It’s a sad day for fans of loudmouth Atlanta girls. Rue McClanahan, who played The Golden Girls‘ Blanche Devereaux, died today at 76. Rue’s swagger and sass turned Blanche into a TV icon. Blanche was the slutty one, the dishy one, the vain one, the one classified by the Navy as a “friendly port,” the one who used colorful Southern expressions like “I’m jumpier than a virgin at a prison rodeo.” She founded her local Elvis fan club, treasuring a pork chop the King once munched on. She believed in never telling a man about her past, because it took too long. Blanche knew her share of heartbreak. But as any Golden Girls fan can tell you, sluts just heal quicker.
It’s especially sad because the news comes just a few weeks after the death of Dixie Carter, the amazing Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women. On the lanai in the sky, Blanche and Julia must be having an all-time bitch-off — tonight will truly be the night the lights went out in Georgia. When you got told by one of these two Atlanta ladies, you stayed told, and their ferocity is a huge reason why both of these shows remain hugely popular (and endlessly quoteable) years after they went off the air. It’s also not surprising that both characters became gay icons, since they threw more shade than a palm tree. We all have our favorite four-woman TV shows (remember Sisters?) but even a rabid Designing Women partisan like me has to concede that Golden Girls rules them all.
The recent deaths of Estelle Getty and Bea Arthur means that three Golden Girls have gone in the last two years, leaving the evergreen Betty White as the Tommy Ramone of the gang. But none of them will be forgotten. Rue’s finest moment had to be the episode “Mrs. George Devereaux” from 1990, every Golden Girls connoisseur’s favorite. Blanche has a dream reunion with her fiercely beloved late husband, a dream that also involves Dirk Benedict and Sonny Bono. Rue McClanahan brings surprising sensitivity to the grief scenes, but she also snarls, “Sonny Bono, get off my lanai!” And when Rue snarled, even Sonny listened.