The first time I saw Bea, she was in an off-Broadway show called “Three to Get Ready.” She played a lady who came out alone on the stage at night, singing an old-fashioned torch song. She sang about a guy who just ditched her and he treated her like “gar-bage.”
Everytime she hit the word “gar-bage,” the theater convulsed. That’s how I first saw her. Then we became friends years later.
I brought her out to L.A. before “All in the Family,” to do the “George Goldblum Show” — I brought her out about three times for that. That led to one episode of “All in the Family.” Fifteen minutes into the episode, CBS was on the phone saying, “That woman is a series.” So from that one appearance on “All in the Family,” we created “Maude.”
She had the greatest timing of any comedienne in the history of the business. She could control the laughter with her face, her body, even her back. There were some laughs just from her back. She waited for an audience and controlled the audience.
You could say she had a touch of comedy genius and a touch of the clown. She was a grande dame — a great lady.