Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thank you for being a friend, Estelle Getty!

Ok, so if you're not a "Golden Girls" fan, you should probably not bother to read the blog today... You should probably also throw yourself off a cliff into a bubbling volcano!!! Not like "The Golden Girls"!?! C'mon! Everyone loves "The Golden Girls"!!!

Today would have been Estelle Getty's 87th birthday. She unfortunately died on July 22nd 2008, just 3 days shy of her 85th birthday, making her the first of "The Golden Girls" to pass.

For you historians out there, two years ago today in memoriam of Estelle Lifetime ran an 8-hour marathon on what would have been her 85th birthday. Fans voted online for their favorite "Sophia" episodes. "Old Friends," the episode in which Sophia befriends an elderly man on the boardwalk with Alzheimer's, came out as the fan favorite. Sort of ironic, isn't it? She actually passed away from Lewy body dementia, but had been misdiagnosed with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's for years.

Most of us can quote the wisecracks of Sophia Petrillo in our sleep. But in honor of her birthday, I thought I'd share some other cool facts about Estelle Getty... There are many...

1.) Being a childhood fan of vaudeville, Estelle Getty began as a stand-up comedienne on the Catskills "borscht belt" circuit in upstate New York in the 40s. However, at the time, it was virtually unheard of for a woman to be a stand-up, so she gave it up to become a secretary and part-time actress. Although she wasn't exactly successful at it, she was one of the first female stand-ups ever.

2.) After World War II, she gave up professional acting in order to marry New York businessman, Arthur Gettleman (thus giving her the stage name, Getty... her maiden name is actually Scher), and raised 2 boys, Carl and Barry. She continued to work as a secretary and occasionally performed in community productions.

3.) She befriended playwright and actor, Harvey Fierstein, who wrote the part of the mother in "Torch Song Trilogy" specifically for Estelle. After her children were grown, she took on the role and won The Helen Hayes Award in 1982 for her performance.

4.) While performing in "Torch Song" on Broadway, she constantly feared that the show would close and she'd never find work again. So, she continued spending her days as a secretary right up until the show went out on tour.

5.) Estelle auditioned for the part of Sophia Petrillo while on tour in L.A. with "Torch Song Trilogy" and became the first of "The Golden Girls" to be cast.

6.) Sophia had originally been written in one episode; however, producers liked her so much that they almost immediately re-designed the cast in order to make room for her. In other words, they replaced Coco, the gay chef, with Sophia believing that the show only had room for one wise-ass.

7.) Estelle was 14 months younger than her TV daughter, Bea Arthur. She was often mistakenly referred to as the youngest Golden Girl, but the youngest was actually Rue McClanahan.

8.) Estelle won the 1988 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress.

9.) After family and friends could no longer care for him, Estelle took in her 29-year-old nephew, Steven Scher, who was dying from AIDS and cared for him until his death in 1992, the same year "The Golden Girls" went off the air.

10.) After winning both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for "The Golden Girls," Estelle won a Worst Supporting Actress Razzie Award for Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot!, a film in which she played Sylvester Stallone's mother, in 1993.

And yes, that is a hand-signed photo; and yes, it is mine.

I, also, own this hat that she wore on "The Golden Girls"...

I wore it around the house the day she died.

11.) Estelle played Sophia Petrillo on 5 different sitcoms, "The Golden Girls, Empty Nest, Nurses, Blossom and The Golden Palace."

12.) Estelle only stood 4'10 1/2" inches tall!

Ok, now let's enjoy some classic Estelle clips...

R.I.P., My Golden Friend. And Happy Birthday.

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