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David Wild Headshot

Rest in Peace Beatrice Arthur -- and Bernice Frankel Too

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For better or worse, I spend most of my life around celebrities, and at this point in the game I rarely feel that intense combination of shock and awe when I have to introduce myself to somebody who I've known from the other side of the screen all my life. It's happened every time I met a President -- even the first Bush -- and strangely even when I was seated next to Spiro Agnew at a Frank Sinatra show in the early Nineties.

A few years ago, I felt that same strong feeling when I introduced myself to Beatrice Arthur at a TV show I was working on - I think it may have been the TV Land Awards. To some the thrill would be meeting Dorthy Zbornak from Golden Girls, but for me Beatrice Arthur was Maude, the strong centerpiece of one of the first adult shows I was allowed to watch with my parents. The show was a very bold comedy for its time that introduced me to lots of the issues of the day, at least the ones I wasn't learning about on All In The Family, Norman Lear's earlier masterpiece from which Maude was successfully spun off. Arthur and Bill Macy were just fantastic together, and the presence of Adrienne Barbeau as Maude's daughter helped make a man of me well in advance of my eventual bar mitzvah.

Years later, I would get to see Beatrice Arthur -- born Bernice Frankel -- up close in her natural environment, starring onstage in Woody Allen's play The Floating Lightbulb. Even before Maude made her a major star and an Emmy-winner, Beatrice Arthur was already a star of stage, appearing in the Off-Broadway premiere of Fiddler on the Roof, and winning a 1966 Tony for her performance as Vera Charles in Mame.

All I remember of our brief backstage conversation is this: I told her that she was fantastic, and she said with that famous deep voice, "Thank you, David."

Thank you, Bernice.