The Emmy Award that Bea won for The Golden Girls was actually her second. Her first Emmy was awarded for her starring role on Norman Lear’s Maude sitcom (a spin-off of All in the Family) in 1972. She has starred on Broadway in such well-known musicals as Fiddler on the Roof and Mame with Angela Landsbury. She also has the distinction of having appeared in the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978.
Since the end of The Golden Girls, Bea has guest-starred on several popular shows like Malcolm in the Middle, Star Trek: Voyager, Dave’s World, Futurama, and Curb Your Enthusiasm (playing Larry David’s mom). She has also appeared in several TV Land spoofs, once playing the role of “Carrie” in a geriatric version of Sex and the City.
In 2002, Bea starred in her own one-woman Broadway show entitled Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends where she discussed her career via songs and stories. She was nominated for a Tony Award but lost to fellow stage-veteran Elaine Stritch for her own one-woman show. Bea lives with hearing loss and helps to educate others on the subject as well as being a longtime and committed animal rights activist
Bea’s scheduled to take part in TV Land’s original series called Back to the Grind. The 2007 series will show actors working in the same jobs as their well-known characters. Bea will be working as a substitute teacher, just like Dorothy on Golden Girls. Now 83, Bea has two grown sons from a previous marriage. UPDATE: Bea passed away in April 2009.
At age 84, Betty is a five-time Emmy Award winner and has starred on many TV shows over the years. She began in 1953 with Life with Elizabeth, and continued with A Date with the Angels, The Betty White Show (a talk show), The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Betty White Show (a sitcom with John Hillerman and Georgia Engel), Mama’s Family and then The Golden Girls. She was also a frequent guest on numerous game shows in the 1970s, including the very popular Password hosted by her now deceased husband Allen Ludden.
After The Golden Palace ended, Betty guest-starred on a variety of series including Malcolm in the Middle, Everwood, Joey, That ’70s Show and Ally McBeal. In addition to winning one for The John Larroquette Show, she was nominated for guest-appearance Emmys for Suddenly Susan, The Practice, and Yes, Dear. She also co-starred with Bob Newhart in his short-lived 1992 sitcom entitled Bob.
The author of four books, Betty continues to work regularly in television, with an ongoing role on Boston Legal (in the role she created on The Practice) and most recently on soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. She also continues to be an animal welfare activist and pet enthusiast.
The 72-year old Emmy Award-winning actress began her acting career on stage in the 1950s and won acclaim by playing a wicked nanny on the soap opera Another World. (In an episode of Golden Girls when the ladies were all sick with the flu, Rue’s character Blanche insisted on watching Another World.) She played Bea Arthur’s best friend Vivian on Maude for six years and went on to play Aunt Fran for the first two seasons of Mama’s Family, alongside Betty White.
Rue was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997 and survived thanks to five months of chemotherapy. She has lectured on the subject for breast-cancer support groups.
She has been seen in a number of TV guest roles on such series as Touched by an Angel, Blue’s Clues (as Steve’s grandmother), Murphy Brown, and Wonderfalls. On stage, she’s played Reverend Mother in Nunsense, and in 2005 took over the role as Madam Morrible in the hit Broadway musical Wicked.
Rue is a lifetime supporter of animals’ rights and a vegetarian. Her autobiography, My First Five Husbands..And the Ones Who Got Away, is scheduled to be released in May 2007. She is married to Morrow Wilson and has one son from a previous marriage. UPDATE: Rue passed away in June 2010.
Estelle was a veteran of primarily the stage (having played Harvey Fierstein’s mother in Torch Song Trilogy on Broadway) prior to joining The Golden Girls. In addition to the four Susan Harris created series, Estelle played Sophia on one episode of Blossom in 1991. (How many people have played the same character on five series?) After Empty Nest ended, Estelle made occasional appearances in series like Mad About You, Touched by an Angel and played Grandma Little in the Stuart Little film. Her last acting appearance was in 2000 in a series called Ladies Man. (Her former co-stars Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Park Overall also made guest appearances on the series as well.)
In 2000, Estelle retired from acting and stopped making public appearances. She was initially believed to have Parkinson’s Disease and osteoporosis, and then Alzheimer’s Disease. It is now known that she actually has Lewy Body Dementia whose symptoms are very similar to both Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. She was widowed in 2004 and has two grown sons. She lives comfortably at home in Los Angeles under the care of close friend Paul Chapdelaine.
Earlier this year, Paul wrote a letter describing Estelle’s condition. He said, “There is nothing life threatening going on, she is comfortable, pain free and in good spirits most of the time. She does have good days and bad days. Because of the nature of the disease that Estelle has, there are times that we have very normal lucid conversation, and other times, she just sleeps most of the day.” Paul concluded, “To her fans, Estelle would like them all to know that if she has made you laugh, encouraged you to think, and challenged your beliefs, then she has done her job. To Estelle, it all boils down to ‘Love and Laughter.’ This is how she signed almost all of her autographs. Oh, and also to her fans: ‘Keep watching The Golden Girls, I need the residuals.’”
The Golden Girls series has endured like few other sitcoms. According to one source, The Golden Girls is the third most popular sitcom in syndication, after Seinfeld and Friends. It is certainly well-loved by many who watched the original run of the series and has become incredibly popular with college-aged viewers in reruns. It seems that most everyone can enjoy the double entendre dialogue and humor. Though many of these viewers were too young to have seen the show in its original run, it’s a pretty safe bet that the ladies from Miami will continue to be popular long after the newest fans are senior citizens themselves.