Betty White ‘C-Word’ Shocker And Other Revelations From LA Mag’s Viral Podcast

NBC’s former head of talent Joel Thurm on ”Golden Girls” tension, Alec Baldwin’s shaving and whether Norm McDonald was really a bully?
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On Wednesday, transgender porn star and author Meghan Chavalier went viral with a tweet: “Betty White lived 99 years and never caused any problems…so yes…it’s possible to be a good person your entire life.” The following day, Los Angeles poured a bit of cold water on this notion that White was the blemish-free saint portrayed in her obits and gauzy magazine tributes when it released the latest episode of its podcast, “The Originals,” in which host Andrew Goldman shared an exclusive interview with veteran casting agent Joel Thurm, who was NBC’s head of talent during much of The Golden Girls run.

Thurm recalled that White was persona non grata to late costars Bea Arthur and Rue McClanahan owing to her cruelty to actress Estelle Getty, who was suffering from the early stages of Lewy body dementia while portraying Sophia Petrillo on the show.

“Estelle Getty began to have increased problems with memorizing lines, and so she would write the lines on her hand,” said Thurm, the author of the soon to be released memoir, Sex, Drugs & Pilot Season: Confessions of a Casting Director. “Betty White would make fun of her in front of the live audience. That may seem like a minor transgression, but it really does get to you. I have no idea of how Estelle Getty felt, but I know the other two did not like her at all.” McClanahan shared her feelings of antipathy for White with Thurm, but it was a quote from Bea Arthur that created headlines around the world. According to Thurm, “Bea Arthur said, ‘Oh, she’s a f—— c—.’ She called her the c-word. I heard that with my own ears.”

Reactions have been swift. TMZ buttonholed actor Joel McHale at LAX, who in 2010 appeared in an episode of Community with a decidedly non-c-wordy White, said that regardless of how Arthur and McClanahan might have felt about her, they were in the vast minority. “So that’s two out of six billion,” he said.

The C-word contretemps of 2022 is hardly the only revelation in the episode, titled  “The Bad Timing Episode” because in addition to the White story, it features two other interviews recorded before the passing of  Norm Macdonald and Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins, stories which, given those deaths, make the interviews sound particularly ill-timed– through absolutely no fault of the show’s guests.

Two other takeaways from this special episode.

  • The most dangerous job in show business? Asking Alec Baldwin to shave. 

Months before Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the indie western Rust, film producer Art Linson (Fast Times At Ridgemont High, The Untouchables, Heat) recalled the headaches Baldwin caused on the set of the 1997 thriller The Edge. Baldwin was cast to play the handsome lothario who was sleeping with a billionaire’s wife, played by, respectively, Anthony Hopkins and Elle McPherson. Baldwin arrived on set months later considerably heavier and wearing a full beard. “We all get together in Canada on the set, and he shows up… and he’s now gained 50 pounds and he’s got a Gabby Hayes beard,” Linson recalled. “He looks older than Anthony Hopkins.” Baldwin refused to shave the beard setting off a series of increasingly desperate efforts by all the players involved in the production. Linson said that amid the drama, he phoned his friend and frequent collaborator Robert DeNiro for insight. “I said, ‘God, Bob, I can’t believe this is happening. What is it?’ He goes, ‘He thinks his chin’s too fat. He just doesn’t want to show it.’”

  • Was Norm Macdonald a bully? A grief-tinged examination.

In an interview recorded two years before Norm Macdonald’s death, character actor (Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld) and author Fred Stoller recalled his decades-long fraught relationship with the comedian that began after he guest starred on Macdonald’s ABC sitcom, The Norm Show and continued through 2015, when he spent a year opening for Macdonald on the road. Stoller recalled the darker, odder parts of their friendship, such as being taunted by Macdonald and onetime OJ Simpson houseguest Kato Kaelin. “I think Norm knew I couldn’t stand [Kaelin] and he’d say, ‘Let’s meet for dinner.’ And then Kato would show up,” Stoller recalled. “And they would taunt me together. They would gang up on me.” In a second interview following Macdonald’s death, Stoller recalled the comedian only with fondness. “Norm was a friend,” Stoller said. “And I realized when he died, a fraught relationship is much harder and sadder a process than a buddy, buddy one.”

Joel Thurm’s upcoming memoir, Sex, Drugs & Pilot Season: Confessions of a Casting Director, will be released Spring 2022. 

Art Linson is the Executive Producer of Peacock’s hit show, Yellowstone. His Alec Baldwin story can be found in his memoir, What Just Happened: Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line.

Fred Stoller recalls his adventures with Norm Macdonald in his memoir, Maybe We’ll Have You Back: The Life of a Perennial TV Guest Star.

Listen to the episode here.