Bea Arthur Threatened to Hit Merv Griffin Because of His Question to Betty White

She appeared with her Golden Girls co-stars on a 1985 episode of his talk show.

In November 1985, Golden Girls had only been on air for two months, but it was already a hit. The four stars—Betty White, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty—were guests on The Merv Griffin Show to talk about their new series, but some of the host's questions didn't go over so well with one of the actors. A clip that recently circulated on X (formerly Twitter) shows that Arthur threatened to hit Merv Griffin live on air because of questions he asked both her and White.

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"Are you bringing up an age thing, Merv? Because if you are, I'm going to hit you. I really am going to hit you," Arthur tells the talk show host in the clip posted by user @mxnedits to the prompt "name a time when a celebrity gagged their interviewer." Griffin tries to explain himself, but she adds, "I heard how you were questioning Betty, and I really resent it." White was interviewed solo prior to Arthur joining her on stage; McClanahan and Getty came out out later.

A longer version of the interview is available on YouTube. In this video, White can be seen making an exaggerated pleased expression toward the audience as Arthur defends her. It also shows why Arthur decided to confront Griffin in the first place.

Griffin asks Arthur if she's been "picked up" recently, and she says that she was when she was in Toronto. Arthur then says, "You were asking Betty things like … about the age thing and how it changes one, right? I, frankly, don't see any difference at all." Griffin says, "In what?" and the Maude actor explains, "I mean, why would you bother asking me if I've been picked up recently. If I were 30 years younger, you wouldn't have bothered asking me that question." To this, Griffin says, "Oh, yes, I would've. I probably would have asked you if you had picked up anybody."

"So, there is a difference? There is a difference," Arthur responds.

The interview continues from there with Arthur making an outdated comment of her own. She says that she was picked up by an Indian man in Toronto and adds, "I'm not talking about American Indians. The fun ones."

Arthur's defense of White may come as a surprise to some Golden Girls fans since the two had a contentious relationship. Casting director Joel Thurm said on the podcast The Originals that he heard Arthur call White the c-word. Thurm also said that one of the reasons Arthur was upset with White was because she poked fun at Getty to the studio audience when Getty, who was showing early signs of dementia, forgot her lines.

White herself opened up about Arthur's view of her. "She was not that fond of me," White said, according to 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!"

They did get along sometimes, however. As reported by E! News, McClanahan told the TV Academy that while they were filming, Arthur "wouldn't go to lunch unless Betty would go with her."

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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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