Rue McClanahan Dies: 'Golden Girls' Star Was 76
By PopEater Staff Posted Jun 3rd 2010 11:25AM
Rue McClanahan, one of the last surviving stars of the seminal sitcom 'The Golden Girls,' has died after suffering a massive stroke, her manager has confirmed to PEOPLE. She was 76 years old at the time of her death. "She passed away at 1 AM this morning. She had a massive stroke," Barbara Lawrence told the magazine, adding that the actress "had her family with her. She went in peace."
The comedic star was best known for her role as saucy Blanche Devereaux on the hit 1980s series, about four retired ladies living it up in Miami. Her death now leaves Betty White as the only living 'Girl.'
Rue McClanahan Snapshots
'Golden Girls' legends Rue McClanahan, Betty White and Bea Arthur graced the red carpet at the TV Land Awards in June of 2008. More Rue Images >>
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McClanahan had a stroke in late 2009, when she was recovering from heart bypass surgery, from which she never fully recovered. In 1997, she underwent treatment for breast cancer.
Her 'Golden' co-stars Estelle Getty and Bea Arthur passed away in July of 2008 and April of 2009, respectively.
While Blanche may be McClanahan's most recognizable character, she also co-starred with Arthur on the hit show 'Maude.'
Rue also made appearances on 'All in the Family,' 'Mama's Family,' 'The Love Boat,' and, more recently, 'Law & Order.' Her film work includes 'Starship Troopers,' and 'The Fighting Temptations.'
Married six times, McClanahan is survived by her last husband, Morrow Wilson, and one son, Mark, whose father is Rue's first husband, Tom Bish.
She also wed and divorced Norman Hartweg, Peter DeMaio, Gus Fisher and Tom Keel.
Born Eddi-Rue McClanahan in Oklahoma on Feb. 21, 1934, she graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in theater arts and German. Rue then moved to New York to pursue a career in acting. She made a name for herself on the Broadway stage in the late 1950s before hitting it big on the small screen.
She starred on stage opposite Dustin Hoffman in 'Jimmie Shine' and won an Obie for 'Who's Happy Now,' before taking a part on the soap opera 'Another World.' McClanahan's character became so notorious that the soap extended what was intended as a short-term role to a year-long story line from 1970 to 1971.
Upon hearing of McClanahan's passing, Hoffman issued a statement to EW. "I have fond memories of working with Rue on Broadway in the '60s, and I am saddened by her passing," he said. "My thoughts are with her family and friends."
In 1972, after her stint on 'World,' McClanahan was cast in 'Maude,' playing the shy best friend to Arthur's titular character -- very different from the sassy and sexy Deveraux she would later play on 'Girls.' Rue was nominated for four Best Actress Emmys for the part, winning the trophy in 1987 -- the same year the TV Academy awarded the show its second Outstanding Comedy Series prize. During its run, from 1985-1992, 'Girls' was a surprise ratings smash for NBC and helped revitalize the network after a years-long slump. It spent six consecutive seasons in the top ten.
Also in 2007, the star wrote a book called 'My First Five Husbands ... and the Ones Who Got Away,' which the Library Journal described as "like a night out with the 'Golden Girls.'"
Aside from her acting career, she was also an avid animal rights activist, who worked directly with PETA and was named an honorary director of the group.
Before her death, she became the object of a Facebook group campaign, which hoped to persuade NBC to pick McClanahan as a host of 'Saturday Night Live,' much like the successful movement that resulted in Betty White's first 'SNL' gig.
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