And then there was one. Rue McClanahan, best known as "Blanche" on the eternal sitcom The Golden Girls has passed away at 76 after years of health problems. That leaves only the increasingly popular Betty White as the last Golden Girl standing, there to receive all the love we have left for these awesome women.
Rose (White) was my favorite but Blanche (McClanahan) the runner up in the laugh-generation department for me (I've always loved the saucy dames). I was just thinking about The Golden Girls yesterday because my mind was drifting to the upcoming Emmy nominations. The Emmys are often quite terrible about divvying up the goods, giving way too many prizes to the same shows and performers over the years. But in the case of The Golden Girls, the Emmy voters seem to have a very welcome and secret conspiracy to spread the wealth; All four of the women won one statue for their famous characters. Betty won it in '86, Rue in '87 and Bea & Estelle both took it home in '88. Other famously strong ensembles (like Friends and Sex & the City) didn't have any such "you're all winners!" awards luck. Only Cheers comes to mind immediately as a similarly lucky recipient of "spread the wealth" mentality: Woody Harrelson, Shelley Long, Bebe Neuwirth, Kirstie Alley, Ted Danson, Rhea Pearlman all won that golden winged woman for their efforts.
<--- Rue co-starred with Dustin Hoffman in Broadway's "Jimmy Shine" in 1969 (photo src)
"Blanche" as a character seemed to fit Rue like a glove (though she was originally intended for Betty) and will easily dominate memories of her acting work. Maybe it was all those husbands (she married six times) that gave her such facility with that man-crazy character?
But Blanche is not the whole story. Rue had been a working actress since the 1950s when she first hit the stage. In fact, she returned to Broadway for a stint as "Madame Morrible" in Wicked just five years ago. She also appeared in 21 movies over the years including They Might Be Giants (1971), the early gay film Some of My Best Friends Are... (1971) and post-Blanche comedies like Out to Sea (1997) and, inexplicably, Starship Troopers (1997).
Blanche seemed to prize her body above all but Rue showed real heart. She fought actively for both the ethical treatment of animals and gay rights. Thank her for being a friend.