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To Rue From PETA: Thank You for Being a Friend

Written by PETA | June 3, 2010

Rue McClanahan and Dan MathewsBack in the ’80s, when many people still thought that PETA was a Middle Eastern bread, a funny actor from Oklahoma became our first champion in Hollywood and helped establish the organization as a household name. She was Rue McClanahan, the flirty “Golden Girl,” and she became so active that she was PETA’s honorary director for almost three decades.

I was still PETA’s receptionist when I wrote to Rue and asked if she would star in our first anti-fur commercial. You can imagine my delight when I answered the phone to hear Rue say that not only would she do it, she had gotten Bea Arthur and Betty White to appear, too, and had even convinced the producers to film it for us free of charge on the set after one of their Friday-night tapings. From then on, Rue became a key PETA operative in Hollywood as well as a personal friend; she even let me use her dressing room as a makeshift office, as PETA had no office in L.A. back then. I left my post at the reception desk and started developing campaigns with high-profile personalities thanks in large part to Rue’s enthusiasm.

Growing up in the country, Rue had always been shocked to see the glee that many people derive from hunting and fishing—and she had been mocked for her concern—so she felt relieved to get involved with an organization that made no apologies about defending all animals. After winning an Emmy, Rue did the talk-show circuit and always found a way to discuss her PETA activism, telling viewers, with that gracious smile, that not only was she anti-fur, she also opposed animal experimentation. In Salt Lake City, she took time off from the Touched By an Angel set to host PETA’s video for a landmark factory farm cruelty case. In Las Vegas, she led a protest outside a furriers’ convention. In Virginia, she launched PETA’s mobile spay-and-neuter clinic. And in New York, she hosted a saucy PETA benefit at Chippendales. One muggy summer, she returned to Oklahoma, where PETA had filmed elephant trainers beating animals who were performing in the circus, to screen that footage at the state capitol and call on lawmakers to outlaw bullhooks.

Rue McClanahanWhen floods ravaged the Midwest, Rue flew to St. Louis to make appeals for people to include animals in their evacuation plans. She starred in public service announcements urging people to spay or neuter their animals and always to adopt from animal shelters rather than buying from pet shops or breeders (there were four shelter dogs at that shoot, and she took all of them home). She opened her house for a PETA benefit and told guests that “Rue” is French for “street” and that she always wished her last name had been “Walker.”

But my favorite memory of Rue was when we traveled to New Mexico, where she helped push through legislation to outlaw cockfighting. When a reporter asked if there would be any naked protesters, she just smiled and replied, “It’s not that kind of cockfight.”

If animals could sing, I have no doubt that they’d serenade Rue with the Golden Girls theme song: “Thank You for Being a Friend.”

Written by PETA Senior Vice President Dan Mathews

P.S. To make a gift for animals in Rue’s honor, please visit our True Friends Memorials page.

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  • J. Jameson says:

    When i read that Rue had passed on i cried for the loss of such a beautiful soul. Not only did Rue have physical beauty at least in her younger years i think the cancer ordeal aged her why wouldn’t it? she had such an inner beauty that shone thru those beautiful eyes gorgeous smile. You can tell so much by a person by their eyes if you pay attention Rue exhibited love kindness thru her eyes. I knew Rue was involved in PETA but didn’t know it was 30+ years. I will truly miss her wish i could have met her been a friend. I love animals so much myself wish i had a friend in a famous person to help me realize some of the dreams i have with animals i always wanted to see a nokill shelter like the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary here in Wisconsin. Had i known Rue maybe something like this could have happened. Till we meet in the next life Rue hug my papa all my animals that are with you the ones who will follow before i get there. I know you’re not suffering now you’re prob right there with my dad laying on the ground playing with the dogs! Watch over us all Rue i will never forget you someday i know i’ll be able to talk to you. Much love is sent to wherever your soul may be wandering…

  • Richard P Risica says:

    I can only imagine what a devote animal lover and animal helper she was. A celebrated star with a million things to do and yet she gave her time to help the ones who need it. She really made her mark on me. What a hero you are to us. I know you will rest in peace.

  • dominique mall says:

    She was and will remain a tre “Star” for ever because she lived her life thinking about others.It is very easy when you become famous to become very self absorbed and self centered and forget about compassion kindness and humanity.She was certainly a big hearted person and was a pioneer in animal welfare.Good for her that she took a stand for that in the early days where standing up for animals was not glamorous in the early days in Hollywood. You will be missed Ruth but I know that from Heaven you watch on all the animals and pray for them.

  • Lisa says:

    Special ladies like Rue will never be forgotton from myself and all the animals we send you love and a big THANKYOU xxx


    I actually cried when I heard she was dead and she has always had a heart of gold. God bless her and I know that her organisation will go on. Thank you for being a friend xxxxx

  • Beverly Hess says:

    Rue is a true hero. I will always remember her as I continue to help the animals. Thank you for being a kind person and rest in peace Rue.

  • adriana says:

    thank you for all your help may you rest in peace

  • lil wings says:

    Thank YOU RUE for BEing A Great friend to our animals we will miss u.

  • Saucy says:

    I knew there was something to that show Golden Girls. Something unexplainable. How could four lets see how do I put delicately…..old broads… postmenopausal women…. mature chicks be so darn interesting. I loved that show couldn’t turn past it. Heartwarming. Now I know why. The deep well of Love bubbling up inside bursting at the seams flowing up and out to the masses. I wish I could have known you more intimately. Rest in Peace Rue and God Bless above and beyond.

  • AnimalsArentFood says:

    I never knew that about her. What an awesome person. Betty White still does things for animals too doesn’t she?

  • Carole says:

    What a beautiful woman Rue was. Of all the things she did I most of all admired her for her love for animals and her no fear to speak out for them. You will be so missed here on Earth Rue but it is certainly Heaven’s gain. Love my babies for me that are already there until I can rejoin them

  • Dana says:

    This had to be the most beautiful article on Rue. It just shows that she is a class act. God bless her she is going to be missed.

  • Rev. Meg Schramm says:

    I loved any t.v. series Rue was in especially when she was with Bea Arthur she played Viv on the series “Maude” as well as Blanche on “Golden Girls”. And John it’s not so much that good people go before the bad ones do although I know it seems that way. It’s that Earth is merely a training ground and some people need more time here than others.

  • Dawn says:

    WoW! She was quite a lady! She will be missed!!!

  • Melissa Frost says:

    RIP Rue thank you for being a crusader for animals a champion of women and a friend to all.

  • AAG says:

    I met Rue twice. First time during the Animal Rights Conference for the second March for Animals in D.C. and last year in NYC when she came to give her support for the cats and dogs that continue to be eaten in Korea. I took photos with her and shared nice conversations with her. RIP Rue. The animals lost a loyal advocate and the world a classy lady.

  • John Carmody says:

    Damn why do all the good people go before the bad ones? This is such another loss to the animal rights movement. Rue we’ll definitly miss you too but now maybe you and Bea can fight animal abusers together from up above! Dearly Missed John Carmody Dublin Ireland

  • Cindy says:

    Thank you Rue for you’re love of animals and laughter !!! You will be missed !!! Sleep well !!!

  • marjorie says:

    my dear friend I never got to know you only on the golden girls and you were so cute and sweet. I will miss you dearlyrest in peacemy dear friend….and may God bless your family on and off the TV cercuit. much love my dear friend!!!!

  • Aneliese says:

    Rest in peace Rue.

  • Most Rev. Bishop Steven E. Morrell says:

    + Grace to you and Peace Rue. You will be sorely missed on so many levels. The hearts of the entire animal kingdom are indeed singing out “Thank you for being a friend.” May it be that your hard work inspire many in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi to continue your work to benefit animals in your memory. Thank you for all the entertainment you’ve given us these many years. Many would say “Rest in Peace” but I have a suspicion you already have those in the afterlife howling with laughter.

  • T says:

    What a class act! May she rest in peace.

  • lacey says:


  • Erica says:

    What a classy lady!!! RIP Rue. You will be missed!

  • Mike Quinoa says:

    Sad news. When people with the humanity and integrity of Rue fight for animals the rest of us know we’re in good company. In Rue’s honour we should all ramp up our efforts to help animalsthat I’m sure would have truly pleased her.

  • Una Y. says:

    Dear lovely Rue After watching you all these years it is so hard to beleive that you are no longer with us physically. No doubt you’re in a much better place now. Probably smiling and enjoying all your richly deserved tributes and accolades. We love you miss you and will never forget you. We know you’ll continue the works that you loved so much from where you are now. My prayers go out to all your loved ones and all your many many fans. Remember us.

  • Abby says:

    There is a special place in heaven for those who help protect the innocent. God Bless.

  • maxie says:

    I love rue so much for golden girls. When i read she dead. I can’t believe it. RIP RUE!!!!!

  • Lia says:

    Rue You were ahead of your time. You knew way back then who to join efforts with. Heartbreaking to lose you. Your work for the most vulerable will carry on and on. Thank you.

  • julie pheasey says:

    RIP Rue. Thank you for being a friend to animals and for all the years of laughter…sleep well dear lady

  • Carrie says:

    A true hero.

  • indycar01 says:

    i am very sad to hear she passed on i feel as if i lost a family member.

  • Samantha says:

    RIP Rue. Thank you for being a friend to animals and for all the years of laughter…sleep well dear lady.

  • Patty Shaw says:

    This made me cry. I love Rue and Betty and Bea I became involved in PETA after seeing these 3 wonderful woman talk about I’ve always been an animal rights person but I just didn’t know what PETA was I am grateful to these Golden Girls for making me aware. Love you.

  • sanjuro says:

    She was quite a lady! Very nice tribute.