Betty White Liked to Flirt With ‘The Golden Girls’ Live Audience, According to Rue McClanahan

Betty White, Rue McClanahan, Estelle Getty, and Bea Arthur entertained audiences for seven successful seasons of The Golden Girls. From Blanche’s promiscuous nature and Rose’s senseless St. Olaf stories to Dorothy’s unparalleled wit and deadpan delivery, the show remains one of the greatest sitcoms of all time.

The Golden Girls
THE GOLDEN GIRLS — Rue McClanahan as Blanche Devereaux, Bea Arthur as Dorothy Petrillo Zbornak, Betty White as Rose Nylund, Estelle Getty as Sophia Petrillo | Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank

Though the main cast members made audiences laugh via the scripted dialogue, according to Rue McClanahan, Betty White liked to have fun with the audience off-script. White took the time time to interact with those who came to watch the live-taping, breaking the fourth wall between takes. 

Rue McClanahan said Betty White used to ‘flirt’ with live audience: What did she do?

Bette White’s background, pre-Golden Girls, included frequent game show appearances on the likes of What’s My Line, To Tell the Truth, I’ve Got a Secret, Pyramid, and more. And, she often came on to these shows stock-full of laughs and smiles. Thus, she took that high energy with her to The Golden Girls. Speaking of White, McClanahan said:

“She would flirt with the audience, and pull up her skirt and say ‘Hi, sailor.'”

Rue McClanahan | as qtd. in News.com

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White liked to have fun on set. She understood the importance of determination and hard work, yet she didn’t shy away from a little harmless nonsense, which was a point of contention with co-star Bea Arthur.

Arthur and White came from opposite worlds, so they approached ‘The Golden Girls’ from different perspectives

White’s flirting with the audience didn’t go over well with the entire cast. McClanahan explained: 

“Bea came from a New York stage point of view. She always had what we call ‘the fourth wall.’ And Betty came from a television point of view. She would flirt with the audience, and pull up her skirt and say, ‘Hi, sailor.’ But Bea never acknowledged the audience…”

Rue McClanahan | as qtd. in News.com

Arthur was quite funny in The Golden Girls, and she knew how to inspire laugh-out-loud reactions from the crowd via her perfect comedic timing and unparalleled delivery. However, she wasn’t one to break the fourth wall; she wasn’t one to break character during or between scenes. Reports indicate that such was part of the reason Arthur didn’t always get along with White.  

Arthur was also the first one who was ready to leave the show behind. Her son explained to Fox News, “I think she got tired of it…She just thought it was time to leave the show. She wanted to leave a year before, but the others asked her to stay for a final year and she did. And then, of course, they did ‘The Golden Palace’ without mom on it. She came and did one episode, though. [But] I don’t think she really wanted to do that. But she did.”