This afternoon Father Tony accompanied me to a memorial honoring Bea Arthur at Broadway’s Majestic Theater, one of the few houses I’d never been in as Phantom Of The Opera has been playing there for roughly 87 years. As one would expect and demand, it was a star-studded affair featuring Broadway royalty such as event emcee Angela Lansbury, Chita Rivera, Tyne Daly, Billy Goldenberg, and Zoe Caldwell. Rosie O’Donnell and her former talk show band leader John McDaniel performed the theme from Maude, Rue McClanahan shared a (very) raunchy story, Adrienne Barbeau brought the house to tears with her tribute, and one of my personal heroes, Norman Lear himself, shared his history with Bea Arthur going back to All In The Family.
Peppered in between were more blue-tinged anecdotes from writers and producers (many of which involved Bea’s legendary love of a drink), NYC drag star Coco Peru performed a bit from Bea’s one-woman Broadway show, and we were treated to numerous video clips and photo montages from Bea’s 60+ year career. After the memorial we retired to an after-party/wake at Time Square’s Cafe Josephine where Tony and I were able to actually introduce ourselves to some of the boldface names mentioned above. We attended both events as the guests of the Ali Forney Center, whose executive director Carl Siciliano riveted the Majestic audience with his recounting of Bea Arthur’s tireless support for homeless LGBT youth. The Ali Forney Center will be honoring Bea by naming one of their residences for her. It was a great afternoon for a great lady. Father Tony has more photos, his recapping of the event is here.