John Currin's 1991 painting Bea Arthur Naked sold in a Christie's auction last week for a price of $1.9 million. Now comedian and late night host Jimmy Kimmel is embroiled in speculation that he was the purchaser of this infamous painting.
Kimmel's friend, comedian Jeff Ross, spurred on the rumors via Twitter, in which he suggested that the biggest gift was given to him by Kimmel (no word if the card attached said "Thank you for being a friend").
"Showing a picture holding the painting,' Ross tweeted Friday "Biggest surprise of my life. Thank you @jimmykimmel - the most generous guy in the world! #BeaArthur ❤."
Kimmel responded to Ross, "Bea is watching over all of us, but especially you."
But soon after, the tweet vanished from Kimmel's account and was later replaced with a denial of the purchase.
"Contrary to "news" reports, I didn't buy the Bea Arthur painting - not even for @realjeffreyross - but I did buy the Mona Lisa Lampanelli," he wrote, playing on the name of fellow comedian Lisa Lampanelli.
Kimmel's representatives could not confirm the rumors; the buyer's true identity has not yet been revealed.
Both Kimmel and Ross had run-ins with the actress before her 2009 death. Kimmel attended the 2005 Comedy Central Roast of Pamela Anderson, in which many jokes were made at Arthur's expense, highlighting some of her more masculine qualities.
Ross recalled his own personal experience with Bea Arthur, at 1999 Friars Club Roast for the comedian and former Seinfeld actor Jerry Stiller. He too made jokes about Arthur and an especially lewd one about the actress and the comedian Sandra Bernhard: "Sandra Bernhard! Holy s---! I wouldn't f--- you with Bea Arthur's d---!" Ross had said.
Ross would later introduce himself after a Los Angeles performance of her one-woman show, Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends, which opened on Broadway in 2002.
"I purposely went to the very, very end of the line and I wanted to be last," Ross said in a 2009 interview. "I just said as politely as I could, 'You know, Miss Arthur, I don't know if you remember me, but we met at Jerry's roast.' Before I even got the last word out - 'roast' - she just stuck a finger right in my face and said, 'You nailed me, you p---k!'
"And we both laughed and she gave me a hug," said the comedian, perhaps highlighting just what kind of sense of humor the late actress possessed. "It was really cool knowing what a fun broad she was."