The swirling, churning controversy is settled once and for all! Yes, NBC “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams said that Bea Arthur would make a great mother nature — and no, he wasn’t confused by some goofy margarine ad.
To recap: at a panel discussion last month debating candidates for Time‘s “Person of the Year,” managing editor Jim Kelly asked Williams who ought to be cast as the face of Mother Nature on the magazine’s cover. Williams’ immediate response: Bea Arthur.
Readers may recall that we wondered if William’s hadn’t confused the Maude-o-licious Bea with Dena Dietrich, an actress who had actually played Mother Nature in the 70’s Chiffon Margarine campaign. So we asked him ourself.
We are duly chastened. Dude knows his 70’s TV.
Especially, as it turns out, “Maude”: “That was a huge part of my childhood,” said Williams on the phone* earlier today. “Who my age and older can’t come up with the opening lines of the theme song? ‘…And then there’s Maude’?” (For those of you unschooled in the early days of the telly, that’s the chorus; it opens with “Lady Godiva was a freedom rider…”). Williams said that he instantly thought of Bea Arthur — who he has has interviewed, by the by — because she’s such a classic, iconic presence, so much more “approachable and identifiable” than some margarine pitchwoman.
He then made a reference to the genius of Norman Lear which we totally didn’t get. “Well, you need to get Googling,” he said (We Googled, Brian! Norman Lear was the televisionary who brought the bold, audacious, true-to-life character of Maude to the screen! She was the anti-Archie Bunker! She made decisions of which Sam Alito would probably not approve!).
The upshot? Brian Williams knows his TV, knows his margarine commercials, and definitely knows his Bea Arthur. And frankly, Dena Dietrich never entered his mind. “Really, it was in the context of selling a butter substitute.
“Bea Arthur has an edge…and this year Mother Nature definitely showed us her edge.”
Ulp. We’ll never doubt you again, Brian. Thanks for the phone call, and hey – thank you for being a friend.
Previously on Fishbowl:
Bea Arthur-inspired music:
Why Brian Williams Thinks Mother Nature is the Person of the Year:
It’s About Time [The Daily Nightly]
*Phone calls we’re not expecting in the middle of our day: “Rachel? This is Brian Williams.”