I met Bea Arthur on January 31, 2004 at the James Armstrong Theatre in Torrance, CA where she had performed in her Tony nominated show Just Between Friends. It was a wonderful evening and was, in part, a benefit for the South Bay Conservatory and its scholarship program.
After the performance, Ms. Arthur graciously came out to the lobby to give autographs and chat with audience members. As I waited in line, I could hear those ahead of me telling her how much they loved her work, usually mentioning either Maude or Golden Girls. When I reached the head of the line and handed her my Playbill (pictured above with her autograph), I mentioned that my favorite line of hers came from the 1970 movie Lovers and Other Strangers where she played the role of Bea Vecchio, a stereotypical Italian mother. At the wedding of one of her sons in the film, another son and his wife told her that they were getting a divorce. She kept asking why and finally they said simply that it was because they were not happy. Her reply was, "You should never look for happiness, it will only make you miserable." I saw that movie at a particularly low moment in my own life and that comment truly lifted my spirits.
I would like to think that Ms. Arthur appreciated someone remembering a performance of hers other than those most often associated with her career. She did laugh when I quoted the line and she mentioned having fun doing that movie. Some 34 years after I had seen Lovers and Other Strangers, she once again brought a smile to my face. That evening in 2004 was magical. I will cherish Bea Arthur's memory and the joy she brought to all of us who saw her perform whether on stage, TV or film.