Golden Girl, Betty White, passed away on New Year’s Eve, just 17 days short of her 100th birthday.
She is perhaps most adored for playing Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls, an American sitcom about four women ‘of a certain age,’ which broke with convention. When the show began, Betty was aged 63 when she played 55-year-old Rose so was actually a year older than Estelle Getty, who played elderly, feisty Sophia.
The show ran from 1985 to 1992 and as the four friends consoled one another in the kitchen with bowls of ice cream, Betty won one Emmy award and was nominated for six.
“It was definitely the Golden Girls when I fell in love with her,” said local fan, Kristy Tracey, who was in her late teens at the time.
“I liked that she played so innocent, kind, and kind of naïve but she knew just as much as the rest of them.”
Betty Marion White was born in Oak Park, Illinois, on January 17, 1922. Her father, Horace, was a travelling salesman and electrical engineer and his father was a Danish immigrant. Betty’s mother, Tess Cachikis, was of Greek heritage and Betty’s maternal grandfather had also migrated to America.
During the Great Depression, Betty’s family moved to Los Angeles, California, where she attended Horace Mann School in Beverly Hills and Beverly Hills High School.
Betty always loved animals and wanted to become a forest ranger but females weren’t allowed to in the 1930s so she discovered acting.
She was told she wasn’t “photogenic” enough to become an actress so she worked in radio.
In 1939, Betty made her television debut on an experimental channel in Los Angeles, as the first television sets only went on sale to the public that year. She holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female).
Betty was a pioneering woman in the American television industry and co-founded a production company. She also was the co-creator, producer and star of the 1950s sitcom, Life With Elizabeth, for which she won her first Emmy award.
Betty appeared on game shows, including Password, and its host, Allen Ludden, became her beloved third husband in 1963.
She won two Emmy awards on The Mary Tyler Moore Show for best-supporting actress in 1975 and 1976 and was a guest on the Carol Burnett Show.
Betty earnt her place in another young heart in Broken Hill when seven-year-old Danny Toohey watched her in the 1999 horror movie, Lake Placid.
“She’s very foul-mouthed,” he said.
“I really liked it. I thought it was hilarious.
“Being a kid, you don’t normally hear that.”
Betty developed a cult following in this millennium and continued to be in demand, including a role in the Sandra Bullock film, The Proposal. She was also rugby tackled in a Snickers commercial, worked on Hot in Cleveland at the age of 92 and hosted Saturday Night Live.
In 2012, when Betty was 90, she became the host and Executive Producer of Betty White’s Off Their Rockers. The hidden camera show was about senior citizens fighting back against the television industry’s preference for the 18 to 49 demographic by playing pranks on youngsters. An elderly actress bought a big bunch of helium balloons and was lifted up into the air and had to be pulled down by her feet by the young people.
The show had a wicked sense of fun and an unaffected sweetness. Just like Betty.