And Then There Were Two Golden Girls

Bea Arthur has died at the age of 86, and the question is not “how many people grew up with her?” but “how many people didn’t grow up with Bea Arthur?” Between playings of the Fiddler On the Roof original Broadway cast album (her part as Yenta the Matchmaker was originally supposed to be bigger, but she never got a song of her own; still, her speaking voice rings out memorably in her joke in the “Tradition” number), her duet with Angela Lansbury in Mame (which she reprised in the awful movie version with Lucille Ball) new episodes of The Golden Girls and reruns of Maude, there was hardly a time when I wasn’t hearing Arthur’s memorable voice. She was one of television’s great vocal icons, a speaking voice so distinctive that it’s impossible to quote one of her characters’ lines without falling into a Bea Arthur impression.