We have had many conversations, rather, I have and you have read about how awesomely amazing the Golden Girls truly were! Both on screen and off, we have a certain love affair with them! We have talked about how no one else in this world could possibly do the job that they have done as Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia and Rose. Bea, Rue, Estelle and Betty are priceless and irreplaceable, and no one could ever hold a candle to what they did to bring the Golden Girls to life!
Three out of four of our girls started with show business at such young ages. Coming from all walks of life and all walks of fame and stardom, from Broadway to movies, to sitcoms and talk shows and more. But our beloved Estelle Getty, try as she might and she did, had a harder time breaking into the business and didn’t enjoy her show time career till later in life. She was 62 years of age when she finally landed the role of her lifetime as Sophia Petrillo. Although she did perform in Yiddish theater and did have a part on Broadway before the GG’s!
And did she do a good job or what??? She had millions of viewers every week believing she was a woman in her 80’s! She had millions of people everywhere truly believing that she was spunky and sassy and not afraid to put a dangerous mobster in his place if need be! In my opinion, she was pure perfection!
But on the inside, Estelle, not Sophia, felt a little differently about things! Estelle didn’t have the carefree “living for the day” feelings that Sophia did. In fact, Estelle Getty feared death and hated the idea of doing scenes where death or even talk of death was involved! I read once in an article that Estelle did not like doing scenes that dealt with death because she feared that it would “jinx” life or cause ill-fated things to happen. Upon her own death, a friend and caregiver wrote this about Estelle on Estellegetty.com “’Although it was a trip she never wanted to take, she went gracefully…’”
Fearing death and portraying the elder of the house hold must have been pretty difficult for Estelle. There were many, many times when the girls dealt with the death of a loved one, or talked about death or planned a funeral! In one episode, Rose decides to give Miles a birthday gift of “sexy” pictures of her, at the end of the episode Sophia can be seen posing for the photographer as well stating that she wants to get some good pictures for the obits. During several episodes, Sophia deals the death of loved ones from her son Phil to her very best friend Esther. And of course there were the episodes where Sophia herself had near death experiences or came close to dying; the time she thought for sure she was having a heart attack when in reality she was just suffering from over eating and heart burn, the time that Rose saved her from choking to death. During that experience, Sophia had actually visited Heaven and was able to talk to her departed husband Sal. Just to name a few…but Estelle/Sophia always made light of the topic and even turned those instances into humorous scenes, all the while laughing in the face of death.
Fearing death was not the only “hang-up” that Estelle had. Can you believe the talented and beloved Estelle Getty had stage fright? As amazing as Sophia was on the Golden Girls, I can’t imagine Estelle not being the opinionated, free thinking, free speaking person she portrayed. Estelle once said this about herself: “Every Friday night, when it was over I would say, ‘that wasn’t so bad’ and then the next Friday would come along and I’d be struck with terror. I fight everything.”
In fact, Estelle spent every Friday for 26 weeks of the show’s taping suffering from stage fright. She was her toughest critic and always wanted to do “it” right! She also delivered her lines so well that no one would have ever guessed that she had to read the teleprompter to deliver them! However, needing cues and the use of the teleprompter made her feel slightly inferior to the other more seasoned actresses she performed with.
Having watched all seven seasons of the Golden Girls as much as I have, I am was still amazed to learn this about Estelle! To me, she was never anything less than golden!