By “Huckabee” pop culture guru Pat Reeder (http://www.hollywoodhifi.com)
As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, beloved comic actress and multiple Emmy winner (five Prime Time and two Daytime) Betty White died at home on Friday of natural causes at 99. Her last tweet was a reference to her 100th birthday, which was coming up in just three weeks. Here is an obituary from Fox News…
Some tributes from other celebrities, who remember her as warm, wonderful and the consummate professional…
And one of her last statements to the media, where she shared with Fox News the secret to a long, happy life that she got from her mother.
I’m not going to attempt to recap her remarkable career because there are so many tributes to her everywhere you look this weekend. I’ll just share some of the more interesting tidbits of info that others might overlook. For instance…
Betty White probably had the longest TV career in history, a record that’s unlikely to be broken. Her first TV appearance was right out of high school, singing a song on an experimental broadcast in 1939, eight years before the birth of TV as a public entertainment medium. She was on TV before anyone even had a TV.
She put her career on hold during World War II to serve in the American Women’s Voluntary Services. She drove supply trucks to barracks in the Hollywood Hills and entertained soldiers at dances. Here’s a tribute to her from the Army, complete with a photo of Betty looking sharp in her uniform.
She was the first woman to co-host a talk show, and the first to produce and host her own talk show. She hosted a show that was live and on the air 5-1/2 hours a day, six days a week, for over four years. She was also a pioneer of integration: one of her cast members was a black dancer, and when some Southern TV stations threatened not to air the show if she didn't fire him, she refused and told them to get over it.
She received her first Emmy nomination way back in 1953 as the star of the sitcom “Life With Elizabeth.” It's since entered the public domain so you can find it online and on DVD.
While many actors are lucky to have one signature role, Betty had at least three: “Happy Homemaker” Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show;” the sweetly daffy Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls,” and cantankerous Elka Ostrovsky on “Hot In Cleveland.” She also had memorable roles on countless other shows, including “Boston Legal,” and continued creating memorable pop culture moments well into her 90s, such as her Snickers “football player” commercial and her triumphant hosting gig on “Saturday Night Live,” the result of a fan petition drive. I can imagine them asking her if she could handle doing live TV for ninety minutes!
The producers of “The Golden Girls” originally intended Betty for the role of Blanche, but she didn’t want to play another promiscuous party girl like Sue Ann Nivens. Meanwhile, Rue McClanahan didn’t want to play another sweet, naïve character like the one she’d played on “Maude.” So they switched roles and the rest is history.
Betty devoted much of her time to her love of animals and raising money for animal charities and zoos. She was especially delighted when Pixar asked her to voice a toy tiger named “Bitey White” in “Toy Story 4.”
Betty’s many talents also included being one of the greatest talk show and game show guests of all time. She was a wizard on “Password,” and host Allen Ludden became her third husband and the great love of her life. She never married again after his death in 1981. She said she’d already had the best, and she had faith that they would be together again someday.
RIP to the lady aptly dubbed "America's grandmother" and “The First Lady of Television.”
More Betty White Tributes:
Tributes are still appearing everywhere to beloved TV icon Betty White, who died Friday at 99. She had just taped a tribute to her fans that was to have appeared in theaters on January 17th as part of a 100th birthday celebration movie. It will still appear, but it’s being retooled as a tribute to her life and career.
Also, White’s agent denied a rumor that she died after getting a booster vaccine, saying she died of natural causes and didn’t get a recent shot, and asking people not to politicize her death. On a more positive note, the New York Post reports that the last word she said was, “Allen,” the name of her husband Allen Ludden, who died in 1981. She never remarried, saying she believed they would be together again someday. I believe that, too.