The world just got a lot less funnier, not to mention less sexier. Television legend Rue McClanahan died today after suffering a massive stroke. She was 76.
While fans of 80's TV probably know the late McClanahan best as senior sexpot Blanche Deveraux on NBC's smash sitcom hit The Golden Girls, the actress also paid her dues on daytime, with parts on Another World, Where The Heart Is and Love of Life. I personally fell in love with McClahanan while she was portraying Thelma Harper's (Vicki Lawrence) spinster sister Fran on the first season of Mama's Family. When that series was cancelled and later revived in first-run syndication, McClanahan and fellow Mama's Family alum Betty White reteamed up for The Golden Girls, alongsideMcClanahan's Maude costar Bea Arthur and theater actress Estelle Getty, the rest was pop culture history.
In recent years, McClanahan managed to capitalize on her enormous gay fanbase by appearing in the short-lived Logo dramedy Sordid Lives. McClanahan played the role of Peggy Ingram, matriarch of the whacked out, Southern friend family in the Del Shores series.The character of Peggy's death was a central plot to the 2000 Sordid Lives feature film (which starred Kirk Geiger, one of the many Kevin Buchanans on One Life to Live), which preceded the TV series by almost a decade. Peggy hilariously died after tripping over the wooden leg of her much younger lover, causing a scandal in her small, Baptist believin', Texas town.
While the character of the grandmother was never seen in the movie, in the TV prequel, McClanahan as 70-something Peggy romped with 40-something G.W. Nethercott, the husband of her daughter's best friend. G.W. was played by David Steen, who also produced Sordid Lives and is married to All My Children star Bobbie Eakes, who also had a recurring role in the series. Last year, following the Daytime Emmy Awards I had the chance to meet Steen and Eakes, who regaled me with stories from the set of the amazing soap operatic comedy, which also starred Shores' real life husband Jason Dottley, Caroline Rhea and Leslie Jordan. We shook our collective head over Logo's ridonkulous decision not to air a second season of their most successful original series ever.
After hearing of McClanahan's passing, I called Shores to express my sorrow. The writer-producer said his household is "a very sad one today". So is the household of every kid who ever laughed at one of Blanche Deveraux's raunchy jokes. Rest In Peace, Rue.