Los Angeles pet lovers.
By Lori Golden
Unlike her TV personas we have come to know and love, (Maude and Dorothy from The Golden Girls,) if quoted exactly, Bea Arthur would be beeped by the censors of this publication. THAT’S how outraged she becomes just talking about certain animal issues.
“I’ve always been very intolerant of animal abuse,” says Bea. “I don’t know exactly when I started being so aware- it was at a very early age. I work very heavily with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I really wonder about my sanity sometimes, because I will never go to Spain… I will never give them a f--king nickel because of the bullfights. To me it’s like abusing a child.”
Although she didn’t have animals as a child, she got her first dog when she moved to New York in 1947, “a beautiful little Spitz named Muffin. I treated her like a baby. She WAS my baby.” From then on she always had dogs.
“My very favorite dogs in the whole world are the German Shepherds. I’ve always had shepherds from the moment I was able to have them. I am also a great believer in having two dogs. Particularly if you’re an actor and you’re away for a long period of time, they have somebody to play with.”
“But here in LA I live in an area with a lot of acreage. These poor babies were always plagued by fleas and ticks to the point where they would actually pull their hair out. They became very susceptible… their skin was raw, it was so awful. So when my last Shepherd died I decided that, much as I love them, I would not get a long hair dog. I would only get a short hair dog. So I got my first Doberman and I fell in love.”
These days Bea shares her home on 3 ½ acres with her Dobermans Emma and Albert, named for Albert Finney after seeing him on the London stage in Art. “My kids are grown and gone and the dogs are my new ones. These darlings have never even been on a leash. They just run around here and have a wonderful time. When I’m here I spend a lot of quality time with them. And when I’m away, I’m on tour now, I have a friend staying here because I would never dream of sending them to a boarding facility. They’re enormous. Albert is 105 pounds and Emma is 75. And they just love it here.”
Bea Arthur’s tour of her one-woman show with her friend, composer Billy Goldenberg at the piano, is described as a “warm and funny musical evening as she shares stories and songs from her triumphs and tribulations over the course of her career.”
“It’s so wonderful and rewarding doing my one-woman show,” Bea says. “It’s still a work in progress. We’ll see what happens.”
Although she is taking her show around the country, people in LA will have a rare opportunity to spend “An Evening with Bea Arthur” at a special one-night only show on August 30th. When her friend Bill Dyer, who is very involved with animal causes asked months ago if she would do an evening to benefit In Defense of Animals, she immediately said yes. (See the write-up on p.32 and ad on p.35 for ticket information.)
That’s not surprising when you consider some of the campaigns Bea has been involved with. Such as getting the Smithsonian Institute to cancel an event that was to feature Foie Gras… because of the extreme cruelty involved in its production. Foie Gras is a paté made from the livers of cruelly force-fed ducks and geese, in which feeding pipes are shoved down their throats until their livers expand to 12 times their normal size. “It’s obscene,” Bea says. “In my mind Foie Gras ranks right up there with bullfighting as state-of-the-art animal torture.”
When I confessed to Bea that I wasn’t quite sure what Foie Gras was, she was so surprised that 20-minutes later she said to me, “Lori, I didn’t know that you didn’t know about Foie Gras. If I hadn’t voiced an opinion you wouldn’t have known about it? My God. In other words I did something. I accomplished something.”
Bea appreciates being associated with PETA because they do undercover work to find out what is happening. “I will automatically do anything they ask me to do. They always come to me whether it’s for writing a letter or calling a congressperson. I’m on call for them. If there is anything that they feel is wrong, I immediately feel the same way because I know they’ve done their homework.”
But she does admit that PETA goes a little overboard with some things. “I don’t agree with throwing paint on fur coats. I hate that in them, and I have voiced this to them. I really feel like Martin Luther King- who said let’s not do it in a militant way. You can’t get violent. You have to appeal to people’s reason.”
Bea aligns herself with PETA on issues that strike a chord with her. She even appeared as a witness for PETA on one of the first Judge Judy shows. “There was some horrendous human being who was an animal trainer. I love that expression, an animal trainer. We had it on film where he was beating the sh*t out of these beautiful tigers and lions and we were trying to put him out of business. I don’t think Judy had any idea- she ended up giving him a warning and telling us that he was going to try. It was something that was so appalling to us, it’s like that guy with the orangutans. She just had no idea.”
“But then, at one time I used to wear fur. It never entered my mind how fur got to be fur. I just thought you go to the store and you get a fur coat. It wasn’t until later that I said, I can’t do this. This is obscene.”
She is also opposed to fake fur, “because I find that that, in itself, glorifies the idea of dead animals, whether they’re real or not. I absolutely will not wear a faux fur. That’s not cloth. It’s a dead animal whether it’s real or not.”
Bea also admits she is not a vegetarian. “So maybe I’m a complete phony. I don’t know. I don’t mind eating animals; all I object to is the inhumane treatment. But eating veal is immoral. I think it’s important that people know that I’m not a vegetarian. I don’t think it’s something that I should be ashamed of.”
Bea’s advice for people who want to do something for animals is to “get involved at ground level. Start by neutering and spaying animals. You begin by just being aware and just do what you can. Just pick up the goddamn newspaper everyday and read something and find out what’s happening. And do something about it. Or try to do something about it.”
“Let’s put an end to greyhound racing. I think that is one of the most obscene things in the world. Greyhound racing must be abolished! That is one of the most savagely barbaric things. Let people know about that. I don’t think people know that Pepsi Cola advertises for Bull Fighting in Spain. I don’t think people know that Proctor and Gamble use animals for live experiments. I don’t know where to begin because it’s never ending. Cock fighting. I’m getting very upset. I get very emotional.”
Bea Arthur also wrote a letter to educate woman about Premarin, an estrogen replacement drug, which appears on the internet at www.Menopauseonline.com. She wrote, “what I did not know is that Premarin is made from the urine of pregnant mares. When I learned this, I was horrified to think of what I had been swallowing every day. I was even more shocked to learn that the horses used to produce the urine suffer terribly. Tens of thousands of them are confined to barns in the U.S. and Canada. For most of their 11-month pregnancies, they are tied in stalls and fitted with rubber urine collection devices. Their only "exercise" is a step or two forward and back — no leg-stretching runs or rolls on the ground. Water is restricted to keep the urine concentrated, so the mares are constantly thirsty.
Perhaps saddest of all are the "by-products" of the urine collection industry — the mares’ babies. They aren’t needed to make Premarin, so they are sold at auction. Most are just three or four months old. But they won’t end up in family stables. The foals will be sent to stockyards, fattened up, and slaughtered for consumption in Europe.”
You might think that Bea Arthur sounds a lot like her once TV alter ego Maude Findlay.
“When I was doing MAUDE, here I was this great political activist. That wasn’t me at all. If ever I went around with petitions to be signed, it would be to end this terrible abuse. I was not that politically involved. I was not a militant feminist at the time that the show came out. It was a hell of a great part!”
That was then and this is now. These days she sounds more and more like Maude. But you can judge for yourself and spend “An Evening With Bea Arthur” on August 30th at the Wadsworth Theater in West LA. No doubt she’ll be speaking out “in defense of animals.”
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