Charlotte Rae, who was known mostly for her role as Mrs. Garrett on both Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, has died at the age of 92. She spoke to People about two cancer diagnoses in April, 2017. At that time, she had beat pancreatic cancer and had just been diagnosed with bone cancer. She described her experience with pancreatic cancer.
“About seven years ago, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer — which is a miracle that they found it because usually it’s too late. My mother, sister and my uncle died of pancreatic cancer. After six months of chemotherapy, I was cancer-free. I lost my hair, but I had beautiful wigs. Nobody even knew.”
When Rae shared her bone cancer diagnosis, she said she was not experiencing any pain yet and had to decide whether to “go have treatment again to opt for life.”
In her role as housekeeper Edna Garrett, Charlotte Rae became a favorite character, and when the show was eventually canceled, she proposed a spin-off for the character. The network liked the idea, and The Facts of Life was born. She left the show in 1986, and it was canceled in 1988.
BREAKING: Charlotte Rae, 'The Facts of Life' and 'Diff'rent Strokes' star, dead at 92 https://t.co/4PF0WM77OM
— Fox News (@FoxNews) August 6, 2018
Rae also authored a memoir that was published in 2015. Titled The Facts of My Life, it chronicled many of her experiences in Hollywood as well as some personal details like her battle with alcoholism. Fox News reported that Rae described alcohol as her “drug of choice” to help her sleep during the years she appeared as Molly the Mail Lady on Sesame Street, but that her problem started back in her college years. She described her and husband, John Strauss, as “drinking buddies.” When doctors told her that her first child, her son Andy, was autistic and mentally disabled, life became dark, and her drinking habit worsened. She finally sought help in her 40s, attending her first AA meeting after the wrap party for Sesame Street. She remained sober the rest of her life.
Rae also revealed in her memoir that Strauss eventually also joined AA and made a confession to his sponsor and then to her that changed her life. He was bisexual. They remained friends, but their marriage ended in divorce.
Although she was mostly known for her role as the beloved Mrs. Garrett, Rae’s acting career started back in the 1950s. She appeared on The Phil Silvers Show from 1955 to 1958 and went on to join the cast of Car 54, Where Are You? from 1961 to 1963. In total, Rae had 93 acting credits to her name.
In her April, 2017, statement in which she revealed that she had been diagnosed with bone cancer, Charlotte Rae also said this.
“At 91, every day is a birthday. [In my book] I want to tell everybody to celebrate every day, to savor the day and be good to yourself, love yourself, and then you can be good to others and be of service to others.”