20 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Betty White

Hint: She’s cooler than any of us will ever be...
Hint: She’s cooler than any of us will ever be...

On January 17, 2017, legendary actress Betty White turns 95-years-old.

White has been crushing it in Hollywood for over 70 years and she’s (thankfully) not showing any signs of slowing down. Of course, she 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.

In celebration of her 95th birthday, here are 20 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.

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 has been married 3 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 has no biological children of her own. Ludden, did have 3 children, and White says she is blessed to still have all of her stepchildren in her life.

7. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame alongside the one star for her late husband, Allen Ludden.

8. Betty White made her official television debut 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

9. White’s first nationally syndicated TV sitcom was a show called Life with Elizabeth, which ran from 1952 to 1955. She actually co-produced and owned the show, which was unheard of at the time.

Things You Probably Didnt Know About Betty White - Just Men

10. White loves games shows and she appeared on numerous game shows throughout the 60s. She was 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

11. 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”

12. 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.

13. Betty 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

14. 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)

15. She is 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

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

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

17. White holds the distinct honor 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.

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

18. White is passionate animal rights activist. She once said she has to continue working ‘so she can afford to keep doing her charity work!’

19. 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.

20. She’s also a vegetarian.

Christopher Turner

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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