'Golden Girl' Rue McClanahan dies at 76 [Updated]
Rue McClanahan, who played a man-crazy Southern belle in the seminal '80s sitcom "Golden Girls," died early Thursday of a massive stroke. She was 76. McClanahan had suffered a minor stroke in January during recovery from heart bypass surgery, her manager said at the time.
"Golden Girls," which has aired in syndication nearly nonstop since its successful run from 1985 to 1992 on NBC, has been discovered by a whole new generation lately, partly because of costar Betty White and her resurgent popularity.
White is now the sole surviving cast member. Bea Arthur died last year of cancer, and Estelle Getty died in 2008.
McClanahan won an Emmy in 1987 for her portrayal of Blanche Devereaux, an aging beauty who still had an eye for the fellas. The actress' resume stretches back to the '60s and includes some of TV's most memorable shows, such as "All in the Family," "Maude," "The Love Boat" and "Touched by an Angel."
The Oklahoma native, who'd had a successful Broadway career before turning to television, also appeared in a number of feature films, including "Starship Troopers" and "Out to Sea." McClanahan had suffered from breast cancer in the mid-'90s but recovered. She subsequently became an advocate for cancer fundraising and research and, like her friend and colleague White, worked on behalf of animal welfare groups.
[Updated at 1:01 p.m.] As part of a series with Emmy winners, the TV Academy of Arts and Sciences Foundation interviewed Rue McClanahan at length in 2006 about her career. Among the highlights: She talked about being plucked from a "boring" stage play by TV legend Norman Lear to audition for "All in the Family." That was the beginning of her storied TV run. See the video interviews here.
In 2007, she published a memoir with the sassy title "My First Five Husbands ... and the Ones Who Got Away."
— T.L. Stanley
Photo: Rue McClanahan at a signing for her book "My First Five Husbands" at Book Soup in 2007. Photo credit: Mark Mainz / Getty Images.