‘Golden Girls’: Rue McClanahan Developed Self-Confidence Thanks to Playing Blanche Devereaux

by Joe Rutland

Actress Rue McClanahan had roles in three classic TV series, including “The Golden Girls.” It took time to build up her self-confidence.

A lot of people know McClanahan, who died in 2010, from her role as Blanche Devereaux on the NBC hit comedy series. She also played Vivian Harmon on “Maude” from 1972-78 and Aunt Fran Crowley on “Mama’s Family” in the 1983-84 season.

Still, McClanahan apparently felt like her self-confidence needed a boost. It got one from playing Blanche on “The Golden Girls.” McClanahan’s role was alongside Bea Arthur, Betty White, and Estelle Getty.

“It gave me a lot more self-confidence,” McClanahan said in an interview with Lavender Magazine. “I realized that she thinks she’s the cat’s meow, crazy about herself, very outgoing, thinks that she’s beautiful.

“I figured, I’m playing the part – why don’t I start feeling that way, too,” she said. “(So) I became much less shy.”

McClanahan ‘Golden Girls’ Contract Had Clauses

Writers for “The Golden Girls” made sure to play up McClanahan’s character, whose flirtatious ways stirred up laughs. Yet the actress’ contract also had some interesting stipulations in it.

McClanahan had a clause written into her contract that she could keep all clothes made for Blanche. Now that was a lot of wardrobe since McClanahan took up 13 closets in a Manhattan apartment with those clothes.

She also kept every piece of “Golden Girls” memorabilia that she could claim. McClanahan died on June 3, 2010, from a brain hemorrhage. Upon her death, she left orders giving her friends and family first choices on clothes and souvenirs.

It was a pretty good career for the woman originally from Ardmore, Okla. In 1987, McClanahan won an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.”

McClanahan Was Married Six Times In Her Life

As for her real-life beyond the TV screen, Rue McClanahan was married six times. She seemed to have trouble finding true love.

So, who were these six men that the star married? Let’s take a look.

  • Tom Bish. They met in Erie, Pa. She was working on the stage and as a file clerk. Their marriage lasted just 17 months and they had one son, Mark.
  • Norman Hartweg. Both of them knew each other from attending Tulsa University in Tulsa, Okla. The marriage didn’t last long.
  • Peter DeMaio. A fellow actor, McClanahan met DeMaio during a production of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.” Their marriage lasted seven years. Trouble brewed when son Mark said he’d move to Oklahoma and live with family if Rue didn’t leave him.
  • Gus Fisher. He was a realtor who McClanahan met while working on “Maude” in 1976. Again, this marriage didn’t last, either.
  • Tom Keel. This happened to be a love story between two people from Ardmore, Okla. High school sweethearts get back together and marry in 1985. She and Keel divorced in 1986, just as her turn on “The Golden Girls” started.
  • Morrow Wilson. She married him in 1997 and stayed with Wilson until her death. She finally found her soulmate at 63 years old.