Thank you for being a friend, Betty White


Art by Geena San Diego

On December 31, 2021, the hearts of millions were broken with the news of Betty White’s death. Betty died in her sleep of natural causes at her home in Brentwood, Los Angeles. She passed just weeks shy of her 100th birthday, which is today (if you read this the day it’s published). Her party, a movie screening about Betty, will go on. Betty believed she would be reunited with her husband, Allen Ludden, after death. Now, her funeral will be private, but we can still celebrate her life.


Early Life

Betty Marion White was born on January 17, 1922, in Oak Park Illinois. In 1923, the White family moved to Alhambra, California when Betty was just over a year old. Later, they moved to Los Angeles during the Great Depression. In her youth, she went to Horace Mann Elementary School and Beverly Hills High School. She graduated in 1939. During that time, Betty landed a lead role in her graduation play which she also wrote. This is when she found her love for acting.


Career

Betty White’s first job as an actress was at Bliss Hayden Little Theatre. She had many radio jobs like reading commercials and other parts. At one point she was even offered her own radio show! After her career in radio, she moved to live television.


She was invited by Al Jarvis to appear on his show "Hollywood on Television" (formerly known as “Make Believe Ballroom”) which was a variety show. One appearance led to another and she began to co-host with Jarvis. You could say this was Betty’s big break. This live show ran 6 days a week and 5 and a half hours a day for 4 years. She went on to later host the show after Jarvis left. Betty would sing songs, read commercials, and do so much more on this variety show. This even led to her first Emmy nomination as “Best Actress!”


While hosting “Hollywood on Television”, she co-founded Bandy Productions with George Tibbles and Don Fedderson. They would create and produce new shows based on sketches from Betty’s TV show, “Hollywood on Television.” The most famous show Betty produced at that time was “Life With Elizabeth.” Betty played Elizabeth, and this role won her a Los Angeles Emmy Award.


Her next big job was her own show, “The Betty White Show,” which she hosted and produced. This, like “Hollywood on Television,” was a variety show. Now, Betty had one dancer on her show, Arthur Duncan, who was African American. This caused controversy in the Southern stations and people threatened to boycott her show. Betty, however, did not let that get to her. She kept Duncan on the show saying, “I’m sorry. Live with it.”


Credit: NBC/NBCU photo bank via Getty Images

During the 1960s, Betty became a regular celebrity guest in game shows like “Password,” “To Tell the Truth,” “Match Game,” “Pyramid,” “What’s My Line?”, and so many more! One of the most important shows she was in was “Password.” A man named Allen Ludden hosted Password, and Betty grew very fond of him. They later got married in 1963. Betty admits she refused Allen many times, as he lived in New York and she wanted to stay in California, where she lived. However, one Easter, Allen sent her a bunny plush with beautiful earrings and a note saying, “Just say yes.” She immediately called Allen and accepted his proposal. She says most girls would’ve been won over by the expensive earrings, however, what convinced her was the adorable rabbit plush.


Betty White was in so many more shows and movies. Her most famous are “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Mama’s Family,” “The Golden Girls,” “The Proposal,” “Hot in Cleveland,” “Saturday Night Live,” and her last, “Betty White: A Celebration.” Her final movie was documentary-style and will be played on her 100th birthday.


Credit: Gary Null/ NBCU Photo Bank

Activism and Volunteer Work

In 1941 during World War Two, Betty White joined the American Women’s Voluntary Services group. Betty’s job included driving military supplies to Hollywood. She would be in events for troops before they were deployed. She was known as a hero on and off-screen.


Betty had always loved animals. When she was young, she wanted to be a forest ranger, but couldn’t because women weren’t allowed to be forest rangers at the time. This love for animals continued throughout her life, doing lots of volunteer work for the Los Angeles Zoo. She served on the LA zoo board for over 50 years. At one point, Betty donated about $100,000 to the zoo! She also worked with the Morris Animal Foundation which focuses on animal health. Betty eventually served as the president of the group. Betty White was a very famous actress, and also an author! She wrote many books advocating for animals.


Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images

Celebrity Responses

Betty White’s “The Proposal” co-star, Ryan Reynolds, said, “The world looks different now. She was great at defying expectation. She managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough. We’ll miss you, Betty. Now you know the secret.”


The US army posted this message in honor of Betty, “We are saddened by the passing of Betty White. Not only was she an amazing actress, she also served during WWII as a member of the American Women's Voluntary Services. A true legend on and off the screen.”


“Legally Blonde” star, Reese Witherspoon, expressed, “So sad to hear about Betty White passing. I loved watching her characters that brought so much joy. Thank you, Betty, for making us all laugh!”


The ASPCA said, “Betty White was a constant and compassionate advocate for vulnerable animals across the country, and will be greatly missed. We send our condolences to her friends and family.”


Seth Rogan tweeted, “RIP Betty White, the only SNL host I ever saw get a standing ovation at the after party. A party at which she ordered a vodka and a hotdog and stayed til the bitter end.”


On that note, Betty’s other "The Proposal" co-star, Sandra Bullock, said, “I don’t drink vodka… but I will tonight, on ice, with a slice of lemon, with a hot dog on the other side and just be OK being sad. I’ll have to buy some rose colored glasses because Betty was that for all of us.”


Finally, President Joe Biden expressed, “Betty White brought a smile to the lips of generations of Americans. She’s a cultural icon who will be sorely missed. Jill and I are thinking of her family and all those who loved her this New Year’s Eve.”


These are just a few recognizable names who will remember Betty White. Many more celebrities tweeted kind messages in honor of Betty.


Closing

Betty White was an actress, a radio show host, an activist, a writer, an icon, and so much more to the world. She will be remembered as an exceptionally kind woman and will be greatly missed. Rest in peace Betty White, and thank you for being a friend.


Credit: Vincent Sandoval/Wireimage

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_White

https://fox8.com/news/the-world-looks-different-now-celebrities-react-to-betty-whites-death/

https://nypost.com/2021/12/31/betty-white-was-a-trailblazing-animal-rights-activist/

Betty White: First Lady of Television (Documentary)


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