Bea Arthur was apparently no fan of Betty White, despite the two of them starring on the long-running sitcom “The Golden Girls” together.
In the recently released memoir “Sex, Drugs & Pilot Season,” former casting agent Joel Thurm, 80, reveals it was because Arthur and Rue “Blanche Devereaux” McClanahan thought White’s behavior was “very unkind” to Estelle Getty, who played Sophia on the show.
“When Estelle would forget her lines, Betty would go out of character and keep the audience laughing by making a gesture with her thumb to her mouth and point to Estelle as if she had been drinking,” Thurm writes.
The gesture seemed particularly cruel as Getty was beginning to show signs of dementia and struggling to remember her lines, which forced her to rely on cue cards.
Thurm recalls that in 1999, he cast a Showtime series called “Beggars and Choosers,” in which Arthur was playing an exaggerated version of herself and says that, off-camera, she referred to White “as a c–t.”
Still, he notes, “Whatever disagreements these women had in private, they never interfered with the show itself.”
He also doesn’t believes that White “was intentionally making fun of Estelle but rather trying to keep the audience laughing between takes.”
Thurm also writes about his encounters with other Hollywood stars, including the dad from “The Brady Bunch” and the mom from “Ozzie and Harriet.”
The Brooklyn native produced the hugely successful 1976 TV movie “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.” Inspired by a real-life story of a boy born with a compromised immune system who was forced to live in a “plastic bubble,” it starred John Travolta — who was a pop-culture phenomenon at the time thanks to his role on the sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter.”
The movie also featured Robert Reed, aka Mike Brady, as Travolta’s father.
Thurm says Reed “turned out to be a royal pain in the ass” because he was miffed at not being the most important person on set.
“He was sulky, curt, and made it all too clear that this job was just a paycheck to him,” he writes, adding that Reed was irked at having to film around Travolta’s schedule.
Once, Reed stormed off set to his dressing room and Thurm followed to apologize.
“He was frosty, but things got warmer when I offered him a back rub,” Thurm, who is gay, recalls. “It graduated into more serious rubbing and the deed that should not have been done got done. I did leave him in a better mood, but Reed, who was professionally closeted, never looked me in the eye for the remaining few days of shooting and returned to being a pain in the ass.”
Reed died of AIDS in 1992 at the age of 59.
Thurm also recalls a sexualized encounter with his Hollywood crush Rock Hudson, after meeting the “Giant” star at a party in the early 1970s.
“His being gay was an open Hollywood secret,” he writes. “I noticed that Rock kept looking over at me, and I began to do the same to him … He made a ‘follow me’ motion with his head and I followed him up the stairs.”
But Thrum found himself overwhelmed by the opportunity of getting intimate with his boyhood idol.
“I was so anxious and nervous that my body below the waist would not cooperate,” he writes. “After all, he was ROCK HUDSON! Totally ashamed and embarrassed, I left the bathroom … I avoided being any place he could see me for the rest of the night.”
Years later, when Thrum was working at NBC as a casting director, he met Hudson for a meeting but the “Pillow Talk” star didn’t recognize him.
Thurm writes that he sometimes saw the Hollywood “casting couch” in action — like the time an actress offered him and two producers fellatio (which was politely declined).
“When certain agents and casting directors bragged to me about the actors with whom they’d slept in exchange for preferential treatment, I was appalled, and would never deal with them professionally again,” he writes.
Thurm says one offender in his “rogues’ gallery” was the late J. Michael Bloom, who represented the early careers of several big stars, including Tom Hanks.
He says Bloom bragged about seducing young actors by having meetings set up at his Hollywood Hills home where he would ask the aspiring thespians to take their shirts off so he could evaluate their bodies.
Another unnamed powerful agent would throw big parties with a few of his friends and lots of handsome young men.
“Should one of these young men pass out from booze and/or drugs, this guy would invite his friends to have their ways with the passed out young man,” Thurm claims.
He also cast the 1980 parody film “Airplane,” which included a wildly politically incorrect but hilarious scene between two black men and Barbara Billingsley from “Leave It to Beaver” fame, playing a “jive-talking” old lady.
Thrum says he tried to get Harriet Nelson, co-star of the 1950s sitcom “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” Her son David Nelson desperately tried to get his mom to accept the role — but she couldn’t bring herself to say the scripted word “muthaf–ka.”
The role went to Billingsley, who said later that the cameo had done as much for her career if not more than “Beaver” ever had. The “muthaf–ka” line, meanwhile, never made the final cut.