Betty White, who died last year on December 31st at age 99, was a legendary American comedian and actor. She was a pioneer of television history, having had the longest career as a female entertainer. She had a successful career spanning seven decades. White was greatly loved and followed by millions owing to her winning smile and impeccable comic timing. If you too were a fan of the iconic lady, then here we have some 18 interesting facts about betty white’s life.
1. Betty Marion White was born in 1922 in Illinois. She relocated to Los Angeles, California, at the age of two with her parents, Tess and Horace White. Her mother was a housewife, while her father was employed in a lighting company.
Born in Oak Park, Illinois, on January 17, 1922, the iconic comedian was the only child of Horace and Christine Tess White. Her parents moved to Los Angeles during the Great Depression. Her father built crystal radios to earn some extra cash.
Betty White attended the Horace Mann Elementary School in Beverly Hills and later, Beverly Hills High School. Since childhood, she loved animals and her family used to frequently holiday in the Sierra Nevadas. (1, 2)
2. Betty White married three times. Her first marriage was to a United States Army Air Force Pilot, Dick Barker, in 1945. Betty’s second marriage was to Lane Allen, a Hollywood talent agent. Her third and longest marriage was to Allen Ludden in 1963, a television host and personality.
Betty White’s first husband, Dick Barker, was a pilot in the United States Army Air Force. The couple got married after World War II ended and moved to Ohio, where Barker owned a chicken farm. He wanted to lead a simple life, but White did not enjoy it, so they divorced that same year.
She later married Lane Allen in 1947 who was a Hollywood talent agent. They divorced in 1949 because Allen wanted to raise a family while White wanted a career.
Her third marriage was the longest. She married Allen Ludden in 1963, a famous television host and personality. He proposed to her twice before she accepted. They had met on his game show, Password, in 1961. White had no children of her own. She was a stepmother to Ludden’s three children with his first wife who died of cancer in 1961. (Source)
3. Betty landed her first job in Hollywood in 1939 in a Parkay Margarine commercial. She hung around in the office of producer Fran Van Hartesveldt until he gave her a job in a commercial.
Although Betty was trying hard to get a job in Hollywood, her initial odd jobs on the radio included reading commercials and playing bit parts, or sometimes even making crowd noises. She got her first job in Hollywood in a Parkay Margarine commercial.
4. During World War II, Betty White joined the American Women’s Voluntary Services. She was required to transport military supplies around Hollywood.
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. pic.twitter.com/1HRDYCeV7w
— U.S. Army (@USArmy) December 31, 2021
White joined the American Women’s Voluntary Services in 1941 to contribute her bit during World War II. She was given a uniform and was assigned a job driving a PX truck of supplies around Hollywood Hills. During late evening, dances were held for the troops, and later, they were shipped overseas. She was quoted saying that those were strange times. (Source)
5. The role that made her famous was initially set for Rue Mcclanahan, and she was supposed to play Blanche. But, neither of the actresses wanted to be typecast. They requested the Golden Girls’ producers to allow them to switch parts.
The famous show, The Golden Girls, chronicled the lives of four divorced or widowed women in the “golden years” of their life. They shared a home in Miami. The series starred Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, and Rue McClanahan along with Betty White and became a raging hit back then.
Betty even won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series. Betty was initially given the role of Blanche, and Rue McClanahan was given the role of Rose in the show. But, as the two roles were similar to the roles they had previously played in Mary Tyler Moore and Maude, they did not want to be typecast, and so, they requested the producers to switch their roles. (Source)
6. Betty White’s character, Rose Nyland, in the famous show The Golden Girls, had a brush with HIV. The episode “72 hours” in 1990 focused on Rose after she learns that a blood transfusion she received earlier may have exposed her to HIV.
One particular episode of The Golden Girls tried to tackle a sensitive topic back then. AIDS and HIV were considered taboo, and people had several misconceptions about this disease. Through clever dialog, Rose and Blanche try to educate people that HIV is not a “bad person’s disease,” and it is not God wanting to punish people for their sins.
In “72 Hours,” Rose receives a letter alerting that she might have contracted HIV from a blood transfusion for her gallbladder surgery done six years before. She is advised to get a test done, and while she awaits the results, a pivotal scene takes place between Rose and Blanche, when they try to send out a message to the audience about HIV AIDS. (Source)
7. Betty White hosted The Betty White Show for five-and-a-half hours, six days a week for four years.
For four years, Betty White alone hosted the talk show, The Betty White Show, which was five-and-a-half hours long. The show was telecasted from 1949 to 1953. Initially, she began co-hosting this show along with AI Jarvis. But, after his departure in 1952, she hosted the show alone. She made it a point to sing a couple of songs during each broadcast. (Source)
8. Betty White did not support the practice of racism. In 1954, she was asked to remove a Black dancer from her television show, but she refused and instead, offered him more air time. She was later criticized for it, and the show was soon canceled.
Betty White once refused to remove Black dancer, Arthur Duncan, from her show. She even offered him more air time. When the show went national, many affiliates from southern states complained and Betty said, “I’m sorry, but live with it.” The show was soon canceled.
Arthur Duncan calls her the “First Lady of Television.” She gave this tap-dancing star his first break on television and even allowed him more air time, to the horror of the southern affiliates of the show. Duncan was invited for three episodes on this show, but it was soon canceled because of the uproar it had created. (1, 2)
9. Betty White reportedly rejected a role in As Good as it Gets, because of a particular scene that showcased a dog being put down a trash chute. White loved animals and did not want to be associated with any kind of animal cruelty.
Betty White turned down a role in As Good as it Gets because of a particular scene depicting a dog being shoved down a trash chute. She was always fond of animals. She revealed in an interview that she would have become a zookeeper had she not gone into acting.
Also read: 10 Lesser-known Facts About Keanu Reeves’ Life