Blanche was the best ‘Golden Girl’ hands down (obviously Dorothy was the worst) and she was played with Southern-style brassy, breasty, campy panache by Rue McClanahan who passed away at age 74 after suffering a massive stroke yesterday. She’s the third Golden Girl to pass away within the last two years – they’ll now reunite in that great retirement home in the sky. Betty White better watch her back.

Blanche Devereaux was television’s original cougar – the prototype on which Sex And The City‘s Samantha Jones was modeled. Her dialogue was sprinkled with such delights as “better late than pregnant” and “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take a long, hot, steamy bath, with just enough water to barely cover my perky bosoms” and “There is a fine line between having a good time and being a wanton slut. I know. My toe has been on that line.” She gave retirees sex appeal but was also hilarious and looked like she’d give excellent grandparent hugs.

In real life Rue McClanahan was equally awesome. A longtime animal welfare advocate and vegetarian and she once wrote Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry a letter informing him that his pheasant hunting had cost him her vote and respect. She won an Emmy for the role of Blanche in 1987. She wrote an autobiography entitled “My First Five Husbands…and the Ones Who Got Away” about her Blanche-like track record in love.

On hearing of her death, Marc Cherry, Desperate Housewives creator and one-time writer for The Golden Girls said: “When I worked on The Golden Girls, my favorite character to write for was Blanche Devereaux. In the hands of lesser actresses, Blanche’s vanity and sexual appetite would have been off-putting. But in Rue’s brilliant hands, that character became one of the most beloved in the history of TV. Rue’s kindness, generosity, and enormous talent will be sorely missed.”

Heaven just got a little sluttier.

R.I.P. Rue