Ladies and gentlemen, the inimitable Betty White! Audiences love her, the superhero Deadpool loves her, and we love her. But despite having been on television for longer than a lot of people have been alive, there are still a few things you might not know about her. For this Golden Girl has led a fascinating, quirky life. And we’ll tell you all about it…
40. She’s friends with a gorilla
Betty White’s got some unusual friends. And one of them isn’t even human – she’s a sign-language-using gorilla named Koko. In 2011 White gleefully told the website BookPage, “I had the privilege of visiting with Koko three times. She knows me now – she calls me ‘Lipstick.’ When she sees me she runs her fingers across her lips. She’s so magnificent, I can tell you.”
39. She turned down a movie role over “animal abuse”
Betty White is a big, big fan of animals. She takes their care and protection very seriously – so seriously, in fact, that she refused a role in As Good As It Gets. Why? Because in one scene Jack Nicholson’s character throws a puppy down a trash-chute. In 2011 she told Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, “Of course the film was a tremendous hit, but I didn’t regret turning it down.” Fair enough.
38. She sleeps surprisingly little
In 2011 Betty White proudly told the AARP website, “I’ve never needed much sleep. I go to bed late and get up early. I’m rarely in bed before midnight, and I’m often up till 1:00 a.m., and then I’m up again by 6:30. If I get four or five hours of good sleep, I’m all right.” Don’t try this at home though, not on a regular basis at any rate.
37. She didn’t say a famous quote attributed to her
If you’ve been around the internet for long enough, you’ve probably heard of a particular quote attributed to White. It’s too rude to repeat, but it involves parts of male and female anatomy. In 2012 White lamented to newspaper The Guardian, “That’s what I hate about Facebook and the internet. They can say you said anything. I never would have said that. I’d never say that in a million years.”
36. She’s not impressed by certain younger celebs
Betty White’s got a sharp tongue, as we all know, and in 2010 she unleashed it on Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen. She told the Daily Mail newspaper, “They party too much, don’t learn their lines, are unprofessional and they grumble about everything. I think they are terribly ungrateful.” You tell them Betts!
35. She was nearly Blanche on Golden Girls
When ideas for The Golden Girls were still being floated around, White was the frontrunner to play Blanche at first. But she’d already played aggressive, sexual characters on other shows, so it was decided she’d get a different role this time. She was given Rose Nylund, and Blanche was instead played by Rue McClanahan.
34. Many things are younger than her
Impressed by Betty White’s longevity? You’re about to get even more impressed. When White turned 94, she dropped into see James Corden on The Late Late Show and played a little game regarding famous things she’s older than. Turns out White existed before Mickey Mouse, the NBA, and yep, sliced bread.
33. She hates red carpet interviews
Betty White loathes red carpet interviews. And to be fair she’s pretty much had a lifetime of them so the novelty’s probably worn off. In her fabulously named 2011 book If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t) she wrote that she’d “rather go to the dentist for a root canal” than do any more.
32. She was good friends with Lucille Ball
White and comic-actress Lucille Ball were pals for over 30 years. But, of course, two of the funniest women to ever live would’ve been close. During a 2014 Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA), White told her audience, “Lucy was one of my dearest friends. Our mothers were both best friends. She was dynamite. Everything you saw was what you got.”
31. There’s an animal she wants to come back as
White shared a funny tidbit with the website Positively in 2013. If she was ever reincarnated as an animal, she said, she’d like to be… a moose! When the interviewer brought up that maybe a moose’s temperament didn’t quite fit the actress we all know and love, White quipped, “Well, you haven’t caught me on my bad days.”
30. Her Hot in Cleveland role wasn’t meant to last
Remember Betty White being on the 2010s’ show Hot in Cleveland? It was supposed to be just a one-shot role. Because veteran White didn’t want to commit to a TV show for an undetermined stretch of her valuable time. But the producers loved her character so much that they persuaded her to stick around, and the rest is history.
29. She credits her parents for her humor
White grew up in a house of laughter, and she’s grateful for that. During her 2014 Reddit AMA someone asked her, “Who was your inspiration to pursue comedy and acting?” She answered, “My mother and dad were my inspiration. Not professionally, but we had the best time around the table.”
28. White and Bea Arthur didn’t always get along
There was always a slight rift between two of The Golden Girls. Because Bea Arthur didn’t have much use for White’s form of comedy. And her son Matthew Saks noticed, too. In 2017 he told Closer magazine, “My mom unknowingly carried the attitude that it was fun to have somebody to be angry at. It was almost like Betty became her nemesis, someone she could always roll her eyes about at work.”
27. Her first marriage lasted mere months
Betty White had a little-known first husband. During World War II – bear in mind she was already kicking off a career in television at this point – she met a farmer-turned-fighter-pilot named Dick Barker. She quickly fell for him, and the two were married in 1945. But it lasted only five months. Turned out life as a farmer’s wife just wasn’t for White.
26. She absolutely loves certain junk foods
Betty White isn’t one for healthy eating. She loves her junk food – Red Vines, fries, Diet Coke and hot dogs are her favorites. She’s even had a hot dog named after her! In 2010 the company Pink’s Hot Dogs unveiled the Betty White “Naked” Hot Dog, which is basically just a dog with nothing on it. White attended the ceremony and ate one, of course.
25. She was one of the first female producers
Betty White’s been a trailblazer in so many respects. Back in 2010 she talked to the Hollywood Reporter about her first TV show Life With Elizabeth, and said, “I had a staff of one: writer George Tibbles. He wrote and I produced; I was one of the first women producers in Hollywood.”
24. She once performed for the Queen
Betty White’s met plenty of fellow celebrities, and one of them is none other than Queen Elizabeth II. White performed for her at the 1988 Royal Variety Performance in London, doing a scene from The Golden Girls with her three co-stars. She remembered that time during her 2014 Reddit AMA, saying, “It was very exciting. The Queen was lovely.”
23. She wrote her first book aged 14
White’s written a few books, but she actually wrote one as a teenager too. In 2011 she told the website BookPage it was about, “a girl on a ranch and her brother was sick. I didn’t know quite how to finish it off. It was 106 pages. Finally I had an idea: It turned out to be a dream. She woke up and her brother was well. I just thought it was genius.” Alas, it’s unpublished.
22. Things got awkward once she won an Emmy
All four main actresses on The Golden Girls eventually won Emmys. But Betty White was the first. And it made things somewhat awkward on the set of the show. In 2004 White told the Wild About Movies website, “I tried to make it clear in my acceptance speech that it was a four-way award…But it was a little, shall we say, cool for about the first week back on the set.”
21. She would have been a zookeeper if not an actress
In 2013 the Guinness World Records interviewed Betty White and asked her what she would have done if she hadn’t gone into the entertainment world. She answered, “Hands down, a zookeeper.” Well, even though she obviously didn’t become one, she’s a board member of the Los Angeles Zoo and supports many zoo-based charities.
20. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
White’s been given many awards throughout her life, including one of the highest honors an actor can get. Yes, she has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She got it in 1995, and it’s at 6747 Hollywood Boulevard if you ever want to go see it. Plus it’s next to the star of her late husband, Allen Ludden.
19. She was told to lie about her age
Hollywood ageism kicked in early for Betty White. In 2011 she told the AARP website that TV personality Al Jarvis had once informed her, “Now is a good time to start knocking off a couple years from your age. It will come in handy as you get older.” She was a mere 26 at the time. Unbelievable how Hollywood works!
18. She loves romantic movies
In 2009 movie website Rotten Tomatoes chatted to White about her five favorite films. She named 1935’s Naughty Marietta (which she saw 48 times), 1937’s Lost Horizon, 1979’s Kramer vs Kramer, 1985’s Out of Africa and 1995’s The Bridges of Madison Country. Rotten Tomatoes concluded, “She’s a romantic at heart.”
17. She’s been married three times
In 1945 White married and then divorced her first husband, Dick Barker. Just a couple of years later she tied the knot again, this time with an agent called Lane Allen. But they split after he tried to convince her to ditch her show business career and settle down. It wasn’t until 1963 that she wed her third and last husband, Allen Ludden. In 2012 White joked on Piers Morgan Live, “The first two were rehearsals.”
16. She’s addicted to puzzles
Perhaps one of the reasons White’s brain is so sharp is because she absolutely loves crossword puzzles. In 2011 she told the website Time Goes By, “I’m an addict. It keeps your mind limber.” She also used to play riddle games with her co-star Rue McClanahan in between filming scenes for The Golden Girls.
15. Barack Obama’s hilarious tribute to her
When Betty White turned 90, none other than Barack Obama released a video for her. In it the President at-the-time said, “You look so fantastic and full of energy, I can’t believe you’re 90 years old. In fact, I don’t believe it. That’s why I’m writing to ask if you will be willing to produce a copy of your long-form birth certificate.” To make things all the funnier, it was also his wife’s birthday that day.
14. She was once named honorary mayor of Hollywood
Wouldn’t you love to have Betty White as mayor of your city? Well, in 1955 she actually did become the honorary mayor of Hollywood, thanks to her already numerous contributions to the entertainment industry. Fans were able to cast their votes for the mayor they wanted in exchange for a dime, and White won.
13. She met her husband when she guested on his game show
Back in 1961, White appeared as a guest on the game show Password and was very taken with the host Allen Ludden. And, based on his flirting, he felt the same. In 2018 White remembered on the special Betty White: First Lady of Television, “The host was very nice and very attractive, and I thought, ‘Ooh!’” They remained married right up until his death.
12. She names her cars after birds
Betty White loves animals and that includes birds. Because, you won’t believe this, she names her cars after the feathered friends. In 2010 she cheerfully introduced the New York Times Wheels blog to her vehicles, saying, “I had a yellow Cadillac – that was Canary. And this one was Parakeet. I have a silver one right now which is Seagull.”
11. She’s the subject of hoaxes
Betty White doesn’t like social media very much, not least because it’s so easy to spread rumors and death hoaxes on there. In 2012 a Guardian newspaper interviewer told her there was a recent rumor she had died, and she quipped back, “Tell them that at 90 there’s no need to get impatient, I’m hurrying as best as I can.”
10. She’s very into poker
Betty White’s love of games doesn’t stop at crossword puzzles, she’s also a big fan of poker. And she informed James Corden on The Late Late Show back in 2017, the way she does it is to “play for blood.” Corden asked her to demonstrate her best poker face for him, and she didn’t disappoint.
9. She has a big crush on Robert Redford
For a long time Betty White’s harbored a crush on famous dreamboat Robert Redford. In 2015 she told the website news.com.au, “I have worshipped him from afar forever, I think from before he was born.” And then in 2018 she told Parade magazine, “I’ve taken Robert Redford’s name in vain for quite some time. But he never calls or writes so…actually, he’s been a good sport about it.”
8. She would make friends with the Golden Girls’ audience
In 2016 Bea Arthur’s son Matthew Saks told Hollywood Reporter magazine, “Sometimes Betty would go out and smile and chat with the audience and literally go and make friends with the audience. Which is a nice thing – a lot of them have come from all over the country and are fans.” Awww.
7. She has a massive house
Betty White actually has a net worth of around $75 million, so it probably goes without saying she’s got a huge house. Yep, her California home has a swimming pool, a hot tub, a two-oven kitchen, a four-poster bed and even a waterfall. And White opened her house to cameras for a hilarious YouTube special called Betty’s Happy Hour back in 2017.
6. She’s an LGBT ally
White’s long been a supporter of LGBT rights. She’s always recognized her large gay fanbase and came out in support of same-sex marriage when it was still a debated issue. And in 2014 she said on Larry King’s show, “I don’t care whom you sleep with. It’s ‘what kind of a human being are you?’ I don’t understand [why people are homophobic], it’s such a personal private business and it’s none of mine.”
5. Facebook helped her get on SNL
Back in 2010, a Facebook page sprung up with one simple aim: get Betty White to present Saturday Night Live. Thousands of followers later, the campaign worked! White appeared on the show and immediately declared, “I didn’t know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say it sounds like a huge waste of time.” So true to form!
4. She has some great ideas about who could play her
During White’s 2014 Reddit AMA, one user asked her, “If they were making a Betty White biopic, who do you envision playing the role of Betty White?” The acting legend responded, “I would love it if it were Meryl Streep or Julie Andrews but they would probably cast someone like Chris Rock.”
3. She’s not much of a homemaker
Betty White was never the housewife type, and now that she has a huge house with all the trappings she’s… well, not too fussed about that either. She can cook in a pinch, but she prefers her hot dogs. In 2014 she told Bon Appetit magazine, “I’m not a big cook. I only go in the kitchen to feed my dog.”
2. She doesn’t regret not having any of her own children
White has three stepchildren from her marriage with Allen Ludden, and they’re all the kids she needs. In 2011 she told the CBS Sunday Morning show, “No, I’ve never regretted [not having bio children]…I know that if I had ever gotten pregnant, of course, that would’ve been my whole focus. But I didn’t choose to have children because I’m focused on my career and I don’t think as compulsive as I am that I could manage both.”
1. She served in World War II
Yep, Betty White served her country during the Second World War. She was a member of the American Women’s Voluntary Services, who supported the home front by delivering weapons and messages. Betty drove a truck which brought supplies to soldiers. So if you ever meet her in person, don’t forget to salute her… and thank her for her service.