“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 White… so here are some of our favorite facts about her life!
Betty White Facts
1. Aww, poor puppy
Betty’s passion for animals is so unwavering that she won’t accept movie roles if the script calls for potential animal abuse. 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.
2. Sharing the love
Betty was originally considered for the role of the sexpot, “Blanche,” on The Golden Girls (1985). However, Betty 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, Betty got the part of naive “Rose Nylund” and Rue played the oversexed “Blanche.”
3. Fourth time is a charm
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 admits to having surgery before The Golden Girls (1985), even though the program was about growing old and not having a problem with it.
4. Big heart, big trucks?
Before she was a successful comedian, actress and animal activist, she was a member of the American Women’s Voluntary Services, where she drove a PX truck during World War II.
5. Well-earned recognition
Betty has won six Emmy Awards and received 18 Emmy nominations during her career, which has 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.
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.
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.
8. Jokes on you!
In addition to her work in Hot in Cleveland, she also hosts Betty White’s Off Their Rockers. This hidden camera show features a mature set of merry pranksters who play jokes on younger generations. White picked an Emmy Award nomination for her work on the show in 2012.
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.
10. Who’s got the Twitter game?
She may prefer to write longhand, but she’s still hip: in the first 24 hours after her Twitter account launched, she amassed 118,000 followers. That number is currently up to 1.3 million, and while the account was started by her reps and there are paid social media pros promoting her appearances and putting in retweets and hashtags for her, there’s some of the real Betty in there too.
11. That’s Mayor Betty to you
Betty is 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.
12. Third time is a charm
She is known for being raunchy, but she’s also a romantic. She married U.S. Army pilot Dick 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.
13. Don’t forget the cup
She loves a good game of poker and has a regular one set up with a bunch of old friends. They play 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 has a brass cup engraved with the words ‘Pico Poker Club” and it gets taken home by whoever comes out ahead at the end of the night. If the winner forgets to bring it back the next time there’s a game, they owe “$2,000 or death, whichever is more appropriate.”
14. Betty is the best
Betty is not short for anything. It’s 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.
15. Taking some time to relax
She pours herself a pre-dinner cocktail. White says a drink at night is relaxing.
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’s Betty White, and she can do that.
17. Sorry, I guess The Situation just got serious
She won’t be watching an episode of Jersey Shore anytime soon. White has made it known in recent years that she’s no fan of reality TV. She hasn’t elaborated why.
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.
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 devoted to delivering supplies via PX truck throughout the Hollywood Hills, but her nights were spent at rousing dances thrown to give grand send-offs to soldiers set to ship out. Of that era, she told Cleveland Magazine, “It was a strange time and out of balance with everything.”
20. A healthy diet is the key, right?
The key to aging gracefully has nothing to do with health food as far as White is 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.”
21. Oh, Robert
Betty wants 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 has more than 110 film and television credits on her filmography, White has never worked with the Out of Africa star, who is 14 years her junior.
22. Is there anything Betty can’t do?
Betty has 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.
23. Gorgeous and young
During the late 1930’s, Betty 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.
24. Life regrets…
Betty stated that her biggest regret in life concerned Allen Ludden, her late husband who passed away in 1981 from 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 wasted one whole year that she could have been with Allen, saying that she wouldn’t marry him during the one year it took her to accept his proposals.
25. It’s better naked
Hot dogs appear to be her favorite food. Pink’s Hot Dogs, a landmark hot dog restaurant in Hollywood that Betty frequents, honoured her by creating the “The Betty White Naked Dog,” dressed exactly as she orders them: no condiments, no toppings.
26. Life blessings…
Betty does not have any biological children. Betty had come off two childless marriages before marrying Allen Ludden. Allen Ludden, on the other hand, went into the marriage with three children. Betty says that she still counts her three stepchildren as a blessing in her life.
27. A friend to gays
Betty is a strong supporter of gay rights. In fact, she has 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 homosexual relationships actually last longer than heterosexual ones, and that it’s irrational how some people can become so against something. Take care of your own affairs, mind your business, and keep your hands out of other people’s worries.
28. March on
She loves a parade. Between 1962 and 1971, Betty 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.
29. Trust in Betty
A 2011 poll involving 2,000 Americans revealed that Betty 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 Betty. This goes to show that, although 90+ years of age, Betty has still got it!
30. Say what now?
It isn’t because of her varied repertoire, it’s because of her mastery of it all, that White has an image of awesomeness. Soon after her muddy Super Bowl moment, a survey to design a cover for a magazine in Oregon picked Betty White … in a metal bikini … waving a flaming chainsaw … riding a centaur with John Ritter’s head. It all made perfect sense … except for the Ritter part.
31. Too Old For What?
When Betty White was asked if you could ever be too old for sexual desire, she actually responded with, “Does desire melt away with age? I’m waiting for that day to come.” She went on to say, “Sexual desire is like aging. A lot of it is up here.”
32. Old and proud
Betty holds 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.