I spent a few days with Rue McClanahan, who died this morning of a stroke at 76.
About 15 years ago I was invited as a travel writer on a "Love Boat" Valentine excursion where everyone on board was getting their marriage vows renewed. Our little solo group included Gavin McCloud, who went on most of the trips in the Captain Stubing persona from The Love Boat. He had grown up in Pleasantville, NY, north of New York City, near where I lived. I interviewed him for the local papers and he told many tales of life on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He loved the opportunity he had to meet people and travel.
Another in the invited group was Rue McClanahan, who played Blanche on The Golden Girls. She was sweet and soft-spoken, and single at the time. She commented that she had met a man on board who had given her a teddy bear, and she figured that if he was on this cruise that he was married.
She had been married a few times and seemed interested in finding love again, and I remember reading that she did a couple of years later. The bunch of us invited guests hung out together for the long weekend, talking of men and life. I remember thinking that she reminded me a lot of her character on The Golden Girls. Lots of giggles. Soft voice. Full of life.
She talked often of working with Bea Arthur, both on The Golden Girls and on Maude, where Rue portrayed Vivian, Maude's best friend.
My strongest remembrance is standing on an upper deck watching the hundreds of people dressed in red renewing vows below. And we would comment on the couples and joke that some of them didn't look so happy.
She led a fulfilling colorful life, and was a role model as a creative, older woman. And Rue McClanahan found love again.