Friday, July 25, 2008

In Memoriam

"Picture it. Sicily..."

And thus would begun another hilarious story from the colorful life of Sophia Petrillo on the hit NBC sitcom The Golden Girls. For seven years, viewers tuned in for the amusing hijinks in the unlikely sitcom about four older women living together in Miami. The scene-stealer from seasoned veterans Bea Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan would prove to be Estelle Getty's performance as Sophia, the Sicilian mother of divorcee Dorothy Zbornak. Estelle became that "overnight sensation" late in life. It wasn't until the late 70s she began to really get a foot hold in off and off-off Broadway theatre, supporting avant-garde artists and finding her way into show business after being a wife and mother for many years. It was Estelle who insisted Harvey Fierstein write the third act of Torch Song Trilogy for the Mother - and that she should play it. She would transfer with the play to Broadway, where it won several Tonys, though her name was conspicuously absent from the ballot. Shortly afterward, she would land The Golden Girls and would become a household name, winning the Emmy and Golden Globe along the way. (Estelle also reprised the role on Empty Nest, Nurses and The Golden Palace). Estelle's health declined severely in recent years as she suffered Lewy Body Syndrome, a disease that resembles both Parkinson's and Alzheimers. Today would have been her 85th birthday.

Harvey Fierstein pays tribute to his beloved co-star and friend in the NY Post.

But sadly it doesn't stop there. This week, it feels that every time you turn around someone else has left us. Larry Haines, a noted stage (Promises, Promises & A Thousand Clowns) and TV (Another World) actor, died late last week at the age of 89. Tony nominee and star of Yiddish theatre, Bruce Adler, passed away this morning of liver cancer at the age of 63. Adler was Ali Hakim in the 1979 revival of Oklahoma! and was Bela Zangler in the original Broadway production of Crazy For You (a role he recreated on the Great Performances telecast of the PaperMill Playhouse production in 1999). Randy Pausch, the college professor dying of terminal pancreatic cancer who inspired the nation with The Last Lecture lost his battle with the disease this morning. He was 47.

In times of sorrow, it is best to find refuge in humor. Here is a collection of great moments from The Golden Girls; also a testament to Estelle Getty's gift as an actress and comedienne.

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