I’ve never seen Golden Girls; Rue McClanahan’s autobiography was brought to my attention through the series of algorithms that comprise Goodreads and despite my ignorance of McClanahan’s body of work it was a pretty decent read.
I found a few similarities between Rue’s story and Penny Marshall’s. Both women got married young, after getting pregnant and both women quickly divorced the father’s of their children; Rue was a little bit older than Penny but both women came to prominence in the late 70s/ early 80s- they both even had ties to All in the Family (Marshall was married to Rob Reiner, McClanahan had a guest appearance). Both actresses also, unfortunately, had brushes with cancer later in life.
McClanahan had a bit of a tougher go at both her personal life and the start to her professional career. Her first husband, Tom, who she only married because she was pregnant, left her in the hospital only hours after she gave birth to his son. Their relationship had its peaks & valleys throughout the followings decades and Tom was never very involved in their son’s life. After Tom, Rue married a good friend of her’s, Norman, who she always loved but who never ignited her romantically, or passionately, but was a good person. He was in the military and they had a somewhat open marriage- it didn’t last. Norman remained a good friend to Rue up until his death. Rue also marries an Italian, who is borderline abusive to Rue as well as displeased at the presence of her son, Mark, followed by a Greek real estate agent who uses Rue for her fame and then a brief marriage to an old high school flame.
Rue shares her personal and professional highs and lows throughout the years; she uses her many marriages as markers on the timeline. I mostly wanted to strangle her for her idiotic choices in life partners but she has a pretty good sense of humor about her past romances.
I might whip up an Almost Ideal Husband Pudding. Take a pint of melting great looks, musical talent and humor from Tom Lloyd Bish. Equal parts kindess, geniius IQ, literary talent, courage, and artsy quirkiness from Norman Hartweg. A pinch of smelling sweet and a dash of orgasm from The Italian. A soupcon of high spirits from The Greek. And from my fifth husband, Tom Keel, a generous dollop of vigor and good looks, plus a gallon of gasket-blowing sex appeal.
McClanahan’s happiness shone brightest when she was talking about her friendships and her passion for acting. She had a steady career on stage and in television for about 50 years and although she was never obscenely rich she achieved lasting fame for her role as Blanch Devereaux. I was amazed at home much she worked prior to Golden Girls, when someone gets famous later in life you tend to think they came into this world at 52.
This memoir was written about five years prior to McClanahan’s death in 2010 and I was sad to see (on imdb) that she had been estranged from her sixth husband, who she had written only briefly but joyously about, at the time of her death.