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Green Bay Press-Gazette

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Estelle Getty, 1923-2008

I just happened to be flipping through the channels yesterday, and stumbled upon a "Golden Girls" episode where Sophia was in heaven. It was a dream sequence, of course, in which Sophia was reunited with long-dead love-of-her-life Sal atop a giant puffy cloud. Sal tells her he has someone he wants her to meet. "Sophia," he says, sweeping his arm behind him, "God. God, Sophia." "Wow," Sophia says. "Now I see where Jesus got those eyes!"

Estelle Getty died today, at age 84. That's around the age Sophia was supposed to be on the long-running NBC sitcom. In truth, Getty was only 62 when "Golden Girls" debuted -- a year younger than both Betty White and Bea Arthur.

The show remains fairly popular, even as almost an entire generation has passed since it went off the air (not counting the lousy "Golden Palace" spinoff) in 1992.

But whereas White, Arthur, and Rue McClanahan all had their moments, it was Getty's sassy octogenarian who was the standout, even if she was never meant to be a regular character. Originally, Sophia was only intended to pop up every now and then, but proved so popular with test audiences that another character from the pilot, a gay live-in cook named Coco, was written off, and Sophia given his place. (I swear I'm not making that up about Coco the cook, either; I am, however, getting the information from Wikipedia.)

Getty was nominated for an Emmy seven times during "Girls'" seven-season run, but only won once, in 1988. After "Girls" ended, and "Palace" met its end, Sophia became a transplant on another "Girls" spinoff, "Empty Nest," for that series' final seasons.

In 2000, she withdrew from the public eye for health reasons.

-- Adam Reinhard,

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