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Betty White

Author Michael McWilliams said “If Lucille Ball is the Queen of Television, then its Princess is Betty White.” 

Betty White, everyone’s favorite leading lady, recently turned 99 years old. Just a few weeks ago, I watched a documentary on Netflix titled Betty White, First Lady of Television. It was a nice overview of Betty’s career and I did learn a few new things about her.  

Betty Marion White was born on January 17, 1922  in Oak Park, Illinois. She was an only child and admits that she was quite spoiled rotton.  In 1923 her family moved from Illinois to California.  She graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1939.  In the documentary she discussed how every summer she and her parents would hike into the Sierra Nevada’s for 3 weeks. They were a family that loved animals and wildlife. 

Growing up, Betty idolized singer and actress Jeanette Macdonald who was famous during the 1930s and 1940s.  Just a few months after graduating from high school, Betty White did her first test for television where she sang a Jeanette Macdonald song. 

In the 1940s, Betty had some work in radio.  It all started when she played a young orphan in the 1930s radio drama Empire Builders.   She also had roles in other radio shows during that decade. In 1949, Al Jarvis, a radio DJ started a television talk show called Hollywood on Television.  He asked Betty to join him as part of the show, a show that was live and aired six days a week.  It’s hard to believe but the show was around five hours long each day and and a lot of improvisation took place. Betty would also sing on the show. It was a great opportunity for her to showcase her array of skills.  She started out making $50 a week for her work. In 1951 Al Jarvis left the show and film star Eddie Albert became Betty’s co-host.  Eddie Albert only stayed for six months and then Betty took on the hosting role alone in 1952. This makes Betty White the first female daytime television talk show host. 

That same year, Betty co-founded Bandy Productions along with writer George Tibbles and producer Don Fedderson.  They created the television comedy Life With Elizabeth where Betty had the lead role and won a Los Angeles Emmy Award for her role.  Up against Betty White for that Emmy was Zsa Zsa Gabor.  In a People magazine article, Betty White says, “Zsa Zsa Gabor was also nominated and was at my table. When they came around to our award, Zsa Zsa got her purse out and powdered her nose and put her lipstick on. I didn’t think there was a prayer. I was just interested in seeing how it came out, but they announced my name instead of Zsa Zsa’s. I was just in shock. I could not believe it. And I don’t think Zsa Zsa could either.”

In 1954, Betty hosted the Betty White show, a variety show with a live band and live commercials. In the documentary, she said this was before there was tape. Everything was live.  Imagine that coordination it must have taken to have a live show and no saying “we’ll edit that out later.” In the documentary they interviewed singer and tap dancer Arthur Duncan.  He was the first African-American regular on variety television programs.  Unfortunately, there was some controversy surrounding his appearances.  Viewers in the south did not like having a black man on their television sets and people wanted the show cancelled. Thankfully, Betty White said “I’m sorry. Live with it.” Arthur Duncan credits Betty White for getting him into television.

In the 1970s, Betty had a much loved role on The Mary Tyler Moore Show where she played Sue Ann Nivens, the Happy Homemaker. The Mary Tyler Moore show had already been on the air for a few years before Betty White joined the cast. Her first appearance was on episode one of season four.  For her role, Betty White won two Emmy Awards in the Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series category. The women that made up the show were Cloris Leachman, Valerie Harper, Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White, and Georgia Engel. Their final time all together on a television program was when Katie Couric interviewed them on her talk show Katie in 2013.  While on the show, the ladies all sang the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song together. It was great to see them all together one last time.

Betty White always seems to be coming up with something new to keep her name in the spotlight. In 2010 she starred in a Super Bowl commercial that had everyone talking. That same year she made history when she became the oldest person to host Saturday Night Live. And she’s not done yet. Next week, Betty White’s Pet Set, a series created 50 years ago will make its debut on digital platforms and DVD on February 23, 2021.

Betty White definitely is the “Princess of Television.” I hope you will listen to this week’s Trivia Rewind episode about Betty White. How many people can say at 99 years old, they still have work in Hollywood!

Below, you will find the transcript for this episode. You can listen to Trivia Rewind on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Please tell a friend, leave a positive review and 5 star rating if you like Trivia Rewind. Thank you for listening and supporting Trivia Rewind! 

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Trivia Rewind Episode 37 – Betty White

[00:00:00] Debi Jenkins: [00:00:00] Hello Trivia Rewind  listeners, I’m Debi Jenkins, your host. In this episode of Trivia Rewind, I’ll be talking about everyone’s favorite leading lady, Betty White. She just turned 99 years old.  Author Michael McWilliams said, “If Lucille Ball is the queen of television, then its princess is Betty White.”

[00:00:36] Recently I watched a documentary on Netflix titled Betty White, First Lady of Television. It was a nice overview of Betty’s career and I did learn a few new things about her. Betty Marion White was born on January 17th, 1922 in Oak Park, Illinois. She was an only child and admits that she was quite spoiled rotten. In [00:01:00] 1923 her family moved to California. She graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1939. In the documentary she discussed how every summer she and her parents would hike into the Sierra Nevada’s for three weeks. They were a family that loved animals and wildlife.

[00:01:20] Growing up Betty idolized singer and actress Jeanette MacDonald, who was famous during the 1930s and 1940s. Just a few months after graduating from high school, Betty White did her first test for television where she sang a Janette McDonald song. In the 1940s, Betty had some work in radio.  It all started when she played a young orphan in the 1930s radio drama, Empire Builders.  [RADIO DRAMA CLIP: Oh, how are you today hon? I’m a lot better, thank you.”] She also had roles in other radio shows during that decade.

[00:01:56] In 1949, Al Jarvis, a radio [00:02:00] DJ started a television talk show called Hollywood On Television. He asked Betty White to join him as part of the show. The show was live and aired six days a week. It’s hard to believe, but the show was around five hours long each day and a lot of improvisation took place. Betty would also sing on the show. It was a great opportunity for her to showcase her huge array of skills. She started out making $50 a week for her work. In 1951, Al Jarvis left the show and film star Eddie Albert became Betty’s co-host. He only stayed for six months and then Betty White took on the hosting role alone in 1952. This makes her the first female daytime television talk show host.

[00:02:51] That same year, Betty White co-founded Bandy Productions along with writer George Tibbles and producer Don Fetterson.  [00:03:00] They created the television comedy Life With Elizabeth where Betty had the lead role and won a Los Angeles Emmy Award for her role.

[00:03:09] [TV SHOW CLIP: “Betty White in Life With  Elizabeth, featuring Del Moore”]

[00:03:25] Up against Betty White for that Emmy was Zsa Zsa Gabor. In a People Magazine article, Betty White says, “Zsa Zsa Gabor was also nominated and was at my table. When they came around to our award, Zsa Zsa got her purse out and powdered her nose and put her lipstick on. I didn’t think there was a prayer. I was just interested in seeing how it came out, but they announced my name instead of Zsa Zsa’s. I was just in shock. I could not believe it. And I don’t think Zsa Zsa could either.”

[00:03:59] In [00:04:00] 1954, Betty hosted the Betty White Show, a variety show with a live band and live commercials. In the documentary she said this was before there was tape. Everything was live. In the documentary they interviewed singer and tap dancer Arthur Duncan. He was the first African-American regular on variety television programs. Unfortunately, there were some controversy. Viewers in the South did not like having a black man on their television sets and people wanted the show canceled. Well, Betty White said, “I’m sorry. Live with it.” He credits Betty White for getting him into television. It was now the end of the 1950s and Betty White’s career was off to a great start.

[00:04:47] In this week’s episode of Trivia Rewind, I will give you 10 trivia questions about Betty White. After I ask you the questions, I’ll go back and give you the answers and some [00:05:00] more fun facts about the princess of television. Stick around to the very end because I’ll tell you what Betty White’s newest projects are. Just because she’s 99 doesn’t mean she’s done with the entertainment business yet.

[00:05:15] So are you ready for question one? Here it is. On which game show did Betty White appear numerous times where she fell in love with her future husband, the host of the show?

[00:05:31] Question two. On The Mary Tyler Moore show, what was the name of Betty White’s character?

[00:05:40] Question three. From what 1980s game show did Betty White become the first woman to win a Daytime Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Game Show Host?

[00:05:56] Question four. On the TV series The [00:06:00] Golden Girls, what is the name of the character portrayed by Betty White?

[00:06:06] Question five. What is the name of the TV Land original sitcom where Betty White played the character Elka?

[00:06:17] Question six. During the 2010 Super Bowl, Betty White starred in a popular commercial whose slogan was “you’re not you when you’re hungry.” What product was the commercial advertising?

[00:06:34] Question seven. On May 8th, 2010, what popular show did Betty White host and at the same time become the oldest person to host that show?

[00:06:48] Question eight. In what 2019 animated movie did Betty White provide the voice for the character Bitey White?

[00:07:00] [00:06:59] Question nine. In what 2009 film starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds did Betty White appear in?

[00:07:11] And question 10. What is the name of the 2011 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie that Betty White appeared in with actress Jennifer Love Hewitt?

[00:07:24] Well, those were our 10 questions. Let’s go back and get the answers and fun facts.

[00:07:31] Question one. On which game show did Betty White appear numerous times where she fell in love with her future husband, the host of the show? That show was Password and the host was Allen Ludden. Betty White first appeared on Password in 1961 as a celebrity guest. In 2013 Password ranked number eight on TV Guide’s list of The 60 Greatest [00:08:00] Game Shows Ever.

[00:08:02] One thing I learned in the documentary about Betty White is that Betty loves word games. She’s a huge fan of playing the board game Scrabble. She also loves doing crossword puzzles. During her career she has appeared on a lot of game shows and is known to love games in general. Some have called her the first lady of game shows. In her book titled, “Here We Go Again. My Life in Television,” she wrote, “Mom and dad and I had always played games since as far back as I can remember. Some we made up as we went along – at the table, in the car, wherever – so playing on TV was a bonus. Where else can you spend a couple of hours playing games with nice people and get paid for it?”

[00:08:54] Question two. On The Mary Tyler Moore Show, what was the name of [00:09:00] Betty White’s character? Her character was Sue Ann Nivens, the Happy Homemaker. The Mary Tyler Moore Show had already been on the air for a few years before Betty joined the cast. Her first appearance was on episode one of season four. For her role, Betty won two Emmy Awards in the Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series category.

[00:09:25] The women that made up the show were Cloris Leachman, Valerie Harper, Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White and Georgia Engel. Their final time all together on a television program was when Katie Couric interviewed them on her talk show Katie in 2013. While on the show, the ladies all sang The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song together. To find out more about that last appearance together, I’ll post a link to the story on triviarewind.com. In 2007, Time [00:10:00] Magazine put The Mary Tyler Moore Show on its list of The 17 Shows That Changed TV.

[00:10:07] Question three. From what 1980s game show did Betty White become the first woman to win a Daytime Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Game Show Host? Well, the name of that game show was Just Men. Just Men aired on NBC. The basic object of the game was for the contestants, two women, to correctly predict answers to questions asked previously to a panel of seven celebrity men. Each correct answer would earn the lady a key. In the bonus round, the winner could see if one of the keys started a car that they could win. The announcer of the show Steve Day said “It’s the most unusual show in daytime and talk.” [00:11:00] Unfortunately, the show didn’t make it long. After 13 weeks of being on the air, it was canceled. Betty White did however make history with her Daytime Emmy win.

[00:11:13] Question four. On the TV series The Golden Girls, what is the name of the character portrayed by Betty White? Well, she played the role of Rose. Betty almost didn’t play the role of Rose. She was supposedly cast to play the character Blanche who was a similar character to her Sue Ann Nivens role on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

[00:11:40] Actress Rue McClanahan was offered the role of Rose, a character similar to her role in Maude. In order not to be typecast, she and Rue McClanahan switched roles at the last minute. This hit show was nominated for 68 Emmy Awards and [00:12:00] won 11. On their 2013 list of The 60 Best Series of All Time, TV Guide ranked The Golden Girls number 54.

[00:12:12] Question five. What is the name of the TV Land original sitcom where Betty White played the character Elka? That show was Hot in Cleveland. Some people called the show a modern twist on The Golden Girls. Hot in Cleveland was TV Land’s first original series and it ran for six seasons.

[00:12:38] Originally Betty White agreed to do just one episode but ended up liking it so much that when they offered her a permanent role, she took it. She went on to appear in 128 episodes of the series. Betty White earned an Emmy nomination for her role on the show. In 2012, it won the People’s [00:13:00] Choice Award for Favorite Cable TV Comedy.

[00:13:04] Question six. During the 2010 Super Bowl, Betty White starred in a popular commercial whose slogan was “your not you when you’re hungry.” What product was the commercial advertising? Well, that highly popular commercial was for Snickers candy bars. I’m sure you remember this commercial. Betty White is playing football and gets tackled hard to the ground by one of the players.

[00:13:34] One of the players says, “Mike, you’re playing like Betty White out there.” After eating a bit of a Snickers bar, Betty White disappears and turns into the character Mike. This commercial was a huge hit during the Super Bowl. If you haven’t seen it, check out triviarewind.com where I will post a link so you can watch this commercial.  Way back in the 1940s Betty had her [00:14:00] debut in a radio commercial where she said the single word “Parkay” as in butter. This was on the radio show called The Great Gildersleeve.

[00:14:12] Question seven. On May 8th, 2010, what popular show did Betty White host and at the same time become the oldest person to host the show? She hosted Saturday Night Live and she was 88 years old when she hosted it. How this all came about was actually pretty amazing. A fan in Texas named David Matthews started a grassroots Facebook petition wanting Betty White to host SNL. Within a few months, several hundred thousand people signed the petition and this got the attention of the people at Saturday Night Live. Not long after that she was signed on to host the Mother’s Day weekend episode of Saturday Night Live.

[00:15:00] [00:14:59] In part of her opening monologue she said she didn’t know what Facebook was and she said, now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time. She got a lot of laughs for that. This was such a loved episode that it even won her her seventh Emmy Award, where at the 2010 Primetime Emmy Awards, she took home an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.

[00:15:29] Question eight. In what 2019 animated movie did Betty White provide the voice for the character Bitey White? That movie was Toy Story 4.  In the film, Bitey White is a toy tiger teething ring and belonged to the character Bonnie when she was a baby. In an Entertainment Weekly article, it quotes Betty White saying, “I’m just lucky they asked me to be a part of it.” She was able to work with some [00:16:00] lifelong friends in this movie. Carol Burnett, Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner participated as one of Bonnie’s old baby toys as well. In the article Betty went on to say, “It’s a lovely group and they’re all friends of mine. It doesn’t get any better.” Playing a tiger was right up Betty White’s alley. Known to be an animal advocate, she said this about her Toy Story tiger role. “I’ve had the privilege of cuddling with lots of different animals and I’ll play with any animal” she says. “A current friend is a grizzly bear named Bam-Bam. So I’m delighted to be able to give a voice to a toy tiger.” Betty loves being an animal advocate.

[00:16:47] Question nine. In what 2009 film starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds did Betty White appear in? That movie was The [00:17:00] Proposal. In this romantic comedy, Betty White played the character Grandma Annie. The cast had a great working relationship. So much so that when asked who she’s starstruck by, other than Robert Redford, Betty White says Sandra Bullock. She’s quoted as saying, “Very close to the top of that one is Sandra Bullock. She’s the epitome of what a movie star should be. She’s not only gorgeous and talented, but she’s the most down to earth human being. I just can’t say enough about her.” At the 36th People’s Choice Awards, the film won the Favorite Comedy Movie Award.

[00:17:44] And question 10. What is the name of the 2011 Hallmark Hall of Fame movie that Betty White appeared in with actress Jennifer Love Hewitt? That movie was called The Lost Valentine. For her performance [00:18:00] in this movie, Betty received a nomination for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie.

[00:18:12] Speaking of Valentines, Betty White has been married three times. Betty’s first husband was Dick Barker, a United States Army Air Forces aircraft pilot who she met while volunteering with the American Women’s Voluntary Services. They were married in 1945 and moved to her new husband’s chicken farm in Ohio. A People Magazine article quotes her as saying, “It was a nightmare.” That marriage didn’t last long. Before the year was over they were divorced.

[00:18:45] Betty’s second husband was Hollywood talent agent Lane Allen. They were married in 1947. Lane Allen wanted her to become a housewife and give up her career. So as you can imagine, that marriage [00:19:00] didn’t last long either. They were divorced in 1949.

[00:19:04] Her final marriage was to Allen Ludden, the love of her life. They met in 1961 when she was a celebrity player on the game show Password. Sadly, Ludden’s first wife had recently died of cancer. Ludden had three children with his first wife. In the Betty White documentary she talks about how Allen proposed multiple times and she kept turning him down over and over again.

[00:19:31] When she turned down the diamond wedding ring he proposed with, Allen wore it around his neck on a chain. He would not give up. She said that on Easter of 1963, he sent her a bunny stuffed animal that had gold leaves with a ruby, diamond and sapphire earrings hanging from its ears. She finally accepted his proposal. She joked about how it wasn’t the jewelry that won her over. It was the stuffed bunny. In the documentary [00:20:00] she said how she felt bad that she wasted so much time saying no to his proposals because that was a year longer that they could have been together.

[00:20:08] The two were married in 1963 and in June of 1981, Allen Ludden died at the age of 63. He had been diagnosed with stomach cancer the year prior. In an interview with Larry King, she was asked if she would ever remarry and her answer was “Once you’ve had the best, who needs the rest.”

[00:20:32] So what does Betty White have going on right now at the young age of 99? According to PR Newswire, “Betty White’s Pet Set, a long unseen series created by and starring the sitcom legend will make its debut on digital platforms and DVD on February 23rd, 2021. [TV SHOW CLIP: Welcome to The Pet Set, starring Betty White.”] [00:21:00] This celebrates the 50th anniversary of this show. They quote Betty White sayin, “If I haven’t told you already, I will now. The Pet Set is one of my favorite shows. I’m thrilled it’s going to be seen again after all these years.” The show was executive produced by her late husband Allen Ludden. The show features celebrity guests and their pets. Betty is also working on a Christmas movie with the Lifetime Network where she plays the character called Santa Whisperer.

[00:21:34] Well, that is it for this week’s episode about Betty White. If you have Netflix check out the documentary about her. I’d love to hear what your favorite Betty White role is. Visit Trivia Rewind on Instagram and share with me there. Also don’t forget to visit triviarewind.com, where you can find the links mentioned in this episode.

[00:21:58] Thank you so much for [00:22:00] listening and I will be back next week with another new episode of Trivia Rewind.