I spent a few days with actress 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 just about everyone on board was getting their marriage vows renewed.
Our invited 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. While on the cruise 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 now 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. But she seemed delighted.
She had been married a few times by then 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 alot of her character on The Golden Girls. Lots of giggles. Feminine. Full of life.
She talked 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 on the pool deck below, dressed in red, renewing vows along with Captain Stubing and a minister. We felt really out of the loop, and we would comment on the couples and joke that some of them didn’t look so happy.
Rue McClanahan led a colorful life, and was a role model as a creative, older woman. I followed her late career as she appeared on Broadway and in supporting roles on television. She never stopped working, despite illnesses and losses. And she found love again.