Betty White: 95 Things You Need to Know About the Birthday Girl

·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment


January 17 should be a national holiday, because it’s the birth date of the woman who we can all agree is a national treasure: Betty Marion White, the TV legend who turns 95 this week.

In honor of her big day — and what we hope is another 95 years — we’ve gathered 95 fun facts you should know about the talented, sweet, and sometimes deliciously naughty Emmy-winning legend who’s still making us laugh, and still inspiring us by living her life to the fullest: Her birthday celebration will reportedly include a day of poker and vodka tonics with friends.

1. White is one of TV’s first female producers, with her 1952 sitcom Life With Elizabeth.

2. The Wild Bunch director Sam Peckinpah was a stagehand on Hollywood on Television, a talk show White co-hosted.

3. Her lifelong love of animals comes courtesy of her parents, who she says used to bring home stray animals and ask her if they could keep them.

4. She turned down Shirley Knight’s role in As Good As It Gets because she didn’t like the way Verdell the dog was treated in the Oscar-winning movie.

5. White is the oldest cast member of The Golden Girls.

6. Her crush: Robert Redford.

7. And Jason Momoa.

8. She was elected Honorary Mayor of Hollywood in 1955 (fans voted, for a dime a vote).

9. She was originally sought for the saucy Blanche role on Golden Girls.

10. She played Rose Nylund on four TV shows: The Golden Girls, The Golden Palace, Nurses, and Empty Nest.

11. A few of her favorite things: hot dogs and French fries, Taco Bell, Red Vines, snakes, and weekly poker games.

12. Her fans even make hot dog art inspired by her, as Conan O’Brien displayed during her appearance on Conan.

13. She won a Grammy at age 90.

14. She posed for some racy pics early in her career.

15. She’s been married three times.

16. Betty quote: “I married my first husband because we wanted to sleep together. [The marriage] lasted six months, and we were in bed for six months.”

17. Lifelong California resident White was inducted into the state’s Hall of Fame in 2010.

18. She’s also a Kentucky Colonel.

19. Before the acting bug bit, she wanted to be an opera singer.

20. Howard Hughes’s uncle, Felix Hughes, was her singing teacher.

21. Her first showbiz job: saying “Parkay!” in a radio commercial.

22. She was christened Betty, not Elizabeth, because her mother didn’t want her to get nicknames.

23. Her mother later nicknamed her “Bets.”

24. “I had lots of friends, but I could send them all home and keep the two I liked best: Tess and Horace,” she wrote of her parents in Here We Go Again.

25. She hosted an episode of WWE Raw in February 2014.

26. She was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame in 1995.

27. Betty quote: “I am not into the animal rights issue; I am totally dedicated to improving the health and well-being of all animals.”

28. All seven seasons of The Golden Girls will begin streaming on Hulu on February 13.

29. Betty says she sometimes annoyed Bea Arthur by being too happy.

30. White is a self-professed Trekkie.

31. Betty quote: “I don’t care who anybody sleeps with. If a couple has been together all that time — and there are gay relationships that are more solid than some heterosexual ones — I think it’s fine if they want to get married. I don’t know how people can get so anti-something. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.”

32. Her favorite adult beverage: vodka.

33. She has starred in three TV series named The Betty White Show: one a sitcom, one a variety show, and one a daytime talk show.

34. Grab a tissue: Betty White tells the sweet story of her courtship with third husband Allen Ludden:

35. White and Ludden met in 1961 on Password, the game show he hosted, and on which she guest-starred.

36. The couple was married by the same judge who married Mary Tyler Moore and her former husband Grant Tinker, Ludden’s best friend.

Mary Tyler Moore, Grant Tinker, Betty White, and Allen Ludden.
Mary Tyler Moore, Grant Tinker, Betty White, and Allen Ludden.

37. White and Ludden guest-starred on the classic 1972 “Password” episode of The Odd Couple in which Felix and Oscar compete on Password.

38. The Luddens were friends with Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck and his wife, as well as The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling and his wife, and Fred Astaire and his sister and dance partner, Adele.

39. White never remarried after Ludden’s 1981 death from stomach cancer. “Once you’ve had the best, who needs the rest?” she once told Larry King.

40. She was 63 when The Golden Girls debuted.

41. She graduated from Beverly Hills High School. In 1939.

42. Miley Cyrus has nothing on Betty White.

43. White didn’t have biological children of her own, but helped raise Ludden’s two daughters and a son.

44. Betty won a 1983 Daytime Emmy for hosting the game show Just Men!, in which female contestants tried to predict answers to questions asked of male celebrities.

45. She remains the only female to win an Emmy as best game show host.

46. Though Sue Ann Nivens is one of the most memorable Mary Tyler Moore Show characters, White didn’t join the cast until Season 4.

47. White co-starred with Bob Newhart in the short-lived 1992-93 CBS sitcom Bob, where her son was played by Angie Tribeca star Jere Burns.

48. She played God on the short-lived NBC sitcom Save Me.

49. She tweets.

50. She played another biblical figure: Eve, to Johnny Carson’s Adam, on a 1979 episode of The Tonight Show.

51. White is in the 2014 Guinness World Records book as the record holder for the “Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female).” Her TV career has — so far — spanned more than 77 years.

52. She originally signed on to appear only in the Hot in Cleveland pilot. She remained with the TV Land sitcom through its 2015 series finale.

53. Betty quote: “You can always tell about somebody by the way they put their hands on an animal.”

54. White hosted the Tournament of Roses Parade for two decades on NBC and CBS.

55. She hosted the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for a decade on NBC.

56. She co-authored the 2008 novel Together: A Novel of Shared Vision with actor Tom Sullivan.

57. As a kid, she and her parents once had 26 dogs.

58. She has said she is “obsessively addicted” to crossword puzzles.

59. She once turned down a co-hosting job on The Today Show. It went to Barbara Walters.

60. She is of Danish, Greek, English, and Welsh descent.

61. White and her Golden Girls co-stars made a Clueless spoof for the 1996 MTV Movie Awards.

62. She collects stuffed animals and has rooms full of them in her homes in Los Angeles and Carmel, Calif.

63. She was the star of a Betty White 2011 calendar.

64. White has visited with Koko, the gorilla who communicates with sign language, on several occasions. Koko nicknamed her “Lipstick.”

65. Gorgeous: 37-year-old Betty White in commercials for Richard Hudnut home perm kits and cosmetics.

66. A 2011 Reuters poll revealed Betty White is the most trusted and favorite celebrity in America.

67. Betty quote: “Animal lover that I am, a cougar I am not. All my life, even as a kid, I have preferred men older than I am. Unfortunately, today I don’t think there is anyone older than I am!”

68. She wakes up at 6:30 a.m. and goes to bed at midnight.

69. In December 2016, after a year of celebrity deaths that included Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, George Michael, Alan Thicke, Gene Wilder, Glenn Frey, Alan Rickman, Florence Henderson, David Bowie, and many other beloved stars, a South Carolina man launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to help him keep Betty White alive through the traumatic year. Demetrios Hrysikos ended his campaign on Jan. 1, 2017, having raised $9,245 of his $10,000 goal. And, most happily, since Betty White defeated 2016, Hrysikos is donating the cash to a local theater in his hometown.

70. Her star on the Walk of Fame is at 6747 Hollywood Blvd. Allen Ludden’s is at 6743 Hollywood Blvd.

71. White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty guest-starred in the “Here We Go Again” episode of The John Larroquette Show that spoofed The Golden Girls. White won an Emmy for playing herself.

72. For more than 50 years, White has worked with the Morris Animal Foundation, which has raised and invested more than $92 million for animal health research.

73. She starred in the spoof Ugly Betty White at the 2007 TV Land Awards, and then guest-starred on Ugly Betty later that year.

74. White played Ann Douglas, the mother of fashion matriarch Stephanie Forrester (Susan Flannery) on The Bold and the Beautiful. Ann died on the soap in 2009, three years before Stephanie — one of the daytime drama’s main original characters — was also killed off the show.

75. She did a Reddit AMA.

76. She was roasted by the Friars Club in 2012.

77. In 1971, White hosted The Pet Set, a talk show for pets (and their celebrity owners). Pets included water buffaloes and elephants, while her celeb guests included Mary Tyler Moore and Jimmy Stewart.

78. Betty quote: “Let’s say I meet someone I find attractive. I have to keep reminding myself of how old I am, because I don’t feel like I’m that old. I fight the urge to flirt and try to shape up. No fool like an old fool.”

79. To help White with her grief after Allen Ludden’s death, Lucille Ball would host White for backgammon games at her home.

80. White’s mother and Ball’s mother were best friends.

81. She dreamed of being a forest ranger as a child, and she was named an honorary one by the Forest Service in 2010.

82. The stars of Animal Planet’s Tanked made a Noah’s Ark-themed aquarium for White.

83. Before The Golden Girls, White co-starred with real-life friend Rue McClanahan on Mama’s Family. McClanahan’s Fran was the aunt of White’s Ellen. The series began as a skit on The Carol Burnett Show.

84. When White accepted her second Emmy for The Mary Tyler Moore Show — in 1976 — she wore a black-and-white Bob Mackie gown she was given when she guest-starred on The Carol Burnett Show.

85. In 2017, the Rue La Rue Cafe will open in New York City. The Rue McClanahan-themed restaurant, which will feature a gold glitter floor and photos and props in homage to McClanahan, will also include a daily tribute to White: the coconutty Betty White Cake.

86. White has been on the board of trustees of the Los Angeles Zoo since 1974.

87. She co-starred with another famous nonagenarian — George Burns — in a series of commercials for Southern California Edison in the 1980s.

88. She voiced doggie owner Agatha McLeish in the Hub’s remake of the animated Pound Puppies cartoon.

89. On Saturday Night Live, she proved the only thing tastier than Schweddy Balls are Dusty Muffins.

90. She raps.

91. One of her addictions: She loves buying stationery, but not the fancy kind; she likes three-hole punch notebook paper.

92. Her frequent appearances on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson were a result of the friendship she sparked with Ferguson when the two co-starred on the short-lived 1995-96 ABC sitcom Maybe This Time (which also starred Marie Osmond and Dane Cook).

93. White spoofed herself in the classic FunnyorDie.com video “Behind the Scenes of The Proposal,” in which she calls co-star Ryan Reynolds an “ab-crunching demon,” and he calls her a “seething demon.”

94. Her latest TV appearance: She’ll reprise her guest role as forensic anthropologist Dr. Beth Mayer in an upcoming episode of Bones. The Fox drama, currently airing its 12th and final season, will welcome White back in Episode 10, scheduled to air on the network in March.

95. Betty quote: “I’m the luckiest old broad on two feet, because my life is divided absolutely in half — half animals and half show business. You can’t ask for better than two things you love the most.”