The LGBT community has another reason to thank Bea Arthur for being a friend: Yesterday, the Ali Forney Center, a New York safe shelter for homeless gay youths, announced that the late, great Golden Girl left $300,000 to them in her will.
The Ali Forney Center’s executive director, Carl Siciliano, said in a statement, “We are overwhelmed with gratitude that Bea saw that LGBT youth deserve as much love and support as any other young person, and that she placed so much value in the work we do to protect them, and to help them rebuild their lives.”
The center plans to purchase a new building to house 12 additional youths with the funds bequeathed by Bea Arthur, and name it in her honor.
“We work with hundreds of young people who are rejected by their families because of who they are,” Siciliano said.
In fact, the center works with over 1,000 young people a year, offering emergency and transitional housing in seven locations, as well as drop-in services that include clothing, food, HIV testing, medical and mental health treatment, and educational assistance.
While our community is certainly touched by Bea Arthur’s generosity, we are not surprised. She was a long-time champion of LGBT rights, and just an all-around classy broad.
In her final interview, not long before she passed away, she said to her assistant, “I have a reason to be here; it’s not just fun. I have something to give. I have something to give.”
And she did. From coaxing the blues right out of the horn in the original Broadway production of Mame, to breaking ground as an outspoken liberal feminist in Maude, to wearing the crown as queen of the caustic quip in Golden Girls, Bea Arthur gave us a million reasons to smile.
Here she is with Angela Lansbury, performing the iconic number, “Bosom Buddies,” from Mame.
No conversation about her would be complete without mentioning the second season Golden Girls episode “Isn’t It Romantic?”, in which Dorothy’s lesbian friend Jean comes to visit after her wife of eight years dies. In this clip, Dorothy tells Sophia and Blanche that Jean is in love with Rose.
In this clip, Dorothy and Rose react.
I was eight years old when “Isn’t It Romantic” aired; it was my first exposure to the idea of lesbianism, and the Golden Girls‘ casual acceptance is something I came back to again and again as I was working out my sexuality.
In her final interview, Bea Arthur said to her assistant, “I’m not talking too much about myself, am I?”
Oh, Bea Arthur. There is no such thing as talking to much about you!
(Thanks to Velvet Park for the tip about the Ali Forney center!)