It is with great sadness that I write this post today as one of my favorite actresses in the entire world, Estelle Getty, passed away early today at the age of 84.
Obviously, my love of “The Golden Girls” goes beyond just getting a laugh or two from the classic 1980s sitcom. I adore the show and the four women who made it so completely amazing. I was a kid when the show first came on and I can still remember watching first-run episodes on television. As it came into syndication in the ’90s, my after-school specials usually involved dramatics from Blanche or witty barbs from Sophia. As an adult, I appreciate the show’s staying power, the relevance of its jokes and situations more than 20 years later, and the ahead-of-its-time storylines that not only made it entertaining, but made it a cultural touchstone.
And as a devotee, I knew the girls were getting older and the day would come that one of them would die, and y’all, I’ve dreaded this day like I dread the day a relative dies. Sure, I don’t know them personally, and yes, it’s “just a TV show,” but it’s so much more to me.
But enough about my feelings, let’s talk about Estelle “Sophia Petrillo” Getty.
Born Estelle Scher in New York in 1923, the diminutive actress didn’t begin her acting career in earnest until the late ’70s/early ’80s when she played the meddling mother in Harvey Fierstein’s “Torch Song Trilogy” on Broadway. Shortly after that, she landed the role of Sophia on “The Golden Girls.”
During her time on the show, Getty earned numerous awards including a Golden Globe in 1986 and an Emmy in 1988. This was an especially amazing feat since Getty suffered from severe stage fright (which was only intensified by working with veteran actresses Bea Arthur, Betty White and Rue McClanahan). Getty retired in 2000 due to health concerns, as she suffered from advanced dementia.
I could go on all day about how amazing she was, but I think I’ll leave you with some of my favorite Sophia clips. RIP Estelle Getty, we love you.