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  • Jun
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To Rue From PETA: Thank You for Being a Friend

Posted by at 2:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

rue-1Back 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.

When 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.”

This post was written by 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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  • Evie says:

    Rue you were an angel on earth and now you are an angel in heaven. If only the human race had a heart as big as yours. Thank you for loving animals. Kiss and hug the Golden Girl;s for me. We love you forever, and will continue watching the episodes. RIP.

  • MARIA SELVA says:

    REST IN PEACE Rue McClanahan
    From where are you now is ensuring LIKE ALL THE ANIMALS IN LIFE you did

  • Jacob Dijkstra, M.D. says:

    People like Rue give me hope and keep me going in this often very depressing world when it comes to the way our society deals with animals.
    I want to thank Rue as well as the new generation of celebrities who volunteer their time and talents to help all sentient beings.

  • Ray Comeau says:

    Thanks for people like RUE. She surely will be missed. She brought joy and laughter to many persons. She enjoyed life to the fullest I am sure, I watched her on TV many times. Those memories will linger as long as I am alive. I am 80 years old but her and Betty White and those who entertained us for so long made our lives happier ad brought a smile to our faces when mostly needed. I also Miss Bea Arthur, That trio brought many laughs to us over the years I just hope in the future we will see others of that talent return to entertain us, They will all be missed but I think having the privilage to live when they were all here is wonderful Betty White your a jewel and we pray God will give you many more years to bring smiles and laughter to us, Betty I have watched you a lot of years and your late husband also is really missed by many people> Memories to me are wonderful, Some say don’t live in the past But I say if not for the past we would have missed many happy memories.

  • Sylvan Giacchino says:

    What a lady! What a life! What a blessing to this world!
    Thank you Rue McClanahan!

  • Jeannie says:

    We lost a great person in Rue, thanks for the great tribute:) It’s much appreciated

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