Actress Betty White is a shining comic talent with a long list
of film credits. From “Mary Tyler Moore” to the “Golden Girls” –
who doesn’t love the ditzy Rose? – and currently “Boston Legal,”
she is a beloved household name. With age a non sequitur, she
continues her career; and she remains an inspirational champion
of the underdog, not to mention the undercat.
Actress Betty White, a Rose for all Seasons
minute I heard Betty White’s familiar, cinnamon-sweet voice over
the wire from her Brentwood home, it wasn’t hard to conjure up
her pert smile, perfectly coifed blonde hair and devilish wink.
She sounded exactly like Rose from “Golden Girls,” and the
narrator for the Tournament of Roses Parade.
The six-time Emmy winner has a second home in Carmel, but she’s
so busy acting that she’s seldom there. “She’s not sitting
around eating bon bons,” said Donna Ellerbusch, White’s
The interview took some finessing. However, the self-proclaimed
animal nut would be appearing at an animal adoption/dedication
ceremony at the new Fountain of Woof in Carmel Plaza and she was
willing to talk about it.
“Okey dokey,” she said of the Q & A format. And words flowed
like a river . . .
If this woman has a mean bone in her body, I couldn’t find it.
She won’t even squash the aphids on her roses. She winces as her
gardener does the dirty deed. And where her soft spot manifests
most is with animals.
“Some of my best friends are gorillas,” says the animal
advocate, whose work as a trustee of the Morris Animal
Foundation and service with the Greater Los Angeles Zoo
Association has earned her the American Veterinary Medical
Association’s Humane Award.
We bonded when we talked of our adopted Himalayan cats and how
we both suspect they are part rag doll because they go limp in
our arms. She calls hers Bob Cat. I call mine Lynx for his ear
tufts and large padded paws.
“People used to say, ‘Why do you spend so much time on animals?
Don’t you like people?’” She chuckles. “Well, lately, the way
people have been behaving, they may be right.”
You could be the most likeable actress aside from Doris Day. Why
A: I have no idea . . . It’s not something you work at or do.
You show up on time, know your lines, smell good and that’s it.
Q: When and how are you bad?
A: Mmm . . . I guess when I’m around animals, I don’t pay
attention to people. I try not to be bad. I don’t believe in it.
I think there’s another alternative.
Q: What would make you mad?
A: Selfishness, inconsideration, unkindness.
Q: What would you consider a bad hair day for you?
A: (Laughs) Oh, 365 days a year . . . I have bad hair. It’s so
thin and fine, I’m glad I have any left. I’m 82.
Q: Were you always the Golden Girl? Or did you have a rough
A: I was so blessed. I’m the luckiest old broad on two feet. I
was a happy only child. The three of us were such buddies.
Q: So, what is the tragedy behind your comedy?
A: Sorry about that, I don’t think there is any tragedy. Mother
and dad had a delicious sense of humor and managed whenever
things were not good to find a way to keep the humor going.
Q: What were you voted in high school?
A: Jack Rich and I were voted best looking in class. It’s hard
to live down best looking, but it goes away very quickly when
gravity takes over.
Q: Cat ownership outnumbers dogs, so why are cats still
maligned? And why isn’t there a Fountain of Meow?
A: Cats are a little too classy to drink out of fountains.
People who don’t like cats haven’t been around them. As we
speak, my cat is on my lap. He’s Velcro. I can’t pry him off . .
. There’s the old joke: dogs have masters, cats have staff.
Q: Are all your animals adopted?
A: Yes. My golden retriever, Kitta, age 9, was raised in Alaska
to be a guide dog but his hips didn’t quite measure up. And
there’s my little girl, a black and white Shih tzu, Panda, who
will be 14. Bob Cat found me nine years ago. I was at the beauty
parlor - I have my hair done at 7 a.m. in Beverly Hills – when I
got the call there was a beautiful cat outside that was going to
be put away . . . He sat on the ledge in front of me and looked
at me with big blue eyes and I said, “Sure, I’ll find a home for
Q: In what ways are you co-dependent with your fur people?
A: We just converse all the time. We read each other like a
book. They understand my language and I understand theirs.
Q: What terms of endearment do you use with them?
A: “Pandy boots, how are you sweetheart?” And “Bobolink.” And
“Kit Kat” for Kitta.
Q: Name three random acts of kindness your animals have
A: It goes on every day. They cheer me when I am feeling low or
tired. They somehow have a way of making me not only smile but
laugh out loud.
Q: So, what’s happening at the zoo?
A: I’ve been working with the L.A. zoo for 36 years trying to
get a zoo commission. I was thrilled when we got it. The bad
news was, the mayor made me V.P. of the commission. They’re
doing wonderful construction. They just finished a rain forest
for orangutans and chimps. My dear friend Jane Goodall helped
advise. We’re in the middle of building a gorilla exhibit.
Q: Funniest incident on your star-studded show “The Pet Set”?
A: When Jimmy and Gloria Stewart came on with their two golden
retrievers that he had written poems about. The dogs got excited
and took Jimmy and Gloria over the couch, arse over teakettle.
Burt Reynolds brought his basset hound Bruiser and Doris Day was
Q: You’ve subbed on all the great talk shows. What does it
take to be a good host?
A: Listening. Not to just think of the next question, because
answers will sometimes take you off in various directions.
Q: You have a blush pink Romantica hybrid tea rose named
after you. What would make you blush?
A: (Laughs) . . . I was a pill pusher in “Ally McBeal” . . . In
“Lake Placid” I played an old lady who used language that would
shame a truck driver . . . I don’t think anything. I’m too old
to blush. I kind of shake my head in disappointment.
Q: What fan most invaded your privacy?
A: One time I came home and a young woman was sitting on the
doorstep with her suitcase. She expected to move in. I said,
“I’m sorry, we can’t do this.” . . . Yes, I am a private person.
Q: You’re authoring your sixth book and say writing is
addictive. When did acting become a habit?
A: In grammar school, I wrote a play and wrote myself into the
lead, as any red-blooded American would do. I got on stage and
said, “Hey, how long has this been going on?”
Q: Have you dated since your husband Allen Ludden’s death,
and what do you know for sure about men?
A: I like them very much. They’re much more interesting than
women. I know that’s apolitical, but I enjoy their company more
. . . I never remarried because once you get it right, it’s a
tough act to follow.
Q: Fill in the blanks: This is Betty White’s life: ____.
A: Total commitment and, consequently, total enjoyment.