The moment we have been waiting for over 3 years has finally happened. Tonight Bea Arthur’s Intimate Portrait finally premiered on Lifetime Television. And to the fan’s welcome, the show was true and full of Bea as a person and entertainer.
Around August of last year, I received a phone call from a photography researcher from Lee Grant Productions. She informed me that they were putting together an Intimate Portrait for Bea Arthur. She had seen some of the images on my site and asked if I could scan them and send them to her for the Intimate Portrait along with the copyright information. I was ecstatic to help with this process for two reasons… to get this show into gear and to be a part of the process. She informed me of who they already interviewed for the show and that everyone was really excited about the project. She then kept me up to date on when the Intimate Portrait was to be aired, which I posted on this site. At first, the air date was set right before Thanksgiving, but for some unknown reasons was changed to January 20th, 2003. We all sat patiently for that day… today!
Lee Grant Entertainment and Lifetime TV did a fantastic job in encapsulating Bea’s extraordinary life into a one hour show. The show could have well been a two-hour program, for they had to skip over such parts of Bea’s career such as Lovers and Other Strangers, and ran right over her 1983 sitcom, “Amanda’s”. However, for the first time in years has a program taught me something new about Bea, given the previous amount of research that I have already done on her. Bea’s Intimate Portrait delivered Bea justice after waiting for her dream of returning to Broadway finish.
I was amazed at the number of photos they shown of Bea as a child and young adult, previously almost impossible to obtain. They allowed the private Bea Arthur to expose herself in that of the true person she is… still private. Lucky for the world, she let us in for a moment!
The Intimate Portrait continued with revealing information about her two sons, whom I’ve only seen young photos of before… now shown as they are today and their feelings toward their mom and her career. I did find it interesting that Intimate Portrait introduced them as her sons, rather than her adopted sons. There were a couple of other questionable facts that might have been over sighted such as when they talked about Mame in 1976, when in fact it came out in 1974. Minor details that do not affect the overall credibility of the show.
We were also introduced to even more obscure people to us that were close to Bea such as her first husband, her mom and dad, and a brief mention of her sister. More information was provided, as well as, photographs of Bea’s mom and the illness affecting her. We also found out about a blood disease that Bea faced during her teenage years that she fortunately overcame.
As for the rest of the Intimate Portrait, any fan of Bea’s that hasn’t taken the time to research her was soon caught up in the greatest detail. I am so happy that Bea did wait this long to do this Intimate Portrait. This allowed her to put the final touches on her career with her one-woman show to where she can comfortably sit back and say that she has truly enjoyed her life.
The show was packed with a wide variety of a wide range of Bea’s friends who all had an impact on Bea, but more so, they receive usually indescribable influence from Bea on their lives. Comments on Bea include Angela Lansbury, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, Estelle Getty, Norman Lear, Bill Macy, Conrad Bain.
I thank Lee Grant and other friends for talking Bea into doing this show. Bea’s fans welcome this television event with hands in the air. This was a definite present to all of us who thought that her show was her last gift to us… which was extraordinary in itself. What will Bea do now… surely she’s not stopping now… right?
As an added bonus, it was really great to be credited with helping in this brilliant production… so this is where I indulge in delusions of grandeur… I’ve always wanted to be on the same screen as Bea Arthur, Billy Goldenburg, and Norman Lear!
* all images from Lee Grant Entertainment and Lifetime TV’s Intimate Portrait – Bea Arthur