‘Maude’ actress Adrienne Barbeau recalls bonding with Bea Arthur: ‘I learned so much about comedy from her’
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When it comes to her TV mom Bea Arthur, Adrienne Barbeau says she will always be thankful for having been her friend.
The two women starred in the groundbreaking Norman Lear sitcom “Maude,” which focused on Maude Findlay (Arthur), a liberal, independent woman who wasn’t shy about her political values. It aired from 1972 until 1978.
“I don’t want to say she was like a surrogate mom, because we were more like close friends,” Barbeau, now 74, recently told Closer Weekly. “She made the best chicken salad you could imagine! She was really a homebody. What she cared about most were her children and her dogs and being at home.”
Carol (Adrienne Barbeau) joins Maude (Beatrice Arthur), who has launched a "Henry Fonda for President" campaign, in a rousing song, along with Vivian (Rue McClanahan) and Mrs. Naugatuck (Hermione Baddeley) in an episode of CBS' "Maude." — Getty
Arthur passed away in 2009 at age 86 from cancer.
“Oh, I loved Bea,” said Barbeau. “I’d never done TV, so I took for granted how professional and giving she was. She’d be the first one to say, ‘I think this joke might be finner if Conrad [Vain] said it.’ It was all about what made the show the best. And there are still times when I hear Bea’s delivery coming out of my mouth. I learned so much about comedy from her.”
Barbeau said she also has fond memories of another star — Burt Reynolds.
“I had a relationship with him [in the mid-‘70s] and he directed me onstage in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ before we did ‘Cannonball Run’ [in 1981],” she told the outlet. “It was not my favorite experience, but it didn’t have to do with Burt. I was intent on creating a character — everybody else was just having a good time!”
Burt Reynolds as Bo 'Bandit' Darville, in 'Smokey And The Bandit', 1977. (Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Barbeau ultimately found love with filmmaker John Carpenter. The couple were married from 1979 and welcomed a son named Cody in 1984 before calling it quits that same year.
“I met John on a TV film, so we worked together before we got romantically involved,” Barbeau told the magazine. “We did four films, though most people don’t realize I was the voice of the computer in [1982’s] ‘The Thing.’ We have a son together, and they just finished an international tour of John’s music. It was such a joy for me to watch [John and Cody] work together.”
“My career has always taken second place to being a mom,” she added. “When I had Cody, I made a deliberate decision that there were certain jobs I could not take.”
In 1992, Barbeau married playwright Billy Van Zandt. The couple share twin sons William and Walker. Barbeau and Van Zandt divorced last year, shared the outlet.
These days, Barbeau is keeping busy pursuing her passion for performing. She just completed shooting several films and is eager to see what the future holds for her.
“I’ve come to a point where I’m very happy,” said Barbeau. “I spent a lot of time in therapy. You get to understand your part in whatever’s going on in your life, why those patterns are repeating, and then begin to change them… I have two new films at festivals, and I did a wonderful guest role on a Netflix series with RuPaul called ‘AJ and the Queen.’ I just keep on keepin’ on!”
Bill Macy, Bea Arthur and Adrienne Barbeau at the opening night of "Bermuda Avenue Triangle" in West Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
“Since I can remember, my mother was an actress,” he explained at the time. “I literally went – when I was 3 years old – on the road with her. She was opening ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ so I had to go with her. I spent a lot of time in her dressing room. There was a speaker system and you could listen to the entire play while you’re in that dressing room. So I knew her plays, front to back. Just every part of them.”
According to Saks, life at home was normal, one that involved doing chores. But there were perks to being Arthur’s son. Like the time he was cast as a cop on an episode of “The Golden Girls.” But Saks is aware there have been some misconceptions about Arthur’s relationship with her castmates, specifically Betty White, who played naive Rose Nylund from St. Olaf.
Saks also clarified Arthur later wanted out of “The Golden Girls” because she was ready to pursue new projects and ideas.
Bea Arthur and family pose for a portrait at her California ranch in 1972. (Photo by Martin Mills/Getty Images)
“I think she got tired of it,” Saks admitted about the hit series. “She just thought it was time to leave the show. She wanted to leave a year before, but the others asked her to stay for a final year and she did. And then, of course, they did ‘The Golden Palace’ without mom on it. She came and did one episode, though. [But] I don’t think she really wanted to do that. But she did. Her logic was also that these shows ran their course. Something suffers, whether it’s the production, the writing. It loses its magic.”
But one thing Arthur never got tired of was performing on the stage. The New York Times reported before Arthur skyrocketed to fame on television, she worked regularly off-Broadway and sang in nightclubs. It was Lear who persuaded Arthur to appear on a guest spot of “All in the Family” back in 1971 as Findlay, a character created just for her. Her appearance was a hit with viewers and almost immediately CBS ordered up a spinoff titled “Maude.”
Bea Arthur in 1975. (AP Photo/File)
“What comes to mind is just how beloved she was to so many people,” said Saks. “Even when I was a young kid, people were always coming up to my mom on the street. My whole life I saw the world tell her how much they loved her. It’s definitely a nice feeling. Some of the fans know more about my mom’s career than I do at times!”
Arthur spent her later years embarking on a one-woman show, one of her proudest projects.
“She just wanted to sing a lot of songs,” chuckled Saks.