Betty White: America’s Favorite Nonagenarian

Betty White with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office in June 2012. (Pete Souza/White House)

Today is the 95th birthday of television personality Betty White.

Here are some things you may not have known about her.

She was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1922. Betty is her given name, and not a shortened form of Elizabeth. During the Great Depression, her family moved to California, where her father built radios, which he would occasionally exchange for dogs.

While at Beverly Hills High School, White wanted to be a forest ranger, but because women weren’t allowed to be rangers at the time, she pursued an interest in writing. It was through writing that she found a love of performing.

Movie studios rejected her as being “unphotogenic,” so she started working in radio. She began working in television in 1939 on an experimental channel in Los Angeles. During World War II, she joined the American Women’s Voluntary Services. Following the war, she appeared on several radio shows, eventually getting her own show called, “The Betty White Show.”

In 1949, she became the co-host of the variety show, “Hollywood on Television.” By 1952, she was hosting the show solo. The show, which ran for five and a half hours six days a week, was largely ad-libbed. The show earned White her first Emmy nomination for best actress.

She co-created the show “Life With Elizabeth” in 1952, becoming one of the first actresses with full creative control over their show. At the time, she was 28 years old and lived with her parents. She hosted the annual Tournament of Roses Parade for 19 consecutive years in the 1950s and 60s.

She has been a frequent talk show and game show guest over the course of her career. Among the shows she frequently appeared on were “Password,” “What’s My Line?”, “To Tell The Truth” and “Match Game.” In 1963, she married Allen Ludden, the host of “Password.”

During the fourth season of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” she joined the cast as Sue Ann Nivens. The character, who was the host of a cooking TV show, was sweet and innocent on the air and sarcastic and man-hungry off air, allowing White to satirize her own persona.

In 1985, she was cast as Rose Nylund, in “The Golden Girls.” Rose, the innocent and naive widow from St. Olaf, Minnesota, lived with three other retired women in Miami. White was originally offerred the role of Blanche, which would be played by Rue McClanahan. White was nominated for an Emmy as Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series every year of the show’s run. She won the award once.

Since “The Golden Girls ended in 1992, White has worked steadily as a guest star on many television series. In 2010, she hosted “Saturday Night Live” after a grassroots Facebook campaign. She won her seventh Emmy award for the appearance. From 2010 through 2015, she appeared on the series, “Hot in Cleveland.”

In 2010, the United States Forest Service named White an honorary forest ranger, fulfilling her high school ambition. In a 2011 poll, she was named the most trusted celebrity among Americans, beating Denzel Washington, Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks.

Betty White is the only woman to receive an Emmy in all comedic performing categories. She also holds the record for the longest span between performance Emmys — she won her first in 1951 and her most recent in 2011. She won a Grammy 2012 for the audio recording of her memoir.

Our question: Who was the musical guest when Betty White hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 2010?

Today is unofficially Customer Service Day, Cable Car Day, and Hot-Buttered Rum Day.

It’s the birthday of Benjamin Franklin, who was born in 1706; gangster Al Capone, who was born in 1899; and U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, who is 53.

Because Betty White was born before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1965, the top song in the U.S. was “Downtown” by Petula Clark.

The No. 1 movie was “My Fair Lady,” while the novel “Herzog” by Saul Bellow topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question: What is the name of the current venue of the New York Philharmonic?

Submit your answer at and we’ll add the name of the person with the first correct answer to our winner’s wall … at We’ll have the correct answer on Friday’s episode.


Follow us on Twitter, Facebook or our website.

Also, if you’re enjoying the show, please consider supporting it through

Please rate the show on iTunes by clicking here.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.