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Rue McClanahan Dead at 76

Golden Girls’ star Rue McClanahan, died early this morning at the age of 76.

Rue was best known as Golden Girls’ sexy Southern debutante Blanche Devereaux and as the scatterbrained Vivian Harmon on Maude.

McClanahan suffered a cerebral hemorrhage Monday and died at 1 a.m. Thursday with her family at her side in the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, according to the actress’ manager, Barbara Lawrence.

McClanahan had been in ill health for the past few months after undergoing a a cardial bypass late last year and then suffering a stroke in January.

Her death follows those of her Golden Girls co-stars, Estelle Getty, who died in July 2008, and Bea Arthur, who died in April 2009. Betty White is the sole surviving cast member of the hit 1980s TV show.

“Rue was a close and dear friend. I treasure our relationship,” White said in a statement. “It hurts more than I ever thought it would, if that’s even possible.”

McClanahan was an Oklahoma native who started acting off-Broadway in 1957 and made her Broadway debut 12 years later in the musical Jimmy Shine with Dustin Hoffman. She joined on the NBC soap Another World just a year later.

“I saw her off-Broadway and I brought her out here for Maude. This was one of the loveliest, funniest, most grounded…I don’t have good enough words for her,” Maude creator Norman Lear said in a statement. “There are wonderful actors who can do comedy, and there are wonderful actors who can do comedy who are also funny. Rue was funny walking into a room. Her earlobes were funny. Her knuckles were funny. She was just funny.”

McClanahan will always be best known for Golden Girls for which she won an Emmy. She carried on in the role on the Golden Girls’ spin-off, The Golden Palace, which lasted for only one season.

In recent years she had guest-starring roles on Boy Meets World, Hope & Faith, King of the Hill and Law & Order. Her last appearances were on Logo’s 2008 sitcom Sordid Lives: The Series and a 2009 episode of Meet the Browns.

McClanahan was married six times and is survived by her husband, Morrow Wilson, her son, Mark Bish, from her first marriage and her sister, Dr. Melinda L. McClanahan.

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