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No. 115 / 2017

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Boxer Shorts
Tim Boxer

[ Israel Bonds and IDF ] [ Pope Benedict XVI and EL AL ] [ Bea Arthur ] [ EL AL and El Salvador ]


COMBAT TERROR Israel Bonds president & CEO Joshua Matza (3rd from left) with Gabriela Shalev, Israeli Ambassador to United Nations, and David Halpern, Israel Bonds national chairman, welcome some of the eight Operation Gaza combat officers of the Israel Defense Forces in New York. "These soldiers will help refute falsehoods and distortions regarding the Israeli war against Hamas terrorism in Gaza," Matza said. Photo: David Karp


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POPE BRINGS HOPE: EL AL chairman Amikam Cohen and president Haim Romano meet with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican to invite him to fly the national airline of Israel on his return from the Holy Land to Rome on May 15. A Boeing 777 aircraft, with Vatican insignia, had been prepared for the pontiff and his entourage of 30 clergy and 70 journalists, plus an in-flight crew representing several faiths.


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Bea ArthurRemembering Bea Arthur

EA ARTHUR was one tough lady—a result, no doubt, of growing up in segregated Cambridge, Maryland, where she deflected anti-Semitic taunts in high school with imitations of Mae West. No wonder she was voted wittiest girl in class.

Director Gene Saks found out how tough she can be when they married in 1950. He lived with that one tough lady for 29 years, before throwing in the towel.

"It lasted so long," I told him, "that it certainly wasn’t your typical Hollywood marriage."

"No," he said, "but it broke up in Hollywood."

At a Hollywood press conference to promote The Golden Girls, NBC’s top comedy series that ran from 1985-92, Estelle Getty found out how acerbic Bea can be. Estelle played Bea’s 80-year-old mother, and we reporters wondered how she made herself look that old so effortlessly.

"Not with makeup," Estelle insisted. "It’s done with acting."

"Oh, come on!" Bea interjected. "What’s that acting you sprayed on your hair?"

Estelle died last July at age 84. Bea died of cancer at age 86 on Saturday, April 25, in Los Angeles.

Bea was born in New York as Bernice Frankel, the second of three girls, to Rebecca and Phillip Frankel. The family moved to the southern town of Cambridge where the father opened a women’s clothing store. Bea worked as a medical laboratory technician. She left because she had stars in her eyes—she had a vision of a life on stage, not in a hospital.

She brought her deep, powerful voice to New York where she enrolled in the New School’s Dramatic Workshop. Classmates included Marlon Brando, Harry Belafonte, Tony Curtis, Walter Matthau, Rod Steiger and Gene Saks who was destined to become one of Broadway’s most prominent directors (Mame, Rags, Lost in Yonkers).

Bea impressed with her gravelly voice in Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera (1954) and scored with comedy in Shoestring Revue (1955). She played Yenta the matchmaker in Fiddler on the Roof (1964) and earned a Tony Award as Angela Lansbury’s best friend in Mame (1966) which was directed by her husband, Gene Saks.

Producer-director Norman Lear hired Bea for a guest shot in 1971 on TV’s highly acclaimed All in the Family. Bea, that one tough lady, played an outspoken, aggressive Maude who proved a match to the foul-mouthed bigot, Archie Bunker.

That spurred Lear to create a new comedy series, Maude, as a star vehicle for Bea, earning her an Emmy in 1977.

Saks became her second husband in 1950. They adopted two sons, Matthew, now 47, and Daniel, 44. (She had a short-lived marriage with playwright Robert Alan Aurthur whose credits include the Bob Fosse 1979 film, All That Jazz.)

Bea and Gene did not raise their children in any religion. And that, he told me, was a mistake. "It’s unwise to have no religious education," he said. "The children should belong to some roots. The decision to avoid religion was a reaction to one’s parents. It was also part of the times."


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EL AND EL: EL AL attendants welcome El Salvador President Elias Antonio Saca and his wife, Ana Ligia Mixco, on a flight to Israel to celebrate the 61st anniversary of the Jewish state.
Photo: Shahar Azran

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