Betty White Has Left Us
By Abb Jones
Betty White, whose seven decade television career is the longest ever for a female entertainer, has died at the age of 99, less than three weeks from celebrating what would have been her 100th birthday. She died overnight at her home in Los Angeles.
White, whose family moved to Los Angeles when she was a child, first appeared on an experimental television broadcast in 1939 at age 17. A decade later she would showcase her wholesome girl next door appeal and impeccable comic timing in a daily five-and-a-half-hour live TV program whose format would be the groundwork for NBC’s Today Show. Two years later she would be the show’s sole host. White bucked against the early stereotypes that pretty women shouldn’t be funny. “It’s so much more fun to get that laugh.”
An avid animal rights activist and gamer, White made frequent appearances as a panelist on TV game shows, where she met third husband, Password host Allen Ludden in 1961. They were married for 18 years until Ludden’s death from stomach cancer in 1981. White never remarried.
At age 51, White’s fanbase grew even larger, when she joined the cast of The Mary Tyler Moore Show as TV cooking show host Sue Ann Nivens, who was all sweetness and light on camera, but a man-hungry vixen off-camera. White won two Emmys for the role.
White again hit the acting jackpot a decade later, from 1985-92, as the sexually experienced but sweet and easily befuddled Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls. Initially she was to play man-hungry Blanche but says she was relieved when the switch occurred, as it gave her and Rue McClanahan new territory to explore. Even after the show went off the air, White continued to work as a spokeswoman for animal welfare and as a guest star on various TV shows.
At the 2010 Screen Actors Guild Awards, the impish, down to earth and still VERY funny White received a Life Achievement honor, introduced by The Proposal co-star Sandra Bullock.
Betty, thank you for being our friend. We will miss you.
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