Betty White, TV’s Golden Woman, dies at 99

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Betty White, whose saucy, up-for-anything attraction made her a tv mainstay for greater than 60 years, whether or not as a man-crazy TV hostess on “The Mary Tyler Moore Present” or the crazy housemate on “The Golden Women,” has died. She was 99.

White’s dying was confirmed Friday by Jeff Witjas, her longtime agent and buddy. She would have turned 100 on Jan. 17.

“I actually by no means thought she was going to move away,” Witjas instructed The Related Press. “She meant the world to me as a buddy. She was essentially the most optimistic individual I’ve ever identified.”

Witjas mentioned White had been staying near her Los Angeles dwelling in the course of the pandemic out of warning however had no identified sickness. It was unclear if she died Thursday evening or Friday, he mentioned.

Her dying introduced tributes from celebrities and politicians alike.

“We cherished Betty White,” first woman Jill Biden mentioned as she and President Joe Biden left a restaurant in Wilmington, Delaware. Added the president: “Ninety-nine years outdated. As my mom would say, ‘God love her.’”

“She was nice at defying expectation,” Ryan Reynolds, who starred alongside her within the comedy “The Proposal,” tweeted. “She managed to develop very outdated and by some means, not sufficiently old. We’ll miss you, Betty.”

White launched her TV profession in daytime speak reveals when the medium was nonetheless in its infancy and endured properly into the age of cable and streaming. Her mixture of sweetness and edginess gave life to a roster of quirky characters in reveals from the sitcom “Life With Elizabeth” within the early Nineteen Fifties to oddball Rose Nylund in “The Golden Women” within the ’80s to “Boston Authorized,” which ran from 2004 to 2008.

Nevertheless it was in 2010 that White’s stardom erupted as by no means earlier than.

In a Snickers industrial that premiered throughout that 12 months’s Tremendous Bowl telecast, she impersonated an energy-sapped dude getting tackled throughout a backlot soccer recreation.

“Mike, you’re enjoying like Betty White on the market,” jeered one in all his pals. White, flat on the bottom and lined in mud, fired again, “That’s not what your girlfriend mentioned!”

The instantly-viral video helped spark a Fb marketing campaign known as “Betty White to Host SNL (please?)!,” whose half-million followers led to her co-hosting “Saturday Evening Dwell” in a much-watched, much-hailed version that Mom’s Day weekend. The looks gained her a seventh Emmy award.

A month later, cable’s TV Land premiered “Scorching In Cleveland,” the community’s first authentic scripted collection, which starred Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick as three past-their-prime show-biz veterans who transfer to Cleveland to flee the youth obsession of Hollywood. They transfer into a house being sorted by an aged Polish widow — a personality, performed by White, who was meant to look solely within the pilot episode.

However White stole the present, and the salty Elka Ostrovsky turned a key a part of the collection, an instantaneous hit. She was voted the Entertainer of the Yr by members of The Related Press.

“It’s ridiculous,” White mentioned of the distinction. “They haven’t caught on to me, and I hope they by no means do.”

By then, White had not solely develop into the hippest star round, but in addition a task mannequin for how you can develop outdated joyously.

“Don’t attempt to be younger,” she instructed The AP. “Simply open your thoughts. Keep considering stuff. There are such a lot of issues I gained’t reside lengthy sufficient to search out out about, however I’m nonetheless inquisitive about them.”

Such was her recognition that even White’s birthday turned a nationwide occasion: In January 2012, NBC aired “Betty White’s ninetieth Birthday Occasion” as a star-studded prime-time particular. She would later seem in such collection as “Bones” and “Fireplace Chat With Esther” and in 2019 gave voice to one of many toys, “Bitey White,” in “Toy Story 4.”

In a Folks cowl story on White’s upcoming one hundredth birthday, the journal’s Jan. 10 challenge touted White’s secrets and techniques for longevity and quoted her as saying, “Humorous by no means will get outdated.”

Witjas mentioned it was as if Betty insisted on a final chortle: “It’s a beautiful tribute, and he or she has to drag this.”

A movie honoring White on her birthday can be launched as deliberate for a one-day exhibiting in additional than 900 theaters nationwide, mentioned Steve Boettcher and Mike Trinklein, producers of “Betty White: 100 Years Younger — A Birthday Celebration.”

“We’ll go ahead with our plans to point out the movie on Jan. 17 in hopes our movie will present a method for all who cherished her to have fun her life — and expertise what made her such a nationwide treasure,” they mentioned in a press release.

White remained youthful partly by her ability at enjoying bawdy or naughty whereas radiating niceness. The horror spoof “Lake Placid” and “The Proposal” have been marked by her characters’ surprisingly salty language. And her character Catherine Piper killed a person with a skillet on “Boston Authorized.”

However she nearly wasn’t solid as “Comfortable Homemaker” Sue Ann Nivens in “The Mary Tyler Moore Present” in 1973. She and her husband, Allen Ludden, have been shut pals of Moore and Moore’s then-husband, producer Grant Tinker. It was feared that if White failed on the present, which already was an enormous hit, it will be embarrassing for all 4. However CBS casting head Ethel Winant declared White the logical selection. Initially deliberate as a one-shot look, the position of Sue Ann (which humorously foreshadowed Martha Stewart) lasted till Moore ended the collection in 1977.

“Whereas she’s icky-sweet on her cooking present, Sue is known as a piranha sort,” White as soon as mentioned. The position introduced her two Emmys as supporting actress in a comedy collection.

In 1985, White starred on NBC with Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty in “The Golden Women.” Its solid of mature actors, enjoying single girls in Miami retirement, introduced a big gamble in a youth-conscious trade. Nevertheless it proved a stable hit and lasted till 1992.

White performed Rose, a delicate, dim widow who managed to misread most conditions. She drove her roommates loopy with off-the-wall tales of childhood in fictional St. Olaf, Minnesota, an off-kilter model of Lake Wobegon.

The position gained her one other Emmy, and he or she reprised it in a short-lived spinoff, “The Golden Palace.”

After her co-star Arthur died in 2009, White instructed “Leisure Tonight”: “She confirmed me how you can be very courageous in enjoying comedy. I’ll miss that braveness.”

White’s different TV collection included “Mama’s Household,” as Vicki Lawrence’s daughter; “Simply Males,” a recreation present wherein girls tried to foretell solutions to questions directed to male celebrities; and “Girls Man,” because the catty mom of Alfred Molina.

“Simply Males” introduced her a daytime Emmy, whereas she gained a fourth prime time Emmy in 1996 for a visitor shot on “The John Larroquette Present.”

She additionally appeared in quite a few miniseries and TV films and made her movie debut as a feminine U.S. senator in Otto Preminger’s 1962 Capitol Hill drama “Advise and Consent.”

White started her tv profession as $50-a-week sidekick to an area Los Angeles TV persona in 1949. She was employed for an area daytime present starring Al Jarvis, the best-known disc jockey in Los Angeles.

It was then she obtained a tip to start out mendacity about her age.

“We’re so age-conscious on this nation,” she mentioned in a 2011 interview with The Related Press. “It’s foolish, however that’s the way in which we’re. So I used to be instructed, ‘Knock 4 years off proper now. You’ll be blessing your self down the street.’

“I used to be born in 1922. So I assumed, ‘I need to all the time do not forget that I used to be born in 1926.’ However then I must do the maths. Lastly, I made a decision to heck with it.”

White proved to be a pure for the brand new medium. She was brilliant, fairly and likable, with a dimpled, eye-crinkling smile. A 1951 Los Angeles Occasions headline mentioned: “Betty White Hailed as TV’s Busiest Gal.”

“I did that present 5½ hours a day, six days per week, for 4½ years,” she recalled in 1975. Jarvis was changed by actor Eddie Albert, and when he went to Europe for the movie “Roman Vacation,” she headed the present.

A sketch she had performed with Jarvis changed into a syndicated collection, “Life With Elizabeth,” which gained her first Emmy. For a time she did interviews on “The Betty White Present” within the daytime, filmed the collection at evening and infrequently turned up on a late-night speak present. She additionally appeared on commercials and each New Yr’s narrated the Pasadena Rose Parade.

With the glib tongue and fast responses nurtured within the Jarvis years, she was a welcome visitor on “I’ve Received a Secret,” “To Inform the Reality,” “What’s My Line” and different recreation reveals — all the way in which as much as the 2008 “Million Greenback Password,” which revived the sport as soon as hosted by Ludden, whom she had met when a contestant on his authentic “Password.”

That was in 1961, and the subsequent 12 months, whereas touring in summer time theater throughout tv’s off season, she starred with Ludden — by then a widower with three kids — within the comedy “Critic’s Selection.”

White, who had claimed to be “militantly single” since a 1947-1949 marriage, weakened in her resolve.

“I had all the time mentioned on `The Tonight Present’ and in every single place else that I might by no means get married once more,” she instructed a reporter in 1963. “However Allen outnumbered me. He began in and even the kids obtained within the act. And I surrendered — willingly.”

The wedding lasted from 1963 till his dying from most cancers in 1981.

Off-screen, White tirelessly raised cash for animal causes such because the Morris Animal Basis and the Los Angeles Zoo. In 1970-1971, she wrote, produced and hosted a syndicated TV present, “The Pet Set,” to which celebrities introduced their canine and cats. She wrote a 1983 guide titled “Betty White’s Pet Love: How Pets Take Care of Us,” and, in 2011, revealed “Betty & Pals: My Life on the Zoo.”

Her devotion to pets was such that she declined a plum position within the hit 1997 film “As Good As It Will get.” She objected to a scene wherein Jack Nicholson drops a small canine down a laundry chute.

In her 2011 guide “If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Gained’t),” White defined the origins of her love for canine. Through the Melancholy, her dad made radios to promote to make more money. However since few folks had cash to purchase the radios, he willingly traded them for canine, which, housed in kennels within the yard, at instances numbered as many as 15 and made White’s blissful childhood even happier.

Are there any critters she doesn’t like?

“No,” White instructed the AP. “Something with a leg on every nook.”

Then what about snakes?

“Ohhh, I LOVE snakes!”

She was born Betty Marion White in Oak Park, Illinois, and the household moved to Los Angeles when she was a toddler.

“I’m an solely baby, and I had a mom and pa who by no means drew a straight line: They only thought humorous,” she instructed The Related Press in 2015. “We’d sit across the breakfast desk after which we’d begin kicking it round. My dad was a salesman and he would come dwelling with jokes. He’d say, `Sweetheart, you may take THAT one to high school. However I wouldn’t take THIS one.′ We had such a beautiful time.”

Her early ambition was to be a author, and he or she wrote her grammar college commencement play, giving herself the main position.

At Beverly Hills Excessive Faculty, her ambition turned to performing, and he or she appeared in a number of college performs. Her mother and father hoped she’d go to varsity, however as a substitute she took roles in a small theater and performed bit components in radio dramas.

Explaining in 2011 how she stored up her frantic tempo at the same time as an octogenarian, she defined that she solely wanted 4 hours of sleep every evening.

And when requested how she had managed to be universally beloved throughout her decades-spanning profession, she summed up with a dimpled smile: “I simply make it my enterprise to get together with folks so I can have enjoyable. It’s that straightforward.”


Related Press writers Lindsey Bahr, Lynn Berry and the late Bob Thomas contributed.

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