Television’s Last Sexy Lady: America Loses Rue McClanahan and Little Isis Loses a Childhood Hero

A TV heroine, Rue McClanahan, died today, and the world is a dimmer, sadder and more miserable place for it.

McClanahan, who played man-happy Blanche Devereaux on the still-popular ’80s sitcom Golden Girls, had suffered a minor stroke earlier this year while recovering from bypass surgery. Lawrence adds that at the time of her death Thursday, McClanahan “had her family with her. She went in peace.”

Words fail. Last summer, I read My First Five Husbands: And the Ones Who Got Away. Rue McClanahan was more than Blanche Deveruex from the Golden Girls, but she admitted that Blanche was a character she strongly related to.

Born in Healdton, Okla., Rue lived in six towns by the time she was 8. Her father was a road builder who moved from one project to another. She found solace in acting (“the only thing I ever wanted to do”) and after four years at the University of Tulsa moved to New York, where she worked as a part-time file clerk while trying to find jobs in the theater.

Rue went to Broadway with her parents when she was young, and knew instantly that this was where she belonged. She was one of the best actresses of our time but we all remember her as Blanche, one of television’s only truly sexy female characters. Not only confident and in touch with her sexuality but intelligent and optimistic, Blanche was the last genuine man eater on TV who didn’t fit the bimbo stereotype that most proud sluts have to watch on cable today. Blanche was a feminist character, and growing up watching The Golden Girls in the midst of a broken home and a disorderly upbringing, I knew who I wanted to be when I was grown and middle aged and still fabulous: Blanche Devereaux.

RIP, Rue. May you find love in your journey to the Summerlands, and in the next life may you be rewarded for all the smiles and laughs you gave to so many young women and gay men.

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