We have lost another great entertainer. Sadly, Rue McClanahan has died at the age of 76 from a stroke. She had previously survived treatment for breast cancer in 1997 and heart bypass surgery in 2009. According to CNN, her manager, Barabara Lawrence, informed them that McClanahan suffered a massive stroke on Monday and passed away at 1 a.m. surrounded by her family.
McClanahan’s IMDB page states that she is a native of Oklahoma, and graduated from the University of Tulsa with a degree in German and Theater. Utilizing her theater degree, she had a very successful stage career until the ’70s when she landed roles in “All in the Family”, “Maude”, “Mama’s Family” and, finally, “The Golden Girls” where she reunited with fellow “Maude” cast member Bea Arthur. It was her role as Blanche Devereaux in “The Golden Girls” that really made McClanahan a household name, and loved by many fans. Her performance as the oversexed and saucy southern belle Blanche Devereaux really showcased McClanahan’s comedic talents and won her an Emmy in 1987.
As a child of the ’70s, I pretty much grew up watching McClanahan on the television. I remember the wit of her characters and the direct delivery she had in her performances. It was with “The Golden Girls”, however, that I really grew to appreciate her talents. Probably because I was a little older, and could really appreciate someone’s ability to act. While Bea Arthur was such a focus on the show, McClanahan’s talent didn’t allow her to be in the background as a supporting cast member. I was only 15 years old when “The Golden Girls” hit the NBC lineup in 1985, but was such a dedicated fan of the show for the seven seasons it was on TV; mostly because of the banter between the characters played by McClanahan and Betty White. Growing up in a small town in NH, I remember being shocked by the character of Blanche and her sexual openness. I was clearly naïve at that age, and couldn’t believe people actually talked openly about sex; especially on tv! While I can’t claim everything I know I learned from Blanche Devereaux, McClanahan certainly opened my eyes to a whole new world through her character. Even in college my friends and I would gather and watch the series together. We even ended up nicknaming one member of our group, Blanche, because of her own sexual promiscuity.
Many people compare the character of Samantha Jones to that of Blanche, and the comparison is clearly there. Nothing against Kim Cattrall, but she is no Rue McClanahan and Blanche will always be the original TV slut who had no shame in what she did or who she did it with.
I am a fan of television and cinema, especially the writing and acting. I enjoy a truly great performance and, therefore, have a great appreciation of those who deliver great performances. Great performers stick with me, and I feel a loss when they are gone. Rue McClanahan was an amazing performer with quite a presence, and she will be sadly missed.
As an animal lover, I also appreciate the commitment McClanahan had to preventing cruelty to animals. She was a practicing vegan and a huge supporter of the organization, PETA.
Betty White is the only remaining Golden Girl left. Estelle Getty was the first to pass away in 2008, with Bea Arthur following in 2009. I hope this doesn’t mean that Betty White will follow in 2011.
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