Friday, June 4, 2010

Rue McClanahan, Broadway Vet and Golden Girl, Dead at 76

Rue McClanahan, stage vet and star of the TV shows Mama's Family, Maude, and The Golden Girls, passed away yesterday of a stroke at the age of 76.  Ms. McClanahan was born in Healdton, Oklahoma on February 21, 1934 and majored in German and Theater Arts at the University of Tulsa.  She made her Broadway debut as a standby in 1966 in the play The Best Laid Plans, followed by a full time post in Jimmy Shine opposite Dustin Hoffman.  Her most recent Broadway performances include the revival of The Women and a stint as Madame Morrible in Wicked.  McClanahan's most famous roles were as Vivian Harmon, best friend to Bea Arthur's Maude Findlay in the TV hit Maude and as the sensuous vixen Blanche Devereaux in The Golden Girls, a role which won her a leading actress Emmy in 1987.

Ms. McClanahan's health over the past 15 or so years has been hit or miss.  In 1997, Rue was diagnosed with breast cancer for which she underwent successful treatment.  This past November, Ms. McClanahan underwent triple bypass surgery and, during recovery, suffered a minor stroke.  As of March of this year, Betty White, McClanahan's friend and Golden Girls co-star, reported that Rue was doing well and that her speech was back to normal.  This week, her health took a quick turn for the worst.  According to her publicist, Ms. McClanahan was feeling fine on Monday, felt slightly ill Tuesday morning, and had her fatal stroke on Tuesday night.  After the stroke, she was rushed to New York-Presbyterian Hospital where she died at 1am Wednesday morning.  Ms. McClanahan died with her son and her nephew by her side.  Though there will be no funeral service, in accordance with the wishes of the diceased, there will be memorial services in New York and Los Angeles over the summer.  A Facebook page called "The Official Rue McClanahan Memorial Page" gives all the details about these services and charities to which donations can be made in Rue's memory.

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