No B(ea). S.

With a node to Barbara Walters I ask Bea for a one word response to a few of the people who've crossed her path.


Lucille Ball : "Gorgeous."
Gene Saks :  "Talented.  Talented." (Gene Saks was her husband)
Rue McClanahan : "Ah.  Gifted."
Estelle Getty:  "Ballsy."


Betty White:
Bea leans forward, eyes me directly, smiles wide, which I think is going to break into a laugh, and so I begin to laugh.  Instead, her eyes moisten, she turns her body completely away from me, then puts her hand up and with a quiver in her voice says, "Next."  She is stricken momentarily with emotion.  I pause.


I continue this inquiry with the famous characters she has portrayed.


Vera Charles :  "Delicious," she says as if eating chocolate mousse.
Maude Findlay :  "Omnipotent," she says boldly and assuredly.
Dorothy Zbornak:
"Dorothy," she says as though the name were new to her, then laughs.  She grapples for a word.  "I loved her.  What's a word I can use?  Fulfilling?  I don't know.  Bizarre?  Outrageous?  I don't know."  She really cannot come up with a word that fully satisfies her.


In the mid-fifties, Bea Arthur and Tallulah Bankhead were traveling from city to city by train, appearing in The Ziegfeld Folies.  They were in Tallulah's roomette at 9 o'clock in the morning.  Tallulah was drinking Bourbon.  Bea relates the story.  "Tallulah said, 'You know, all the kids in the cast seem to think that I'm having an affair with Jack Cole [the choreographer], but of course,'" Bea halts, then in her lowest voice yet, imitates Tallulah, "'Jack is gay.'"   Bea drops the Tallulah voice and continues, "'Let's face it, Divine Beatrice.  There's a touch of homosexual in all of us.  It's not the cock.  And it's not the twat.  It's the eyes don't you know, and sometimes, the smell of lilac.'"  Bea's delivery is so understated.  She sums up reflecting with a hint of laughter, "I've never forgotten (this).  I could cry thinking about it.  It's so beautiful, isn't it?"  Then in a tranquil voice mixed with affection she says, "She's quite a character."