Monday, January 3, 2022

Betty White: More Fabulous Than She Seems (Part 12)

Betty White passed on from natural causes on Thursday, December 30th, in her home. It breaks my heart that she didn't make it to her 100th birthday, only two weeks away. In her honor, I will wrap up this blog series as I had planned, with a few obvious adjustments. RIP, Betty. You made all of our lives brighter.

Chapter 10:  Advice and Success

What final thoughts and advice does Betty have after so many decades in the spotlight? Betty feels that everybody needs a passion. It is what keeps life interesting.

“I rarely hear the alarm clock,” she admits. “Even when I have to get up early, I’m usually awake before it goes off. I need about four hours’ deep sleep and I’m good to go. I chalk it up to my passions and enthusiasm. I can’t imagine living any other way.”

“I’m so fortunate that I not only have a passion for my profession but that that profession allows me to indulge my other passion—for animals—and work for their welfare. If I was in any other profession, people might not listen to me.”[1]


Are there acting jobs that she thinks, looking back, she should have taken instead of saying no? Betty says that she does not regret any role she has turned down because she feels it was always for the right reasons.

She was asked to play Helen Hunt’s mother in As Good As It Gets, which involved a scene where a dog was tossed in a garbage chute. She understood it was supposed to be funny, but she was worried that it might encourage someone to try it. It really bothered her. They wouldn’t cut the scene. She didn’t do the movie.

Making commercials is another place Betty selects carefully. Even though the work may pay well, Betty says she will not endorse something she does not believe in and actually use herself.

“Maybe it’s a reaction to hearing all those schlock pitches in the early days,” she says. “In today’s climate it may sound archaic, but I still have a thing about integrity. Call me crazy.”[2]


Betty says honesty is very important to her and was a virtue her mother taught her about in many ways. Her mother, Tess, would say: “Bets, you can lie to anyone in the world and even get away with it, perhaps, but when you are alone and look into your own eyes in the mirror, you can’t sidestep the truth. Always be sure you can meet those eyes directly. Otherwise, it’s big trouble, my girl.”[3]

Betty says she has tried to prove this wrong. “I stare back at my reflection and try to rationalize my way out of something, but it never works. Those eyes in the looking glass take on a life of their own. It still works, Mom. Even after all these years.”[4]

“Honesty is a virtue greatly to be admired, but it is strong medicine to be taken . . . and dished out . . . in careful doses.” She continues, “Being frank is fine, but not to the point of brutality. If you feel your ‘honest’ opinion will really benefit someone, then go for it . . . but if the hurt incurred will outweigh the benefit, keep your mouth shut. Truth is resilient and can be stretched pretty far. Lies . . . even little white ones . . . should be avoided like the plague . . . not only for moral reasons, but because, unless you are a master of the game (in which case, I don’t want anything to do with you), they are almost always going to come back to haunt you.”[5]

Betty feels that this sense of honesty is what has made her so successful in her TV career. She tries to keep every situation in a show as real and honest as she can. It has made the audience feel that they really know her and that she is a part of their lives.


Betty has gotten used to complete strangers acting like they are her friends. She cannot walk down the street, even in dark glasses with a scarf on her head, without hearing several times “Hi, Betty!” like she is a family friend.

She feels that this is the difference between being a TV star and a movie star. Movie stars are larger than life and up on a screen and feel very distant. TV stars come right into your home. Maybe they are around when you have dinner. You feel close to them. And her fans certainly feel close to her. But it doesn’t bother her. She feels it is a wonderful vote of confidence to have someone feel that you are part of their life.

Her fan club, Bet’s Pets, has been around since 1971. “I have found my fan club to be a group of constant and loyal friends through good times and bad. They are much appreciated,” she says.[6]

She is also grateful that they make huge efforts to support the charities that Betty herself works for. A large part of their work involves fundraising and making donations to animal-related charities.


But true and honest friends of her own have been hard for Betty over the years. She admits to being a workaholic, jumping from one project to another. Having a full schedule doesn’t allow for keeping friendships the way she would like. She often remarks that her husband Allen was her best friend. But there are others that have come into her life and stayed over the decades. She says that they know who they are.

“Friendship takes time and energy if it’s going to work. You can luck into something great, but it doesn’t last if you don’t give it proper appreciation. Friendship can be so comfortable, but nurture it—don’t take it for granted.” She also admits that she likes men best, even if it’s not politically correct. They are much more interesting to her.[7]


Show business is competitive, she admits, but in the end you are only competing against yourself. That is all that really matters, when all is said and done.

“Competing against yourself, day by day, stretches your capabilities and allows you to grow . . . just don’t make the standards too high,” she warns. “Remember, the object is to wind up feeling good about yourself . . . so the goal must be attainable . . . the rest is up to you.”[8]

She says the hardest times can be when you are really successful and on a roll. You can’t get caught up in the hype. “You have to keep your feet on the ground and remember that this is what you’ve worked for all your life. And now that you’ve achieved it, you don’t want to screw it up. You can’t get carried away with your image, because you know better than anyone else who the real person is. You don’t just luck into integrity. You work at it.”[9]

The vast majority of TV viewers would say that Betty has pulled off being a star without losing that part of herself that fans have loved for 70 years. That goal of honesty and integrity comes through in the work that she does, both as a professional actor and in her philanthropy and charity work.

Interestingly, after so many awards and famous roles, Betty says that she really hopes her legacy includes her work with animals. “The animal world has really come to the point where we realize what a major part of our lives they are, so that’s how I’d like to be remembered.”[10] Her work with the Morris Animal foundations, including giving the seed-money for developing a pain management program for animals after surgery, will never be forgotten by those who were touched by it.

For now, Betty is still best known to us at the woman who can always make us smile. “You can tell that Betty has always had a giggle in her heart,” says Wendy Malick, her co-star on Hot in Cleveland. “You can just tell she’s approached her life with gratitude and joy.”[11]

Writer David Wild may have summed it up best. When he had a chance to write some lines for Betty as a part of a TV Land award show, he said it was “pure bliss.”

“I hold this truth to be self-evident,” Wild says, “Betty White is a genuine comedy goddess. . . . Betty White was—and is—the consummate professional, the sweetest and most adorable comedy machine.”[12]


A 2013 article that again established that Betty is America’s Most Appealing Celebrity, says: “Like the Energizer bunny or a vintage steam engine (which was still in use around the time of her birth), Betty White just keeps going and going.”[13]

{Come back next week for the final chapter "Old Age" 
and remembrances from those who knew her best over the decades.}

[1] White, Betty, If You Ask Me, ibid, p. 30.

[2] White, Betty, Here We Go Again, p. 260.

[3] White, Betty, If You Ask Me, ibid, p. 7.

[4] White, Betty, If You Ask Me, ibid, p. 8.

[5] White, Betty, Betty White in Person, ibid, p. 23.

[6] White, Betty, Betty White in Person, ibid, p. 41.

[7] White, Betty, If You Ask Me, ibid, p. 170.

[8] White, Betty, Betty White in Person, ibid, p. 55.

[9] White, Betty, If You Ask Me, ibid, p. 252.

[10] Hewitt, Bill, Betty White: An Illustrated Biography, p. 64.

[11] Hewitt, Bill, Betty White: An Illustrated Biography, p. 81.

[12] Wild, David. May 11, 2010. “‘Golden Lady’: A Lifelong Fan’s Playlist for the Great Betty White,”

[13] The Globe and Mail, Inc. April 10, 2013. “Really? Betty White named America’s most-appealing celebrity.”

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