Golden Girl Rue McClanahan dies at 76

Image caption,
Rue McClanahan's character was known for her romances

US actress Rue McClanahan, star of TV show The Golden Girls, has died following a stroke at the age of 76, her manager has announced.

The award-winning performer played feisty Southern belle Blanche in the popular series.

McClanahan, who underwent heart bypass surgery last year, is the third of the main cast members to pass away.

Only Betty White remains, following the deaths of Estelle Getty and Bea Arthur, who died in 2008 and 2009.

Drag queen mother

White, 88, recently hosted Saturday Night Live, and fans are lobbying for her to present next year's Academy Awards.

"I treasured our relationship," she said. "It hurts more than I ever thought it would, if that's even possible."

McClanahan had a varied stage career before landing the role of Blanche Devereaux in 1985 when The Golden Girls hit the small screen.

The actress said of her seductive character: "She is in love with life and loves men.

"I think she has an attitude towards women that's competitive. I think basically she's insecure."

Image caption,
Betty White (r) is now the sole surviving Golden Girl

Blanche always referred to her father as "Big Daddy" and was the perpetual target of her housemates.

McClanahan won an Emmy for her role in 1987.

Five years later, after The Golden Girls ended, she co-starred alongside White and Getty in a short-lived spin-off called Golden Palace.

Earlier in her career, she had appeared with Arthur in the 1970s sitcom Maude as her best friend and sidekick.

In later years, she continued to appear on TV and on stage, playing the elderly mother of a drag queen in 2008 serial Sordid Lives, which included the filming of a sex scene.

The actress was recovering from knee surgery at the time, but still hung onto a window sill when the bed she was using broke.

McClanahan, who was born in Oklahoma, married six times and wrote a memoir in 2007 entitled My First Five Husbands... And The Ones Who Got Away.

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