Betty White may be the Golden Girls It Girl. But me? I've always been Team Blanche.
Dear, warm Rue McClanahan died today of a stroke she suffered on Monday. Her son, Mark, lives here in town, and I had the wonderful pleasure of interviewing her for Austinist last Fall.
Rue was a champion for breast cancer victims and survivors, a frequent visitor to Austin, and a lover of fluffy cats. We enjoyed a laughing, leisurely conversation back in September, and she asked me if I was single - to date Mark! I admitted that I wasn't, but remember thinking: "dear God, the lady who gets HER as a mother-in-law is a lucky girl indeed."
I completely loved Golden Girls, and Blanche's saucy, racy character especially. She was Samantha Jones before Sex and the City. She was a star of the stage as well as television, and when we spoke, she was in the middle of expanding her book My First Five Husbands...And The Ones Who Got Away into a touring musical.
But the coolest thing about Rue, in my opinion, was that she did celebrity appearances and speaking engagements for breast cancer survivor groups even when they couldn't really afford to pay her. She embraced the idea that having a "team" of support when you are sick is what truly nurses you back to health, and having been so thoroughly cared for herself during her own breast cancer ordeal, she wanted to be a part of that team for other women.
Also? Here's something interesting that you may not know. When Rue auditioned for a part on Golden Girls, it was actually for the character of Rose! And Betty White was auditioning for Blanche. But at the audition, the directors said to both ladies, "would you mind switching scripts for a moment?"
And as we know, the rest is history.
Rue McClanahan, you were one of my favorite interviews, and even though we really only spoke once, I was so touched that you gave me an hour of your time. Talking to you wasn't like talking to a celebrity; it was like giggling with a long-lost aunt, about men, cats, life goals, and Esther's Follies. You told me to pass on good luck to my mother and her crazy Patsy Cline lip-syncing act (Mom, if you're reading this, how cool is that?!), and you told me that Kate (your cat) would probably get along with my cat (Claudia).
I am so sad to see you go.
Thank you for being a friend!