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What ‘Bea Arthur Naked’ says about your deep-seated Freudian longings

By Earl Yazel
Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05 EDT
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"Bea Arthur Naked" by the artist John Currin
 
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Apparently, a painting of a topless Beatrice “Bea” Arthur (famed for her roles in American television’s The Golden Girls, Maude, and the major female supporting role in Broadway and filmdom’s musical Mame) has been sold at Christie’s at an auction in NYC for almost two million dollars.

Its title? Bea Arthur Naked.  Well, what else?

The painting seems to have been a contrivance of the painter John Currin, meaning that the portrait was (allegedly) not done from a live sitting with the late Ms. Arthur, herself, nude or not. According to The Wall Street Journal, the painting fetched 1.9 million dollars.

Oh, sure, I know you more piggish males out there thought that such a painting selling for so very much, entirely from the mind of the artist (plus a clothed photo of his subject that was utilized), and of one of television’s “classic era” talents would most undoubtedly be of Suzanne Pleshette of The Bob Newhart Show fame and Hitchcock’s The Birds, of course. Sure, sure, sure, sure.

Typical. Really typical.

You naively assumed that a painting of this nature selling for such an amount would surely be, at least, of the classic science fiction movie Forbidden Planet‘s Anne Francis, who has only just passed away in January, 2011. (January 2nd, to be precise.) Such a painting, called Nude Anne Francis (well, what else?) would be an effort of respect to Ms. Francis, just as the painting of Bea Arthur, which sold at Christie’s for 1.9 million bucks, is undoubtedly a great homage to Ms. Arthur’s memory.

Well, no naked-boobie Anne Francis for you will show up in the Associated Press as major art news. No such luck, you stupid, trusting bastards. Guess you’re stuck at some geek’s fan site, or an obscure bin at a Comic Con, devoid of the world’s artistic respect for your considered tastes.

Or, maybe, you thought you’d see a very pricey nude painting of the lovely Nancy Kwan. Or Eva Marie Saint. How about her, hm? Huh?

Or Misa Uehara from Akira Kurosawa’s immortal action film The Hidden Fortress, long thought to be a key inspiration for the George Lucas creation of Star Wars? Have we no regard for Ms. Uehara, then?

Dummies. Don’t you see? Don’t you know anything about Art?

This painting of Bea Arthur and her imaginary naked chest is an honest coping with — an admission of — the hidden need we have, or have had, to see an imaginary Bea Arthur’s nude chest. Don’t say it’s disrespectful to her family or her memory, Philistines. It’s Symbolism. “Duh!” To reiterate the same joke that’s been made, very probably, fifteen times by television’s standup gagsters by now: Don’t say you haven’t gone there, America.

You’re not seeing the artistic integrity of this piece. You lowbrow.

Or, perhaps you’re into guys. Or, you are into guys and you like the Bea Arthur nude painting very much because she was such a great user of the putdown line, a true artiste in what is called the “slow burn” and she was also very “campy” for you… so maybe you love the idea of her painted with a bare chest, as a direct result of that.

However, if we are being honest, if anyone is being honest, Bea Arthur represents the true Mother of Us All, here in the United States. Ergo, we need to see this painting. And someone needs to pay a great amount of money for it, too. It represents some hidden longing. Especially if it’s maybe slightly annoying.

And, so, we should all wish to actually see a true, naked representation of America’s Television Fathers, too, from the classic, pre-HD eras. But not the “squeaky clean” and usually always reasonable (and “Anglo-Irish”) Robert Young types. No, Robert was once a “matinee idol,” you know.

Nor, for that matter, do we need to gaze upon James “Josh’s Dad” Brolin, who played Young’s medical partner Dr. Kiley in the long-running Marcus Welby, M.D. series. None of that.

Not even a nude representation of Johnny Carson will do. That’s going too easy on you. You need to be challenged.

We want the real world, here.

So, don’t please let’s pretend that you haven’t wished to see a naked Ben Gazzara.  You know, his wasn’t a bad performance in that ground-breaking miniseries about the Holocaust, the one with Anthony Hopkins, QB VII. Probably, if you saw that, you easily remember the young Hopkins. Well, that’s too easy. And I’m sure a great many people found/find Ben Gazzara quite handsome. So, don’t you, as well? He had a long relationship with Audrey Hepburn, you know. SO, she found him pretty cool. No, I don’t think he seemed like he was always sneering a bit too much. Just sometimes. He had character. Don’t you agree?

He was in The Big Lebowski, a member of The Actor’s Studio, and was the honorary starter of the first full broadcast of the Daytona 500 auto race. What’s the matter — that isn’t sexy enough for you?

That miniseries QB VII was from a big novel by Leon Uris, and I’ll bet that a great many of you who ogle guys, young or old, who have seen that series in broadcast form (or in some newer format) spent at least some of that time imagining Mr. Gazzara at least partially nude throughout your viewing of the ground-breaking miniseries. Deal with that. Like, maybe in a museum. Through a painting. He was also repeatedly nominated for Tony Awards, too.

So you had to have had the hots for Ben Gazzara, at some point, at least in what we will agree to call your inner “mind”, and seeing a painting depicting him in the altogether would be your way of finally coping with that reality.

Speaking of slow-burn artists who won awards: what about a nude color portrait of Oscar winner Walter Matthau? To refuse your aesthetic approval would show that you’ve got a bias regarding these things, you know, and that you’ve got a big mental and emotional problem. It used to be called “Denial.” And yes, Mr. Matthau won the Oscar in 1966 for the Billy Wilder movie The Fortune Cookie, so don’t say you haven’t imagined him naked.

Especially when you say that you don’t really wish to see another true patriarch of television and cinema nude: that being vaudevillian and perennial favorite Jack Albertson of Willy Wonka/Chico and the Man fame. You said you went around thinking Chico was hot, all this time. No: it’s also The Man — Jack Albertson — who you also really wanna see naked in a painting. It’s Freudian.

And what about the nude Peter Falk? He was Columbo, of course, but don’t say, if guys are your thing, that you haven’t imagined Lieutenant Columbo prancing about without that anachronistic, wrinkled raincoat. Or anything else. Come on, now. Admit to your hidden television fantasy lusts right now. You’ve really longed for this.

Maybe not as much as you’ve wished to see a naked Dan Blocker from television’s long-running classic “western” series Bonanza on canvas. Okay. We’ll give you that much.

Not admitting to these things is a kind of chauvinism on your part, let’s face facts. Especially when you claim you’ve never wanted a full frontal nude depiction in oils or watercolors of Mike “Mannix” Conners. Unshaved and unwaxed too, by the way. We need a little more honesty in the media, and in artistic representation, of the ideal American male. Besides: Mike was of proud Armenian heritage. I think we all know what that means. You’d love it, and you know it.

Getting back to the women, if we may. What about Sandy Duncan, or Helen Reddy? You remember Helen, not only of “I Am Woman” 70′s pop music fame but also as the nun, Sister Ruth, in 1974′s Airport ’75 and the Disney classic semi-animated fantasy Pete’s Dragon.  We’ve all seen the actual filmed representation of Julie Andrews’ bare chest in Blake Edward’s classic film industry-related comedy S.O.B., of course, and it was the most watchable scene in the entire picture… but why are these others not represented, and in the nude, at least in the oil or acrylic-on-canvas mediums?

Of course, a nude, imaginary, but large vivid representation of Sandy Duncan has been available for years online, but it has only been of her aura. That woman really has energy. That was, for those who never follow these things, in pastel and charcoal. Or, I could gladly make one for you. Inquire of The Raw Story for all available prices for my representations, in charcoal, of the naked auras of Sandy Duncan, Lee Meriwether of Time Tunnel and Barnaby Jones fame — or the classic Green Acres comic genius Eva Gabor!

If one really wanted to see a great aura, I think one would really have to agree that Eva Gabor would just about be the best, because she was really actually quite funny. And, I’ve heard, a truly nice person. (I’m not joking. Everyone she knew seemed to love everything about her). She has a pretty good aura, if you’re at all into this parapsychology thing. Which you may as well be, at this point in art’s history.

[Image via Christie's]

Earl Yazel
Earl Yazel
Earl Yazel currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he grew up and attended university. He has written for and participated in broadcasts for the flagship Pacifica Radio station KPFA in Berkeley, California, on the long-running Over the Edge program. He may be reached at e_yazel@yahoo.co.uk
 
 
 
 
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