Betty White, now closing in on her middle 90s, is still one of the most active and celebrated stars in the industry. It’s hard to believe that when she was just starting her career in 1939, Betty White was denied numerous roles as studios considered her “not photogenic enough”. Fortunately, 3 years after graduating from high school, she scored her first role in TV as a singer on a trial show in L.A, which served as a significant milestone in her career. During the forty’s and fifty’s, Betty’s career skyrocketed and she became one of the first female stars in the entertainment industry to host her very own talk show.
In 1985, White made it even further in her career when she got the role of Rose Nylund in one of the most successful sitcoms of all times, The Golden Girls. The show ran its last episode in 1992, more than twenty years ago, but fans still go back to watch the show where White’s career rose to new heights. Her warm demeanor and relatable sense of humor has helped her career survive more than 7 full decades. While most of her life is like an open book to her fans, there are still a few things you probably don’t know about this golden girl. Here are 20 things you don’t know about Betty White.
1. She has a Guinness World Record
In 2014, when the record keeping show was being auditioned, Betty White received a title for the Longest TV Career for a Female Entertainer. The record showed seventy four years+ in show biz. The year before, the title for the Longest TV Career for a Male Entertainer had been given to Bruce Forsyth, who’d been a long time British Television host. Since the two both started their careers in ’39, they would be competing for the same title, were it not for the gender disparity.
2. Her first TV appearance disappeared in history
Even White has a hard time remembering the exact name of her debut show on screen back in 1939. However, there is one particular event she recounts as life-changing during a certain interview with Guinness Book of World Records. She was given the chance to dance on an experimental television show, based in downtown L.A. She wore her high school graduation dress and danced with the student body president (Harry Bennett) of their school: Beverly Hills High – to the tune of “Merry Widow Waltz.”
3. Her rise to stardom was delayed by the World War II
Before trying her luck on television, Betty White worked on radio, theater, as well as a model. However, when WWII ensued, she had to shelve her ambitions and join the Voluntary Services of the American Women. She devoted her days to delivering supplies through PX truck across the Hollywood Hills and then spent her nights at rousing dances organized to offer soldiers a grand send-off before being shipped out. She admitted that that was a strange era and everything was out of balance.
4. Her first breakthrough in sitcom was in the early ‘50s
After co-hosting Hollywood on Television with Al Jarvis, White was given the opportunity to produce her own show, Life With Elizabeth. During that time, she was one of the fewest female producers out there. She was one of the rarest female producers during that time. She collaborated with George Tibbles (an aspiring writer-producer then) to develop the show and garner massive support. George Tibbles would go on to work on beloved shows such as The Munsters, Leave It To Beaver, and Dennis The Menace. Although not many people are familiar with the series today, it did win Betty her first Emmy nomination in 1951. So far, she has been nominated an incredible twenty one times, of which she has won 5 times.
5. She switched roles with Rue McClanahan on The Golden Girls
The original option for The Golden Girls” oversexed Blanche was actually Betty White, while McClanahan was supposed to play the role of Rose. The two roles were interchanged when the director suddenly realized that the show would be more effective if White and McClanahan played completely different characters from the ones they were involved in previously. Betty White, for instance, starred in Mary Tyler Moore as the role of a Blanche-like character, while McClanahan had a spot in Maude as the role of a Rose-like character. When Rue McClanahan passed away in June 2010, Betty White became the only surviving member of the infamous cast, despite being the oldest in real life.
6. She loves being more of an animal rights activist than an actress
Betty White was once quoted saying that she has to work continually to be able to keep up with her charity work. She is rather passionate about animals, having committed her time and money to several charities during the past 4 decades, most noticeably the Los Angeles Zoo. In fact, when the film As Good As it Gets was being aired, she refused to take up the character of Helen Hunt’s mom because she was unhappy with the way the dog in the film was being treated. Her weakness for furry creatures, especially dogs, can be traced back to her father, who earned a living as an electrical engineer and a traveling salesman. He had set up kennels in their backyard for taking care of dogs, which could add up to fifteen dogs at times.
7. She has been married 3 times
She got married to her first hubby Dick Barker in 1945, and divorced the same year. After spending four months on the chicken farm in Barker’s rural home in Ohio, Betty White flew back to her career in Los Angeles as an entertainer. Soon afterwards, she crossed paths with agent Lane Allen, with whom she got married to in 1947 and divorced two years later. It is believed that the main cause for the divorce was that Allen preferred her out of show biz and more as a house wife. Her last marriage was in 1963 with Allen Ludden – a game show host, widower, and father of three.
8. Her biggest regret was not spending enough time with her late husband
Betty White 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 Opera Winfrey during her Sunday show Opera: 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. She had a difficult time leaving California to New York, but later added with a smile that they finally made it.
9. She met her third husband on Password
During her prime years, Betty White was popular among game shows. Naturally, she winded up as a celebrity guest on the TV show Password in 1961, which was hosted by Allen Ludden. Although Betty White rebuffed his engagement ring initially, he hung it around his neck until she finally obliged. The two stayed together until Allen’s death twenty years later. Today, you can find their stars on The Walk of Fame sitting side by side.
10. She was the first female game show host to bag an Emmy Award
In 1983, White hosted a game show called Just Men! that was aired by NBC for a brief period. The frame of the show involved two female contestants being challenged to predict accurately how a set of celebrity men might answer certain questions. The show only aired for one year or so, but was successful enough to earn Betty White an Emmy Award for Outstanding Game Show Host, which made her the first female contestant to ever achieve such a reward.
11. She has a personal hot dog
Betty White has admitted that she had unhealthy eating habits. In particular, she says that her favorite foods included French fries, potato chips, Red Vines, and hot dogs. Out of all these, hot dogs appeared to be her personal favorite. In fact, during Pink’s Hot Dogs in Hollywood in 2010, she was honored with a California based “Betty White Naked Dog”.
12. She is not a big fan of reality TV
Betty White has made it clear that she does not like reality TV. Although she has not clarified why, most people assume it’s her history in creating and writing conflicts with how random people with virtually no talent gain fame by simply recording their lives and frequently acting like morons. Surprisingly, Betty White hosts a kind of reality television show known as Betty White’s Off Their Rockers in which old people play pranks on young guys.
13. She has had plastic surgery
Betty White is not the kind of person who seems very concerned about her looks. However, she has revealed that she did pass through the knife prior to joining The Golden Girls. The irony is that the show was in fact supposed to be about growing old and acknowledging it.
14. Betty White does not have any biological children
Betty had come off two marriages before marrying Allen Ludden, and during that time, she hadn’t manage to have any children of her own. 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.
15. She is an avid supporter of gay rights
Betty White 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 is 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.
16. Her showbiz career would have ended had she stayed with Lane Allen (her second husband)
Allen was persistent on White quitting her acting career and instead focusing on a more traditional family life. However, the actress had other things on her mind and decided to go for her dreams and leave her husband. White clarified that the fact that he didn’t want her in show business was the main cause for their divorce. Acting was her calling and she had to follow it, so she made her choice – threw the marriage aside and has never regretted it.
17. Betty White loves animals more than humans
In her autobiography, If You Ask Me, Betty said “animals don’t life and animals don’t criticize.” When they have moody days, they have a better way of dealing with it than humans. Her passion for animals was so much, that she had her first production company (which was called Bandy Productions) named after Bandit, her Pekingese.
18. Betty White has a Twitter account, which has more than 1m followers
Although most people her age don’t even know how the internet works, Betty White actually manages her own Twitter account, which has about 1.4 million followers as of this writing. While she has only tweeted around sixty times to date, she definitely knows how to crack a few jokes using the platform.
19. She loves a parade
Between 1962 and 1971, Betty 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. But as she grew more popular on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the TV production company decided to pull her away from the parade (together with the rival promotion that was associated with her). In an interview with People, Betty White admits that it was a heartbreaking decision for her. On New Year’s Day, she just stayed at home feeling miserable as she watched her parade being done by someone else.
20. She is one of the most trusted celebrities
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 Betty White. This goes to show that, although 90+ years of age, Betty White has still got it!
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Written by Garrett Parker
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