The world lost a bright, shining star this week. But on a more personal level, I lost an inspiration. A person that I have no problem admitting helped shape the man I am today. Rue McClanahan passed away yesterday at age 76.
You may laugh, but The Golden Girls has been an important part of my life since I was a child, and continues to be today. None of the girls had such a profound impact on me than Rue's unforgettable character of Blanche Devereaux. When I was young, the double entendres went right over my head - but I still laughed hysterically along with my grandmother and godmother. As I got older, I came to appreciate the brilliance of the show even more.
When I say that Rue was an inspiration to me, it's not at all because her character was slutty. Blanche taught me about southern hospitality, the virtues and flaws of a southern belle, and the outrageous fun of being an egocentric narcissist. Being a Leo, I loved the way Blanche said whatever was on her mind, regardless of how it would necessarily make her look. She was brazen, bold and proud. Growing up gay, I can't begin to explain to you how that molded me.
In the end, though, it all comes back to Rue. She didn't just read the lines that were written for her - she gave this character life. Off camera, she was confident but soft-spoken. She married several times, and was always searching for true love. It may be a common quest, but something about her point blank attitude on what she was looking for always inspired me.
Although I saw her and the other girls during a roundtable discussion of The Golden Girls at the Paley Center for Media several years ago, I never had the chance to meet her. This saddens me a bit, but I also already feel like I know her. I feel like she's a part of my family. Blanche Devereaux is the reason I occasionally slip into a southern accent (despite growing up in New England), and Rue McClanahan is the reason I wake up every day with the confidence to be exactly who I am...and let it shine.
Goodbye, Rue. See you on that big lanai in the sky. Infinite love, and eternal gratitude.