Bea Arthur was ready to walk away from “The Golden Girls” on more than one occasion, according to a new tell-all book about the cult-favorite 1980s sitcom.
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Jim Colucci, author of "Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind The Lanai," says the bawdy star was particularly upset by what the show’s writers came to call “Dorothy bashing.”
“Bea was offended,” he tells FOX411.
“When the writers called Rose [Betty White] dumb or Blanche [Rue McClanahan] a slut or Sophia [Estelle Getty] old, it could roll off those women’s backs because they were not like their characters.”
“Unfortunately, the things that were said about Dorothy were that she was big and ugly. And that wears on an actress after a while.”
Arthur was one of 250 actors and crew members Colucci interviewed for the retrospective, which hits bookstores today. He describes Arthur as a “quirky and complicated woman” who hated birds and couldn’t stand being around people who chewed gum.
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“If you were chewing gum on the set, she would try to have you fired.” he says.
“She also never wanted to wear shoes. She had it written into her contract that she was allowed to not wear shoes as long as she agreed not to sue the producers if she hurt herself.”
According to Colucci, Arthur often spoke about returning to the Broadway stage where she won a Tony Award in 1966 for the role of Vera Charles in “Mame.”
“By the start of the 7th season, Bea made it very clear that she was done,” he says. “She thought the quality was starting to slip. She wanted to go out while it was still a good show and she felt she was done with it.”
The 183rd — and final — episode of “The Golden Girls” aired May 9, 1992.
Ironically, NBC was initially opposed to casting the former “Maude” star as substitute school teacher Dorothy Zbornak, who, after her divorce, moves into a Miami home with her mother and two widowed friends.
“They told the producers, ‘We don’t like her,” Colucci says.
At the time, millions of Americans were still turned off by her previous TV character, Maude Finley, who opted to have an abortion in 1972 — before the passage of Roe v. Wade.
“NBC was afraid of putting her in this show because they thought she brought some baggage with her,” he explains.
The network briefly courted Elaine Stritch.
“They wanted a bawdy broad and Elain was cut from the same cloth,” Colucci says.
“But they ultimately relented when [writer] Susan Harris said, ‘I wrote this role for Bea and I want Bea.’”
Here are a few more fun tidbits Colucci shared about the show:
1. Producers wanted a different theme song
“They approached the publishing company for Bette Midler’s song, ‘Friends,’ but it was too expensive. Eventually of the producers remembered Andrew Gold’s song, ‘Thank You For Being A Friend.’”
“They licensed it and hired a session singer named Cynthia Fee. Even though the recording session was slated to last for an hour, she did it in one or two takes — maybe 20 or 30 minutes — and planned on never thinking of it again. The irony is that thanks to unions, every time your song gets played, you get paid. So this job she did on a random weekday in 1985 has put her kids through college.”
2. Betty White and Rue McClanahan switched roles at the last minute
“Betty was cast as Blanche because she played Sue Ann Nivens on ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ so she could play man hungry. Rue was cast as Rose because she had been Vivian on ‘Maude’ and Aunt Fran on ‘Mama’s Family.’”
“The director of the pilot, Jay Sandrich, had an idea and said to Rue that he wanted to try her to prepare lines for Blanche. Betty wasn’t particularly happy with [the switch] at first but she learned to like it.”
3. The whole thing started as a gag
NBC presented a live spoof comedy sketch to press and advertisers in the fall of 1984 featuring Doris Roberts and Selma Diamond. “They did this schtick where they were confused thinking there was a show on NBC called ‘Miami Nice.’ ‘Oh, it must be about old people in Miami. That does sound nice.’ When people laughed, the president of the network thought, ‘There might be something there.’”
"Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind The Lanai" is in bookstores now.