Golden Girls actress Rue McClanahan died at 76 as result of a massive stroke early Thursday, RadarOnline.com has learned.
The Emmy-winning actress was born in Oklahoma, the daughter of a beautician and a building contractor. She had a prolific career on the stage and screen, best known for her portrayal of man-crazed Southern belle Blanche Deveraux on the hit NBC 80s sitcom, which is still popular in reruns.
She told the NY Times in 1985 that the Golden Girls, a show about four elderly women living together in Miami, was aimed at proving "that when people mature, they add layers. They don't turn into other creatures. The truth is we all still have our child, our adolescent, and your young woman living in us."
After her Emmy win in 1987, she told the AP her character "is in love with life and she loves men. I think she has an attitude toward women that's competitive. She is friends with Dorothy and Rose, but if she has enough provocation she becomes competitive with them. I think basically she's insecure. It's the other side of the Don Juan syndrome."
In addition to the Golden Girls, McClanahan played Vivian Cavender Harmon on TV's Maude, and Fran Crowley on Mama's Family. She was also a veteran Broadway performer.
McClanahan was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 1997, a condition from which she fully recovered; the actress had health problems earlier this year when she suffered a minor stoke after a triple-bypass surgery in November 2009.
In 2007, she published her memoir entitled My First Five Husbands... And The Ones Who Got Away, in which she candidly discussed her life and loves, as the actress was married six times. First to Tom Bish, with whom she had a son, Mark Bish; then to actor Norman Hartweg, Peter D'Maio, Gus Fisher, and Tom Keel, She married her husband Morrow Wilson in December of 1997.
McClanahan's death leaves Betty White as the sole surviving Golden Girl: Beatrice Arthur died from cancer last year, while Estelle Getty died in 2008.
Celebs were mourning via the Web site Twitter Thursday, in the wake of the show biz veteran's passing.
Mandy Moore wrote, "RIP rue mcclanahan. sending love and prayers to her loved ones.....," while Rose McGowan Tweeted: "Oh no! I'm tearing up! Rue McLanahan has died. She was my favorite Golden Girl. It's a sad, sad day. :((((."
She is survived by her husband Morrow Wilson and by her only child, Mark Bish