Bea Arthur Arthur was born in New York City to American parents Philip and Rebecca Frankel and was raised in Maryland. She became a medical technologist before World War II, when she volunteered for the U.S. Marine Corps, becoming one of its first female recruits.
Career Her notable television roles included the title role on the popular sitcom Maude in the 1970s, and a starring role on The Golden Girls in the 1980s and 1990s. In the former she played Maude Findlay, an outspoken "limousine liberal" and "New Deal fanatic", living in the wealthy community of Tuckahoe, Westchester County, New York, with her husband, Walter (Bill Macy).
The show was a spinoff from All in the Family, on which Arthur had appeared in the same role, playing Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton)'s cousin, a feminist Democrat, and alter-ego to the prejudiced, conservative Republican Archie (Carroll O'Connor).
Like the show which spawned it, "Maude" often found its humor - and, occasionally drama - by striking close to the bone on weighty, topical sociopolitical issues. In one controversial episode, Maude had an abortion. It remains to this day the only prime-time network television show, comedy or drama, that has had its lead character get an abortion.
In The Golden Girls she played the character Dorothy Zbornak, a past middle-age substitute teacher who lived in a Florida house owned by man-hungry Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan). Her other roommates included dim-but-sweet Rose Nylund (Betty White) and Dorothy's short-tempered, yet "hip" Sicilian mother, Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty). Getty was actually two months younger than Arthur in real life, and was heavily made up to look significantly older. Arthur and Betty White did not get along particularly well, but like professionals they carried on.
On stage, her roles included "Lucy Brown" in the 1954 Off-Broadway premiere of Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera, "Yente the Matchmaker" in the 1964 premiere of Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway, and a 1966 Tony Award-winning portrayal of "Vera Charles" to Angela Lansbury's Mame (she recreated the role on film opposite Lucille Ball in 1974). In 1981, she appeared in Woody Allen's The Floating Lightbulb.
Two decades later she toured the U.S. with a one-woman show in which she made a triumphant return to Broadway in 2002. Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends, a collection of stories and songs and based on her life and long career, was nominated for a Tony award for Best Special Theatrical Event but lost to Elaine Stritch At Liberty.
Arthur recently took part in the Comedy Central Roast of Pamela Anderson.
Private life She was married for many years to her second husband, director Gene Saks, with whom she adopted two sons, but the marriage ended in divorce.
Arthur has also been a committed animal rights activist, taking part in numerous campaigns for PETA. In the late 90's, a Bea Arthur fan attracted considerable attention for his bumper sticker campaign, "Bea Arthur - Be Naked," as well as for a CK1 ad spoof, "Just Bea."
Arthur is a gay icon and has long maintained a loyal gay fanbase. She has frequently been mistaken as a lesbian due to various personality and physical traits, which stand out and become more notable with the passing of time, that are stereotypically associated with gay women. Arthur has come out in strong support of gay rights while proudly proclaiming her own heterosexuality, and has granted cover interviews to a variety of gay magazines.