Rue McClanahan, Forever Our (Golden) Girl

Well, it’s a depressing day for many television fans: Rue McClanahan, famous for her character Blanche Devereaux from ‘The Golden Girls’, has passed on to the heavenly ‘golden palace’ at age 76. It’s sad: it feels like we’re losing all of our iconic 1980s women. It hasn’t been long since the death of ‘Designing Women’ actress Dixie Carter and now we’ve been dealt another blow with the iconic ‘Blanche’ having died.

Personally, I was first exposed to the greatness of Mrs. McClanahan on ‘Mama’s Family’. Remember, it was the spin-off of the skit from ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ that featured matriarch Thelma Harper dealing with her crazy children in the good ole’ Southern Raytown? Well, many of you may be too young to remember that show but it was the early ’80s, and sure, I came into the scene in ’84 and watched the reruns and came to appreciate the comic genius that Rue McClanahan was. She played Thelma’s uptight sister, Aunt Fran. She was the perfect Southern lady: dressed in what she felt was her proper pink frilly dress, hair always penned up, hated her niece and nephew moving into the small house. Aunt Fran died an untimely death: she choked on a fish bone. Seriously. But Rue’s departure from ‘Mama’s Family’ lead to the birth of a TV character legend: Blanche Devereaux.

What can we say about Blanche Devereaux? She was a true Southern belle: she loved her father and affectionately called him ‘Big Daddy’; she had countless lovers and admirers; she was a slut. Well, she was! But she had heart, and that was in part due to Rue McClanahan. Whenever an actor or actress dies, it’s hard for us as fans to really speak of the actor without speaking of their iconic character. Yes, we’ve lost McClanahan but isn’t our first initial reaction: “Oh no, Blanche!” I think, for most actors, they strive to obtain that one legendary, unforgettable character. Rue had that with Blanche, as we can hardly think about or consider the death of the actress without feeling as if we’ve lost the iconic Blanche.

For many of us, I think we all wanted to be Blanche Devereaux. She was called many names – whore, slut, skank, nympho – but did she care? She’d just toss back her head and laugh, humoring her accusers like Sophia. Even as she got older and aged through the years on ‘Golden Girls’ and her appearances on ‘Empty Nest’, ‘Nurses’ and ‘The Golden Palace’, she did so without much fanfare. Sure, she got older but her spirit and libido stayed as young and spry as when we first were introduced to her in the early 1980s. We had fun with Blanche and she brought forth the attitude, sass and wit that made her not just our wannabe friend but the awkward role model we all looked up to. From Blanche, we learned to really grab life by the balls and live it up and do what makes us happy and brings us pleasure because that’s life.

I think the same could be said of the person behind Blanche, too. If you haven’t yet read her autobiography “My Five Husbands … And The Ones That Got Away” DO IT. It’s a must read. Her entire life seemed to be nothing but obstacles and challenges. She found herself in marriages that didn’t work and yet she’d break free of them in search of something better and healthier, even if it was unpopular for women [back in ancient times] not to feel they had to rely on men for a life and support. Career wise, she took chances. She went for acting and singing, landing her roles in Broadway plays that lead to her being discovered. Her roles on ‘All in the Family’, ‘Mama’s Family’ and ‘The Golden Girls’ all required that she place a bit of faith in herself. Even after she’d achieved her level of fame with ‘The Golden Girls’, she didn’t just fade away – she did a guest stint on ‘Wicked’, guest roles on countless television roles and even moved into the realm of movies with guest spots on ‘Starship Troopers’ and ‘The Fighting Temptations’. And in that time, she found the time to pen her life story. The only thing that slowed her down in recent years was her health, which is unfortunate. Truly, Rue McClanahan lived a life, both onscreen and off, worth envying and praising.

About Antoine
Antoine Reid is a writer and digital marketer currently residing in North Carolina. He has a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a concentration in Visual Communication and has held several positions over the years spanning from graphic designer to senior editor of an international trade publication.

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