Little Known Facts About Betty White

October 3, 2023 | Miles Brucker

Little Known Facts About Betty White

“I had no idea that I would still be around at this point for one thing, but that I’d still be privileged enough to still be in this business. And it is such a privilege. And the bottom line I think to the television business is that unless you’re a real bad egg, it is such fun. It really is. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart". -- Betty White at her 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech at the Emmy Awards 

We all love Betty here are some of our favorite facts about her life!

1. Aww, Poor Puppy

Betty White's love for animals was so strong that she refused to take on movie roles that involved potential harm to animals. She turned down the role of Helen Hunt’s mother in As Good As It Gets because Jack Nicholson’s character shoves a puppy dog down a laundry chute.

betty white

2. Sharing The love

White was originally considered for the role of the sexpot, "Blanche," on The Golden Girls (1985). However, White had already been the aggressive "Sue Ann Nivens" on Mary Tyler Moore (1970) and Rue McClanahan had played the introverted "Vivian" on Maude (1972). It was thought best not to have these two actresses reprise similar characters. Therefore, White got the part of naive "Rose Nylund" and Rue played the oversexed "Blanche".

 Betty White facts The Golden Girls (1985–1992), NBC

3. Fourth Time Is A charm

White played the same character named Rose Nylund on four different TV series: The Golden Palace (1992), The Golden Girls (1985), Nurses (1991), and Empty Nest (1988). She admitted to having surgery before The Golden Girls (1985), even though the program was about growing old and not having a problem with it.

Betty White FactsWikimedia Commons

4. Big Heart, Big Trucks?

Before she achieved success as a comedian, actress, and animal activist, she served as a member of the American Women's Voluntary Services, driving a PX truck during the global conflict of that era.

Betty White factsWikipedia

5. Well-Earned Recognition

Betty White won six Emmy Awards and received 18 Emmy nominations during her career, which spanned over sixty-five years. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame alongside the star for her late husband, Allen Ludden. In 1995, she was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.

70th Emmy Awards - Show. Betty White on stage.Getty Images

6. In The City Of Angels From A Tender Young Age

Comedic actress Betty Marion White Ludden was born on January 17, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois. She grew up as the only child of Horace and Tess White, an electrical engineer and a homemaker. When she was 2, she moved to Los Angeles with her family.

Betty White factsFlickr, oneredsf1

7. Humble Beginnings

White got her start working as an assistant at a local television station. In the early 1950s, she launched her first television series, Life with Elizabeth, which she developed with George Tibbles. "He wrote and I produced," White explained to The Hollywood Reporter. "I was one of the first women producers in Hollywood". The show's premise came from a sketch she had done previously on local television.

Betty White factsGetty Images

8. Jokes On You!

In addition to her work in Hot in Cleveland, she also hosted Betty White's Off Their Rockers. This hidden camera show featured a mature set of merry pranksters who play jokes on younger generations. White picked up an Emmy Award nomination for her work on the show in 2012.

Betty White Celebrates 93rd Birthday On The Set Of 'Hot in Cleveland'.Getty Images

9. Bo’s Lucky Day

When she met President Barack Obama at the White House in 2012, she spent half an hour with the presidential dog, Bo, on her lap. And when asked what her profession would be if show business was off the table, she doesn’t hesitate: zookeeper, a job unavailable to women when she was growing up.

Betty White factsWikipedia

10. Who’s Got The Twitter Game?

She may have prefer to write longhand, but she was still hip: in the first 24 hours after her Twitter account launched, she amassed 118,000 followers. That number quickly rose up to 1.3 million, and while the account was started by her reps and there were paid social media pros promoting her appearances and putting in retweets and hashtags for her, and there’s some of the real Betty White in there too.

Betty White factsShutterstock

11. That’s Mayor Betty To You

White was famous for being first. She was one of the women nominated in the Emmy category for female performers in 1950. She was one of the first women to have full creative control of her own TV show (Life With Elizabeth, which she co-created, produced, and starred in while she was still living at home with her parents). Being the first woman to produce a sitcom led to her becoming the honorary mayor of Hollywood in 1955.

2nd Annual TV Land Awards - Show.Getty Images

12. Third Time Is A Charm

She was known for being raunchy, but she was also a romantic. She married U.S. Army pilot Barker in 1945, primarily so they could sleep together. They spent six months in bed together, she says, and then got divorced. Her second marriage was to agent Lane Allen, but it was the third one that was the real thing.

Betty White factsGetty Images

13. Don’t Forget The Cup

She loved a good game of poker and had a regular one set up with a bunch of old friends. They played dealer’s choice, and White’s favorite is called Screw Thy Neighbor, where you get a chance to keep a card or pass it to another player. The group had a brass cup engraved with the words ‘Pico Poker Club” and it got taken home by whoever came out ahead at the end of the night. If the winner forgot to bring it back the next time there's was game, they owea "$2,000 or a more suitable consequence," as determined. 

Betty White factsFlickr, Alan Light

14. Betty Is The Best

Betty is not short for anything. It was her real name. Her parents gave her the name Betty out of fear that she would be called a derivative of Elizabeth, such as Liz, Beth or Lizzie. So, they decided Betty was best.

Betty White factsWikimedia Commons

15. Taking Some Time To Relax

She poured herself a pre-dinner cocktail. White said a drink at night is relaxing.

Betty White factsWikipedia

16. Betty Does What She Wants

Her experience in late-night TV goes from being a favorite guest of “Tonight Show” host Jack Paar to the opening minute of Jay Leno's return to the program, where she was the first person to make fun of NBC. Why? Because she was Betty White, and she could do that.

2015 TV Land Awards - Show.Getty Images

18. The Most Experienced Woman In Show Business

In the 2014 edition of the record-keeping time, White was awarded the title of Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female) for her more than 70 years (and counting) in show business. The year before, Guinness gave out Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Male) to long-time British TV host Bruce Forsyth. As both began their careers in 1939, they'd be neck-and-neck for the title, were they not separated by gender.

The 41st Annual People's Choice Awards - Show.Getty Images

19. Strange And Unusual Times

Before she took off on television, White was working in theater, on radio, and as a model. But with WWII, she shelved her ambitions and joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Her days were dedicated to delivering supplies via PX truck throughout the Hollywood Hills, but her nights were spent at lively dances thrown to bid farewell to personnel about to be deployed for service.  Of that era, she told Cleveland Magazine, "It was a strange time and out of balance with everything".

Betty White factsWikipedia

20. A Healthy Diet Is The Key, Right?

The key to aging gracefully had nothing to do with health food as far as White was concerned. In 2011, her Hot in Cleveland co-star Jane Leeves dished on White's snacking habits, "She eats Red Vines, hot dogs, French fries, and Diet Coke. If that's key, maybe she's preserved because of all the preservatives". Fellow co-star Wendie Malick concurred, saying, "She eats red licorice, like, ridiculously a lot. She seems to exist on hot dogs and French fries".

Betty White factsShutterstock

21. Oh, Robert

Betty White wanted Robert Redford. Betty once gave this cheeky confession: “My answer to anything under the sun, like ‘What have you not done in the business that you’ve always wanted to do?’ is ‘Robert Redford.'” Though she had more than 110 film and television credits on her filmography, White never worked with the Out of Africa star, who was 14 years her junior.

Robert Redford FactsShutterstock

22. Is There Anything Betty Can’t Do?

White identified her favorite author as L. Frank Baum, who wrote the Oz books that inspired the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. She has written six books herself, including her latest, If you Ask Me: (And of Course You Won't), which was published last May.

Betty White Signs Copies Of 'If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't)'Getty Images

23. Gorgeous And Young

During the late 1930's, White was voted the best-looking female by her classmates. Before beginning her acting career, she worked as a model, with one of her first gigs at the Bliss Hayden Little Theater in Los Angeles.

Betty White factsGetty Images

24. Life Regrets…

White stated that her biggest regret in life concerned Allen Ludden, her husband who passed in 1981 due to stomach cancer. At 93, when speaking with Oprah Winfrey during her Sunday show Oprah: Where Are They Now?, she revealed that not marrying Allen a year earlier was her major regret. They spent eighteen years together before he passed on. She had spent one entire year that she could have been with Allen, stating that she wouldn't marry him during the one-year period it took her to accept his proposals. 

Betty White factsWikipedia

25.  It's Better Without Clothing 

Hot dogs appear to have been her favorite food. Pink's Hot Dogs, a landmark hot dog restaurant in Hollywood that Betty White often visited, paid tribute to her by introducing "The Betty White Classic Dog," prepared just the way she preferred: without any condiments or toppings.

Betty White factsFlickr, Ken Lund

26. Life Blessings…

Betty White did not have any biological children. She had come off two childless marriages before marrying Allen Ludden. Allen Ludden, on the other hand, went into the marriage with three children. White said that she still counted her three stepchildren as a blessing in her life.

Betty White factsGetty Images

27. A Friend To Gays

White was a strong supporter of gay rights. In fact, she had been quoted saying that, if a couple has been together for a long time, she doesn’t see why they shouldn’t want to get married. She even added that some same-gender relationships actually last longer than opposite-gender ones, and that it's irrational how some people can become so opposed to something.  Take care of your own affairs, mind your business, and keep your hands out of other people’s worries.

Betty White factsWikimedia Commons

28. March On

She loved a parade. Between 1962 and 1971, White hosted Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (which was sponsored by NBC) alongside Bonanza’s own Lorne Greene. What’s more, she spent twenty years (between 1956 and 1976) as a color commentator for the annual Roses Parade tournament, which was also sponsored by NBC.

Betty White factsWikimedia Commons

29. Trust In Betty

A 2011 poll involving 2,000 Americans revealed that Betty White was the most trusted celebrity. In addition, 44% of these people admitted that they would be more likely to be inclined towards a particular company or product if it was associated with White . This goes to show that, although 90+ years of age, White still had it!

Betty White factsFlickr, Alan Light

30. Say What Now?

It wasn't because of her varied repertoire, it was because of her mastery of it all, that White had an image of awesomeness. Soon after her muddy Super Bowl moment, a survey to design a cover for a magazine in Oregon picked Betty a metal bikini...waving a flaming chainsaw...and riding a centaur with John Ritter's head. It all made perfect sense...except for the Ritter part.

Betty White factsWikimedia Commons

31. Too Old For What?

When Betty White was asked if you could ever be too old for desire, she actually responded with, "Does desire melt away with age? I'm waiting for that day to come". She went on to say, "Desire is like aging. A lot of it is up here".

TV Land's Legends Of TV Land Panel.Getty Images

32. Old And proud

White held the distinct honor of being the OLDEST person to host Saturday Night Live. She didn’t want to do the show at first, calling it challenging. She turned producer Lorne Michaels down three times before accepting the popular hosting gig. She was 88 at the time, beating out Miskel Spillman who was 80 when he hosted the show in 1977. White said SNL was the “scariest thing she’s ever done,” despite previously having hosted a live ad-lib show six days per week for five and a half years, Hollywood on Television, starting in 1949.

The 40th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards - Show.Getty Images


Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 

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