On Golden Girls, Rue McClanahan played a flirty, vivacious Southern belle named Blanche Devereaux. Her character was a widow and had yet to remarry.
But in real life, McClanahan was married six times. Surely, Blanche would’ve been intrigued with all those men in McClanahan’s life. McClanahan conceded that she and Blanche were a lot alike.
“People always ask me if I’m like Blanche,” McClanahan said in a 2007 interview. “Well, Blanche was an oversexed, self-involved, man-crazy, vain Southern belle from Atlanta — and I’m not from Atlanta.”
McClanahan wrote about her Golden Girls life and love interests in her memoir My First Five Husbands … And the Ones Who Got Away. It took her two years to write the 334-page book. It was released in 2007, three years before McClanahan died of a stroke.
Golden Girls Star Described Her Men as “Hot Dudes and Duds”
In her book, McClanahan categorized her men as “hot dudes and duds.” She once explained that she didn’t believe in living with a man without the benefit of marriage. That’s why there were so many marriages.
Here’s a rundown.
McClanahan’s first marriage was to Tom Bish. The two met when McClanahan was doing stage work in Erie, Penn. She also worked as a file clerk. They married in 1958. The couple had one son, Mark, then divorced after only 17 months of marriage. In her book, McClanahan described her first husband as a handsome aspiring actor.
Next came Norman Hartweg. The two knew each other when both attended Tulsa University. McClanahan grew up in Oklahoma. The marriage didn’t last long. In her book, she described Hartweg as a close friend.
Then there was Peter DeMaio. He was an actor, too. They met while doing the off-Broadway production of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The two were married for seven years. But her son threatened to move to Oklahoma and live with relatives if his mother didn’t leave DeMaio. In her book, she referred to husband No. 3 as “the Italian.”
McClanahan moved on to husband No. 4, Gus Fisher whom she called “the Greek.” He wasn’t in the business. Rather, he was a realtor. This was in 1976, while she was on the show Maude. That’s where she met her Golden Girls best friend Bea Arthur.
McClanahan wrote: “I felt I had to have someone there with me who was aware of my existence, that I was not alone, abandoned and unnoticed.”
Tom Keel was husband No. 5. And it was a sweet love story, while it lasted. Keel and McClanahan were both from Ardmore. They were high school sweethearts. They rekindled their romance in a plotline straight out of the Hallmark Channel and married in 1985. But as she began work on the Golden Girls, she and Keel broke up. They divorced in 1986.
Finally, Late In Life McClanahan Enjoyed True, Lasting Love
She married Morrow Wilson in 1997. And she was with him until she died in 2010. At 63, the spicy star of the Golden Girls finally found lasting love.
When she was promoting her book and reliving memories of the Golden Girls, she said of Morrow Wilson:
“This is my last marriage. This man is a keeper.”