Bea Arthur Called Betty White a Vulgar Name for Being "Very Unkind," New Book Claims

She reportedly didn't like White's behavior toward one of their Golden Girls co-star.

They played buddies and roommates on Golden Girls, but in real life, Bea Arthur and Betty White weren't exactly thanking each other for being a friend. It's been reported over the years that there was tension between the two when they worked together, and a just-released book makes a new claim about why. Apparently, Arthur didn't approve how White treated one of their co-stars in front of the Golden Girls studio audience and called her a vulgar name because of it.

Read on to find out more about White and Arthur's strained relationship and to see what the actors themselves shared about their time on the show.

READ THIS NEXT: Jimmie Walker Said He Never Spoke to These Good Times Co-Stars.

White reportedly made fun of Estelle Getty.

According to the book Sex, Drugs & Pilot Season: Confessions of a Casting Director by Joel Thurm (via Page Six), White, who played Rose, sometimes poked fun at Estelle Getty when the show was filming in front of a studio audience. Getty played Sophia, the mother of Arthur's character, Dorothy.

"When Estelle would forget her lines, Betty would go out of character and keep the audience laughing by making a gesture with her thumb to her mouth and point to Estelle as if she had been drinking," Thurm writes.

Arthur wasn't happy about this.

Estelle Getty, Betty White, and Bea Arthur at the Night of 100 Stars Gala in 1990
Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Thurm writes that Getty was showing early signs of dementia at the time and struggling to remember her lines. According to him, neither Arthur nor Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche, appreciated White making Getty the butt of her jokes.

But, Thurm also clarifies that he doesn't believe White, who died in 2021, "was intentionally making fun of Estelle but rather trying to keep the audience laughing between takes."

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Arthur reportedly called White a vulgar name.

Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Betty White at the 2008 TV Land Awards
Joe Seer / Shutterstock

Thurm writes that in 1999—seven years after Golden Girls ended—he was working on the show Beggars and Choosers with Arthur and heard her call White the c-word.

The casting director first shared the story on the podcast The Originals in 2022. "Literally Bea Arthur, who I cast in something else later on, just said, 'Oh, she's a [expletive] [c-word] … I heard that with my own ears," Thurm said (via TMZ). He also said that McClanahan called White the same word.

Despite their personal issues, the show obviously was a hit and is now considered a classic.

"Whatever disagreements these women had in private, they never interfered with the show itself," Thurm writes in his book.

White knew Arthur didn't like her.

Betty White at the premiere of "The Lorax" in 2012
Phil Stafford / Shutterstock

At a Times Talk in 2011, White said that she knew Arthur, who had died two years earlier, didn't always like her.

"She was not that fond of me," White said, as reported by the Village Voice. "She found me a pain in the neck sometimes. It was my positive attitude—and that made Bea mad sometimes. Sometimes if I was happy, she'd be furious!"

Also in 2011, White told Joy Behar in an interview, "I don't know what I ever did, but she was not that thrilled with me. But I loved Bea and I admired her."

They weren't always at odds, however.

Bea Arthur at the GLAAD Media Awards in 2002
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

As reported by E! News, both White and McClanahan have said that Arthur always waited to have lunch with White when they were working together.

Arthur's son, Matthew Saks, told Closer in 2017, "It would make my mom unhappy that in-between takes Betty would go and talk to the audience. It wasn't jealousy. It was a focus thing." Saks continued, "My mom unknowingly carried the attitude that it was fun to have somebody to be angry at. It was almost like Betty became her nemesis, someone she could always roll her eyes about at work."

As for Arthur herself, she told E! News of her Golden Girls co-stars, "It was a brilliant working relationship, everybody. There wasn't a weak link in the whole thing."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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