Betty Marion White was born on January 17, 1922 in Oak Park, Illinois. Next month she’ll be turning ninety-seven years old, but isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. She is everyone’s favorite funny lady and after all these years in Hollywood, there’s plenty of Betty trivia to know. Here are 35 things you didn’t know about Betty White, the one and only; she is definitely one of a kind!
1. Lifetime Achievement Award
In 2015, She received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Emmy Awards for her years (and years) of being in the business. She most definitely deserved it, that’s for sure. Her career began just three months after she graduated high school in 1939 and she’s been going strong ever since.
2. Animal Advocate
Betty is so passionate about animals that she has refused roles if the script calls for any type of potential animal abuse. For example, she turned down a role in As Good As It Gets as Helen Hunt’s mother due to the character Melvin Udall, played by Jack Nicholson, shoving a puppy down a laundry chute. We all knew she was awesome, but turning down roles because of animal rights elevates her in our minds!
Believe it or not, she was originally considered to play “Blanche” in The Golden Girls and Rue McClanahan was being considered as “Rose”. However, the producers thought it would be better if the two, who had both played similar roles previously, traded instead. Good looking out on their part; we can’t imagine the roles being reversed now. Betty plays the part of naive “Rose” perfectly.
4. Rose Nylund
Betty did such an excellent job of playing the role of “Rose” that she actually ended up playing the same role in four different TV series beginning with The Golden Girls, followed by Empty Nest, Nurses, and Golden Palace.
5. Well-Earned Awards
In addition to receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award, Betty has also received eighteen Emmy nominations, six of which she won, throughout a career which has spanned almost seventy years. She also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has been inducted into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.
6. Serving the Country
During World War II, Betty was a member of a women’s voluntary service where she drove a PX truck. She put her career on the shelf for the time being and devoted herself to delivering supplies throughout the Hollywood Hills during the day. At night, though, she spent her time dancing at grand send-offs for soldiers who were getting ready to ship out. About that time in her life, she says it was strange and seemed out of balance.
7. “Not Photogenic Enough”
It may be hard to believe now, but White was denied numerous roles when she was first starting out because studios believed her to not be photogenic enough! However, three years after high school, she landed her first role and she hasn’t looked back since.
8. Guinness World Record
Betty holds the record for Longest TV Career for a Female Entertainer with seventy-nine years in the business. Some people would consider that a lucky number of years to just be alive, but Betty has been in showbiz for almost eighty years. That’s amazing!
9. Disappearing Act
No, Betty was never a magician. However, her debut television appearance has disappeared; in fact, she even has a hard time remembering the exact name of the show she debuted on. What she does remember is that it was a life-changing event. It was an experimental show in which she danced the Merry Widow Walz with her high school principal wearing her graduation dress.
10. Betty Isn’t Short For Anything
Betty’s first name is actually Betty; it isn’t short for Elizabeth. The decision to name her “Betty” was made by her parents due to their not wanting people to make up their own nicknames for her, such as “Liz” or “Beth”, so they named her the nickname instead.
Betty was actually one of the first women producers as well. She began working for a local television station as an assistant. Not long after she produced her first series Life with Elizabeth with George Tibbles as the writer. The idea for the show came from a sketch White had done previously.
12. Off Your Rockers
Betty, along with a few friends, hosted this prank show back in 2012 where they used hidden cameras to film jokes being played on the younger generation. The show lasted several seasons and really showcased Betty’s sense of humor.
13. Mr. President
Although she didn’t sing to him, Betty got to meet President Barack Obama in 2012. However, she spent most of the time with the President’s dog, Bo, in her lap. Betty’s love for all animals is fairly well known and she never hesitates when asked what she’d be doing if she wasn’t in show business: zookeeper!
14. Hashtag Twitter
Yes, Betty’s even on Twitter. In the first twenty-four hours after launching her Twitter account, Betty attracted a hundred and eighteen thousand followers. Now she has almost a million and a half. She does have people who run it for her, but she also comments herself from time to time.
15. Honorary Mayor
Betty’s definitely had her fair share of firsts throughout her long career. Her being one of the first women producers is what led to her becoming the honorary mayor of Hollywood in 1955. How cool is that?
16. Poker Player
Betty loves a good game of poker. In fact, she loves it so much that she and a group of friends have their own regular poker game set up, dealer’s choice. White’s favorite game is “Screw Thy Neighbor”, where you get the chance to pass cards to the next player or keep them for yourself. The group is called “Pico Poker Club” and they even have an engraved winner’s cup. Whoever wins at the end of the night takes the cup home. If anyone forgets to bring it back, it’s two thousand dollars or death, whichever seems most appropriate.
17. Healthy Diet?
Well, not exactly a healthy diet, but Betty is known to eat french fries, hot dogs, and Red Vines washing it all down with Diet Coke. While that’s not anyone’s idea of a healthy diet, some think maybe all the preservatives have preserved her! Apparently, she eats Red Vines, which is red licorice, religiously. Others joke that she wouldn’t be able to live if it wasn’t for hot dogs and french fries. Are we missing something about what the right foods are?
18. Cheeky Joke
When asked if there’s anything in the business that she hasn’t done that she’d always wanted to her answer is “Robert Redford”! What a hoot! Betty has over a hundred and ten movie and TV show credits, but she’s never had the privilege of working with Redford who is fourteen years younger.
19. No Cougars!
Even though Betty is a self-proclaimed animal lover who claims she would have been a zookeeper had it not been for her acting career, she also jokes that she is no cougar.
20. Book Writer
There doesn’t seem to be an end to what Betty can do. She has also written six books, the last of which was “If You Ask Me: (And of Course You Won’t)” which was released last May. She claims L.Frank Baum is her favorite writer; his books were the inspiration for The Wizard of Oz.
21. Life Regret
The one life regret Betty says she had was not marrying her third husband, Allen Ludden, who passed away sadly of stomach cancer in 1981, a year sooner. White says they spent eighteen years together but that she could have had another year with him if she’d accepted his proposal sooner. She says that the major regret of her life. We should all take that to heart and be sure to spend all the time we can with those we love most!
22. Speaking of Which
Betty was a regular on the game show circuits and on one, Password, is where she met her third husband. Allen Ludden was the host and when Betty turned him down, he wore the engagement ring around his neck and kept asking. Luckily, she did eventually say yes, but as mentioned above, is sadly her one regret putting him off.
Betty absolutely loves parades. She even hosted the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for over a decade in the early sixties and seventies. In addition, she also color commentated for the Tournament of Roses Parade for twenty years. Because the parade was on NBC and her show was on CBS, NBC decided to pull her and everything associated with her and her show after her hosting for twenty years. Sadly, she says she remembers sitting at home feeling wretched watching someone else do “her parade”. They should feel horrible about that! She’s Betty White!
24. Oldest SNL Host
Thanks to a Facebook campaign, Betty got to host SNL, becoming the oldest host in the show’s history. The group gathered nearly a million fans and so much attention that SNL made it happen. When White was eighty-eight years old, she hosted and gave the highest ratings the show had seen in a year and a half. She also raked in fifth Emmy award for the performance as well. Well done, Betty, well done!
25. Oldest Emmy
Betty is the oldest recipient of an Emmy nomination as well. She just keeps setting records. In 2014, she earned her twenty-first Emmy nomination. Additionally, she also received her third nomination for Outstanding Host for her senior prank show. She was ninety-two at the time! Furthermore, she also holds the record for the longest span of time between Emmy nominations, her first being in 1955, and, well, so far her last was in October when she received the Lifetime Achievement Award.
26. Forest Ranger?
Betty originally wanted to be a Forest Ranger after high school, but back then women weren’t allowed to become rangers. She started developing an interest in writing and went on the play the lead role in her graduation play and that, as they say, sealed her fate. Luckily, the Forest Service made her an honorary forest ranger a few years ago. How awesome is that?
27. No Kids
Betty actually has no biological children of her own. but Allen Ludden had three children which she accepted as stepchildren. Betty says she was blessed to have them in her life.
28. TV Debut
Betty’s official TV debut was on a show called Hollywood on Television which was a live variety show starring Al Jarvis. She later became the host when Jarvis left the show.
29. Game Shows Galore
Betty loves game shows as it was previously mentioned she was a regular on the circuit. She appeared on several throughout the sixties. She was actually the first woman to win a Daytime Emmy Award for hosting the show Just Men in the Outstanding Game Show Host category.
30. Favorite Golden Girl Episode
Betty says her favorite episode of The Golden Girls was called “A Little Romance” and it was from the very first season. Rose is reluctant to introduce her boyfriend, who is a little person, to Sophia, Blanche, and Dorothy, afraid they’ll make fun. White says they used every “short” joke in the book, but not in a hurtful way.
31. The Last Golden Girl
Sadly, with Rue McClanahan’s passing in June 2010, Betty is the last surviving Golden Girl. Does that make her THE golden girl?
32. All Awards
Altogether, Betty has won one Grammy, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, three American Comedy awards, seven Emmys, and other smaller awards across her almost decades of being in showbiz.
As mentioned before, Betty says she would have loved to have been a zookeeper. Since she was unable to fulfill that dream, she is an animal rights activist and claims that is why she has to keep working.
Betty is also a big LGBTQ advocate as well. She has actually achieved legendary status in the LGBTQ community, saying she can’t comprehend homophobia. She says she doesn’t care who anyone sleeps with; what’s more important is what kind of human you are. She says peoples’ sex lives are personal and should remain their private business and that’s it’s definitely not any of her business. It would be nice if more people thought like her!
35. Sparkling Blue Eyes
Known for her “sparkling blue eyes”, they’re still just as blue as they ever were. Betty White is one of the funniest, down-to-earth rule-breakers to have ever lived. We are lucky to have her.