25 Things You Might Not Have Known About The Late Betty White

On December 31, 2021, beloved actress, comedian and TV icon Betty White died at the age of 99. Today marks what would’ve been her 100th birthday.

White is most known for her iconic TV roles through the years: From 1973 to 1977, she played Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show; from 1983 through 1985, she played Ellen Harper Jackson on Mama’s Family; from 1985 to 1992, she played Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls; and in 2010, she joined the cast of Hot in Cleveland.

“I have no regrets at all. None. I consider myself to be the luckiest old broad on two feet,” White told Guinness World Records in 2014 after earning the record for longest TV career for a female entertainer.

Even though White couldn’t attend her 100th birthday party, the world is still celebrating in her honour. Here’s a look back at 25 things that you probably didn’t know about the one and only, Betty White.

1. Betty White was born in Oak Park, Illinois, on January 17, 1922, but she grew up in Southern California. (White’s birthplace has established January 17, 2022, as “Betty White Day” in the state)

2. Her first name is actually Betty, not Elizabeth. Her parents chose to name her Betty out of fear that she would be called a derivative of Elizabeth, such as Liz, Beth or Lizzie.

3. She attended Beverly Hills High School and Horace Mann School Beverly Hills and initially wanted to become a forest ranger…However, women weren’t allowed to become rangers during this time. She eventually developed an interest in writing and after she wrote and played the lead in a graduation play at Horace Mann School, her fate was sealed.

4. Immediately after High School, she made the rounds at Hollywood movie studios looking for work, but she was always turned down because she was deemed “unphotogenic.” So, she began working in radio.

19th March 1974: American actor Betty White stands smiling with her husband, TV producer and host Allen Ludden (d. 1981), wearing a tuxedo, at an International Broadcasting Awards dinner tribute to Mary Tyler Moore. (Photo by Frank Edwards/Fotos International/Getty Images)
Above: Betty White and husband, TV producer and host Allen Ludden in 1974

5. She was married 3 different times. In 1945, White married Dick Barker, a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps, but they divorced shortly after. In 1947, she married Hollywood agent Lane Allen, but they divorced in 1949. In 1963, White married television host Allen Ludden, whom she had met on his game show Password as a celebrity guest in 1961. They were together until he died in 1981 from stomach cancer.

6. White had no biological children of her own. Ludden, did have 3 children, who stayed part of White’s life after Ludden passed away.

7. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which can be found beside the star for her late husband, Ludden.

8. White’s first work in Hollywood was appearing in a Parkay margarine commercial.

9. Her more official television debut happened in 1949 with Al Jarvis on his daily live television variety show, Hollywood on Television. (She later became the host of Hollywood on Television after Al Jarvis left the show)

Things You Probably Didnt Know About Betty White - Life with Elizabeth
Above: Del Moore and Betty White in Life with Elizabeth

10. White’s first nationally syndicated TV sitcom was a show called Life with Elizabeth, which ran from 1952 to 1955. She received her first Emmy nod for the role, although she wouldn’t win an Emmy until later in her career. White also co-produced and owned Life with Elizabeth, which was unheard of at the time.

11. White never had acting lessons saying that they were never her thing. “I just want to bring as much natural as I can,” said White. “I’m not saying that people who take acting lessons are false. They’re much better than I am, but it doesn’t work for me.”

Things You Probably Didnt Know About Betty White - Just Men

12. White loved games shows and she appeared on numerous game shows throughout the 60s. She was also the first woman to win a Daytime Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Game Show Host, for hosting the show Just Men.

Things You Probably Didnt Know About Betty White - Golden Girls

13. White is probably best known for her portrayal of Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls, but she originally auditioned for the role of oversexed Blanche Devereaux. Producers initially tapped White for the role of Blanche because she had played lusty Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and were eyeing Rue McClanahan for the part of Rose because she had previously played dopey Vivian Harmon on Maude. Director Jay Sandrich was worried about typecasting, so he asked the two actresses to try switching roles during the audition. The rest is history.

Things You Probably Didnt Know About Betty White - A Little Romance
Above: Dr. Jonathan Newman (Brent Collins) and Rose Nylund (Betty White) in the 13th episode of Season 1 of The Golden Girls, “A Little Romance”

14. Her favourtie episode of The Golden Girls was “A Little Romance” from the first season. In the episode, Rose is reluctant to introduce Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia to her new boyfriend, psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Newman, because he is a little person. White said that despite the fact that “every ‘short’ joke in the book” was used, none of the humor was truly hurtful.

15. White is the only “Golden Girl’ to appear on four different shows as the same character (The Golden Girls, Empty Nest, The Golden Palace and Nurses).

Above: Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Bea Arthur at the DVD release party for Golden Girls in November 2004 in Los Angeles, California
Above: Betty White, Rue McClanahan and Bea Arthur at the DVD release party for The Golden Girls in November 2004 in Los Angeles, California

16. With Rue McClanahan’s death in June 2010, White became the last surviving cast member of The Golden Girls. (Estelle Getty died in July 2008 and Bea Arthur died in April 2009)

17. White’s appearance on TV Land’s Hot in Cleveland was only supposed to be a one-time guest role. However, producers loved her and quickly gave her a full-time role.

Things You Probably Didnt Know About Betty White - Saturday Night Live

18. White holds the distinct honour of being the oldest person to ever host an episode of Saturday Night Live. In 2010, a Facebook group called “Betty White To Host SNL … Please?” gathered so much media attention that SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels was happy to make it happen. She hosted the show on May 8, 2010 at the age of 88 to rave reviews.

19. She was the oldest person to ever earn an Emmy nomination. In 2014, White earned her 21st Emmy nod for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program for the senior citizen-centric prank show Betty White’s Off Their Rockers. She was 92.

Above: Betty White and Michael J. Fox pose with their Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress and Actor in a Comedy Series in 1986. White won for her role on the Golden Girls and Fox for his on Family Ties
Above: Betty White and Michael J. Fox pose with their Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress and Actor in a Comedy Series in 1986. White won for her role on The Golden Girls and Fox for his on Family Ties

20. Across the decades she won, among other awards, seven Emmys, three American Comedy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild awards and one Grammy Award.

21. She had more than 110 film and television credits on her filmography.

Things You Probably Didnt Know About Betty White - animal rights activis

22. White was passionate animal rights activist. She once said she that she had to continue working “so she can afford to keep doing her charity work!”

23. White was offered the role of Helen Hunt’s mother in As Good as It Gets, but turned it down because she objected to the treatment of the dog in the film.

24. She’s was a vegetarian.

25. White preferred animals to humans and estimated having 20 dogs at one point growing up. She loved animals so much, that her first production company, Bandy Productions, was named after her Pekingese, Bandit. “Animals don’t lie. Animals don’t criticize,” said White in the 2012 book If You Ask Me. “If animals have moody days, they handle them better than humans do.”

Christopher Turner

AmongMen’s Editor-in-Chief is a well-respected fashion and style writer whose works have appeared in Fashionism, Fashion Television, MSN, DesignLines, the Kaboose Network, the Disney Family Network and Sun Media. He also has a collection of designer kicks that would make Imelda Marcos blush and lives in Toronto’s trendy east end. Follow him at: @Turnstylin.

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