Arthur is not as frivolous as she seems. Athletes seeking her companionship are said to meet stiff resistance. "Listen," she says, "they're on enough of an ego trip as it is. What I need is someone to put me on an ego trip.
"Athletes are physical types." Arthur points out. "Not wearing a bra seems to make somebody interesting to them. But I won't date them. I avoid parties. Guys have opened up about their personal lives to me in interviews, and I know too much. I protect people. I'm no Rona Barrett.
"I'm sure some guys do their locker-room number on me, but as long as I never date them, their scripture and verse will be inaccurate."
There have been times when it has been a struggle for Arthur to understand the complexities of sports, but objective observers—even non-sexist ones—agree that she is the announcer any director would be most likely to choose if Muhammad Ali had a rematch with George Foreman on a desert island off Borneo. That is a terribly chauvinistic thought, but true, nonetheless.
When Arthur originally entered TV in New York, a newspaper reviewer called her scoreboard show "consistently suspenseful." As Pirate Manager Danny Murtaugh got ready for his team's home opener against Montreal last year, Arthur's first question was, "Danny, do you plan anything different for the Expos?" And Bill Currie, the KDKA sports director and the former "Mouth of the South" who wields an acerbic tongue, once called Arthur, "a functional illiterate." Now he credits her with "the guts of a mountain lion. Lee is rah-rah and never got over being a fan, but she probably knows more sports than I do. I'm wrong more than I am right, and careless, too. But they don't get on me, just her."
Another man deep into the Pittsburgh sports scene is less complimentary. "The greatest handicap in the world is being dumb—unless you are beautiful," he says. But then the same observer compromises his objectivity somewhat when he offers the belief that "A girl is really not qualified to report sports unless she grew up as a lesbian playing for the Chicago Cardinals."
Arthur grew up as the daughter of an Air Force colonel and attended two colleges before getting an English degree from Butler. She went through two unsuccessful marriages—her two sons often visit her in Pittsburgh—before making the jump into show business with roles in summer-stock productions of Carousel and Kiss Me Kate. Later in New York she ran the gamut of the daytime soap operas, Secret Storm included, and danced and sang in the chorus of the Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof. Subsequently she went through "a super hanging-around period" before making a leap into sports after a trip to the Mexico City Olympics.
Arthur's theatrical background has provided her with unique insights into sports. She once interviewed a Steeler on how he put on his helmet "without squishing his Afro." She became increasingly concerned about "the youthful hurts" athletes at the University of Pittsburgh suffer. She makes the interesting observation that a golf ball never seems to be hit. "They drive it, hook it, slice it, loop it, fade it, shank it and putt it," she says, "but when do they ever hit it?"
Above all, Arthur has a recurring fantasy that someday she will sing the national anthem at a spectacular event. She recently quit KDKA with a year remaining on her three-year contract in order to strike out as a free-lancer in pursuit of the countrywide attention that she craves. Pittsburghers would have been satisfied if she just had stopped pronouncing nearby Juniata College as "Waneeta." If Arthur could get a few things like that straightened out, then she'd be sure to hit it.
THE MARTINI CONGOLOMERATE