A faglet’s dream, no? Perhaps. But for Siegel who was dressed in a Marc Jacobs canvas slides and a vintage scarf headband, it was a chance to finally understand how it felt to be Rose.
When I arrived at her home in the hills of Brentwood she was wearing a white terrycloth jumpsuit that matched her snow white hair (I’m a poet and that’s a metaphor). She peaked outside and said how sunny it was, covering her very red eyes with shades. Now, I had heard stories about Bea Arthur’s feet and they did not disappoint. They were mammoth and her overgrown toenails were shades of yellows, browns and greens exposed in flip-flops. There was a tissue lovingly stuck to the heel of one foot. I suggest she opt for a closed-toe slide next time. But you know what, she’s 85 years old and a star–she doesn’t need to impress anybody.
Being the mensch that I am, I tried to help her down the steps to my car but she refused — you know that old person “I can still take care of myself, thank you very much” thing. Winding down her country-like road, I explained to Bea that we had met before at the Comedy Central Roast of Pam Anderson and she was like, “Oh that thing.” She mentioned how horrible comedian Jeffrey Ross was making that joke about not even wanting to fuck disease-ridden Pam with Bea Authur’s dick. Bea said she was just there to help out PETA and wouldn’t have gone had she known they were going to be so harsh with her. I said that I had been there with my then-boss who was a comedian and she was all, “What did you do for him?” and I was all, “I was his assistant,” and she was all, “What’s an assistant?” And I was all in my head, “OY she is having dementia and doesn’t know what that word means.” So I said, “You know, a personal assistant.” And she continued, “I’ve never heard of that.” And so I replied, “You know I did all the errands and things he didn’t want to do.” and she says, “Oh, you were a flunky.” Charmed! So I tried to be cute and say, “I liked to think of myself more as a Girl Friday.” Silence.
She then pointed out that she didn’t even have an agent much less an assistant and I thought that was super fierce because to me she was saying, “In my day, we didn’t need assistants or agents. I woke up at 5:30, taped an episode of my hit TV show, picked up the dry-cleaning, went grocery shopping, negotiated my contract, cooked dinner and had sex with my husband. Woke up and did it all over again every day for THIRTY YEARS.”
Painful conversation creations:
“What do you do during the day, Bea?”
“Oh, I read and go to doctor’s appointments.” Silence.
“Did you always live on the west side of town?”
“We lived wherever Norman Lear’s wife told us to.” Silence.
I asked her what kind of music she listens to and two minutes later she told me she liked a guy who was formerly in the band Deep Purple. Silence.
I asked her if she had grandchildren. “Yes,” was the answer. Now, what old person doesn’t go on about their grandchildren? Rude. Silence.
She then brought up “Dancing with the Stars” and told me that every time that show comes on it makes her want to throw up. Now that’s the spunky Dorothy Zbornak I know and love!
I made one bad mistake that made me look like a total fool when I asked her if she did Vaudeville in the olden days. I didn’t say “olden days” but I sure said “Vaudeville.” She was none too pleased.
“VAUDEVILLE? I’M NOT THAT OLD. THAT WAS IN THE TEENS.”
“Oops. I’m so sorry–I didn’t know.” Silence.
She made some pleasantries. She commented that I didn’t have a southern accent and I told her that it might be because I went to boarding school at fifteen. She asked where, so I proudly said “Northfield Mount Hermon,” my beloved Alma Mater. She got agitated and above normal volume shouted, “NO, WHERE,” and I was like, “Oh, Western Massachusetts.” Silence. The burst of agitation scared me.
When we finally arrived at Maxine’s house, all Bea wanted was to see Maxine’s dogs. Her perma-frown face turned into a sunny smile the moment the dogs came barreling toward her. She was tickled by the sight of them and then talked about how her dog died of bone cancer and that she didn’t want to get another for fear that it would outlive her. Honey, lighten up. One of my favorite things she did all day was pull a tissue out of her purse and slip it into her sleeve before she went to do the radio interview. I just like the idea of putting things where they don’t belong. A tissue in a sleeve. A dick in an ass.
After the interview, Maxine, who is like the best Jewish daughter ever, doted over Bea and insisted that she take some of the catered meal home with her, fixing her a plate of middle-eastern food. Everything was fine until Bea saw Maxine start to put some rice in the container and she screamed, “NO RICE!” Another agitated outburst. Whoa. We went outside and took photos together and Bea commented on how I was as tall as her and Maxine, which really isn’t that surprising since I’m a five foot eleven inch man but I didn’t think much of it then.
I didn’t think much of it until we were approaching her home and she said to me, “Do you need to come in and use the ladies room?” At first I thought that was so nice of her to invite me in and maybe it might lead to a tour of the home. The more I thought about it, though, the more I began to think, “This bitch thinks I’m a woman.” It made sense. My outfit was rather ambiguous and I did refer to myself as a Girl Friday. And the way Bea marveled at how I was as tall as her and Maxine. I would be tall — for a lady. Yep, she definitely only thought I was a chick.
As she got out of the car she said, “I’m sorry, what’s your name again?”
She looked perplexed.
Bea Arthur is a kind, extraordinarily talented woman and apparently so am I.
For more unabashed queerness, stories of personal tragedy and shame, visit our Matt Siegel’s blog The Unabashed Queer.
Bea Arthur and Rock Hudson: Everybody’s Turning On
Estelle Getty’s Got to Watch Her Porn in Heaven Now
Bruce Vilanch Talks Sex: Nyuk Nyuk …Yuk
Brent Corrigan Has Something to Say For Himself
Lesbians Will Kill Us All
Adventures in Bea-Bea Sitting (The Unabashed Queer)
UPDATE: Well hello, lawyer letter from Playgirl. In other news, Playgirl can afford a lawyer? Images removed.
The Homosexual Recruiter Association celebrates another success today now that former Menudo boy bander Angelo Garcia has done the yep-i'm-gay thing. And to celebrate, he's posing nude.