Betty White's 100th Birthday Celebrated by Contest

Otis Adams
Betty WhiteBritannica

About twenty years ago, talk show hosts began asking Betty White if there was anything she hasn't done in show business that she'd still like to do. Her answer was Robert Redford.

Everybody's favorite Golden Girl will soon be turning 100 years old.

On January 17, 2022, Betty White will join that very exclusive club of centenarians. A report from the folks at Guinness World Records will also be past due as research needs to be done to see if she holds the record for the longest career in television history.

Certainly, she has enjoyed one of the most successful.

Betty's love and advocacy for animals is evident both in her autobiography and her Twitter account - where she has 1.5 million followers by the way. From being an honorary forest ranger to mourning the death of Koko by sharing a photo of herself holding hands with the gorilla, few have used their celebrity to genuinely and consistently advocate for a cause like Betty has.

I love children. The only problem with children, they grow up to be people. I just like animals more than people, it's that simple.
-Betty White

Choice Mutual, an insurance company, has decided to celebrate Betty's birthday in January. They are offering $1,000 (and a DVD player) to a fan who will watch 10 hours of Betty White's best work and comment on social media throughout.

A Remarkable Career

She is best known for her portrayal of the lovable dingbat, Rose Nylund, who was always ready with some unpronounceable Swedish (or was it Norwegian) phrase. In the years since the show went off the air it has become a sitcom classic enjoyed by generations that were not yet born when the last episode first aired.

However, Betty White's contribution to television history is not summed up by mentioning her seven seasons on Golden Girls.

Her career began in the 1940's where she was responsible for filling hours a day of local television air time with something audiences would consider more entertaining than the radio. 

Over the next decade or two she hosted variety shows, acted on shows like Petticoat Junction, and became a frequent celebrity guest on game shows, which is where she met her husband, Allen Ludden.

In the 1970’s she landed a recurring role on the hit Mary Tyler Moore Show. She played the libidinous Sue Ann Nivens. Betty said that producers were looking for a “Betty White type” for the role but hesitated to audition Betty White herself. The reason was, she and Mary Tyler Moore were good friends and they worried that Betty would get the role even if she was lousy. Luckily, she was great.

When Betty reached her elderly years, the practice she had playing Sue Ann Nivens paid off as she easily got laughs with the unexpected, slightly raunchy joke on television talk shows.

She then had one season of the Betty White Show with John Hillerman, better known as Higgins on Magnum, P.I. TV history buffs should be careful not to confuse this show with her 1954 program with the same name. Not many can boast of having two television shows named after them. Some of the episodes are available for free on YouTube.

She was then in about a half dozen TV movies before guest starring on a couple of episodes of Who's the Boss and Mama's Family. She occupied the rest of the early '80's by appearing in an ALF TV movie and a handful of the Love Boat episodes. She also made it onto Matlock once.

By 1985, she was known in most American households as Rose Nylund, the most lovable of the Golden Girls. Betty was first offered the role of Blanche Devereaux, but turned it down, worried that she would just be playing another version of Sue Ann Nivens. Finally, the planets aligned and she got the role of Rose while Blanche went to Rue McClanahan. 

Three of the four Golden Girls then tried to launch another show called the Golden Palace. Though Bea Arthur appeared in a couple of episodes, the dynamic was out of balance without her. Even with a young Don Cheadle contributing his talents and with familiar theme music, the new setting of a hotel and Arthur's absence led to only one season.

Working in a new century, and her sixth decade, Betty played a recurring role on William Shatner's Boston Legal in the early 2000's. She also became a fan and host favorite on talk shows like the Late Show with David Letterman.

In her seventh decade in the profession she landed a role in another successful and lasting series called Hot in Cleveland. The setup for the show is that three women in their 40's accidentally visit Cleveland and realize that the competition for being "hot" isn't quite as stiff there as it was in Los Angeles, so they decide to stay. With Betty White's help, they managed five seasons.

I cannot sum up the breadth of Betty White's career in show business, though I did come up with a way to measure the the length of it - by using a stopwatch.

If you open all the tabs on her page on IMDb, it takes 44.51 seconds to scroll all the way through her hundreds of credits. 

Something else you'll notice on her IMDb page are her 356 appearances as herself. Evidence enough for me that, while she is enormously popular as an actress, audiences mostly just want to see Betty.

Happy birthday, Betty!

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Author of Lavatory Reader #1: This Road, now available on Amazon. Otis Adams is the author of three books and has won two dozen awards for his screenplays and short fiction. He writes regularly on and can be contacted at

Columbia, MO

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