Betty White was born in Oak Park, Illinois, to Christine Tess (Cachikis), a homemaker, and Horace Logan White, a lighting company executive for the Crouse-Hinds Electric Company. She is of Danish, Greek, English, and Welsh descent.
Received the Women’s International Center (WIC) Living Legacy Award (1988).
Per her autobiography, White was named “Betty” at birth not “Elizabeth” because her parents did not want her to be saddled with any of the nicknames and derivatives of Elizabeth — i.e. Beth, Liza, Ellie, etc.
Attended and graduated from Beverly Hills High School in Beverly Hills, California (1939), at age 17.
Is strongly critical of reality television.
Her paternal grandfather, Christopher Hans Christian White, was Danish, and her maternal grandfather, Nicholas Cachikis, was Greek. Her grandmothers, Etta K. Lundy and Margaret Hobbs, both Canadian-born, had English and Welsh ancestry.
She started her entertainment career on radio in 1930 at the age of 8 playing an adopted orphan on the soap opera “Empire Builders”.
Appeared on many games shows with good friend Vicki Lawrence
who was also a big game player.
, renowned animal trainer and Hollywood animal behaviorist, is very dear friends with Betty who provided many of his exotic animals for her television show The Pet Set
Stepmother of David Ludden, Martha Ludden and Sarah Ludden (Allen Ludden
‘s children from his first marriage to Margaret McGloin).
Had begun writing plays when she was in grammar school.
White’s parents met in Chicago, where her father, Horace Logan White, worked at an electrical company, and her mother, Christine, was a housewife. She was born in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, but the family moved to Los Angeles when Betty was only two years old.
Before she was a successful comedienne, actress and an animal activist, she was a member of the American Women’s Voluntary Services (where she drove a PX truck) during World War II and she worked as a disc jockey at KLAC.
As of November 2019, Betty White is the last surviving cast member of The Golden Girls
Graduated from Horace Mann Grammar School in Beverly Hills, California.
In February 1939, at the request of the Los Angeles Packard dealer Earle C. Anthony, she performed for an experimental television broadcast in the Packard Motor Car Company building where she performed songs from the operetta The Merry Widow with Harry Bennett, Beverly Hill High School’ student body president.
Skipped college to study classical vocal training under opera singer Felix Hughes, uncle of Howard Hughes.
Studied acting at the Bliss-Hayden Theatre run by husband-wife team of film actors Harry Hayden and Lela Bliss.
The first two plays she auditioned for she landed the lead; Philip Barry’s “Spring Dance” which ran 8 performances and the wartime romantic comedy “Dear Ruth”.
In radio she performed in episodes of “The Great Gildersleeve”, “Blondie” and “This Is Your FBI”.
In 1949 she appeared on KLAC’s “Grab Your Phone” (not on IMDb) where she was one of four phone girls from the public answering the questions by host Wes Battersea. She was paid $20 per week.
Her special song with Lane Allan while they were a couple was Carl Ravazza’s “I Love You For Sentimental Reasons”.
In 1949 she was recommended by band leader Roc Hillman for a KLAC fifteen-minute comedy show called “Tom, Dick, And Harry” (not on IMDb) that starred three vaudevillians who ran a hotel. Betty played a maid The show lasted few weeks.
Received her union card to work in radio by saying the line “Parkay” in a commercial during an episode of “The Great Gildersleeve”. She earned $37.50 but had to pay $69 to join the union.
In 1949 she appeared on a local Los Angeles tv station special “Haynes At The Reins” (not on IMDb) that featured KLAC radio disc jockey Dick Haynes. She performed “Somebody Loves Me” and “I’d Lie To Get You On A Slow Boat To China” with bandleader Roc Hillman and his band. She was unpaid.
Personal Quotes (85)
[At age 90] I can credit my folks for my genes. That said, I can’t get over that at this age I don’t feel this age. I’m not trying to be any younger. I’m not lying about my age. If I were lying about my age, I would say I was 89. I’m just at one of those good times in one’s life. I’m at one of the high spots. I’m healthy enough to enjoy it. I’m surrounded by friends I adore. Isn’t that kind of the best way to sign off?
I’m in the acting business. That’s the ego business. When you get offers, the way things are going now you’ve gotta enjoy it. You’ve gotta take to time to taste it, and appreciate it and make the most of it. Those offers aren’t going to come around all the time. By the time I’m 100…
The audience today has heard every joke. They know every plot. They know where you’re going before you even start. That’s a tough audience to surprise, and a tough audience to write for. It’s much more competitive now, because the audience is so much more – I want to say sophisticated.
[on Bea Arthur
] Bea was not that fond of me. I don’t know what I ever did but she was not that thrilled with me. But I loved Bea and I admired her.
It’s your outlook on life that counts. If you take yourself lightly and don’t take yourself too seriously, pretty soon you can find the humor in our everyday lives. And sometimes it can be a lifesaver.
Don’t try to be young. Just open your mind. Stay interested in stuff. There are so many things I won’t live long enough to find out about, but I’m still curious about them. You know people who are already saying, ‘I’m going to be 30 – oh, what am I going to do?’ Well, use that decade! Use them all!
I think a lot of people like hidden-camera shows where they think they’re spying on somebody who doesn’t know they’re looking at them. And nobody takes it seriously – you either enjoy it and get a laugh out of the reactions or not.
I think older women still have a full life.
I’m not into animal rights. I’m only into animal welfare and health. I’ve been with the Morris Animal Foundation since the ’70s. We’re a health organization. We fund campaign health studies for dogs, cats, lizards and wildlife. I’ve worked with the L.A. Zoo for about the same length of time. I get my animal fixes!
I’ve worked with the Los Angeles Zoo for 45 years, and we have this magnificent photographer, Tad Motoyama. He takes these wonderful, wonderful animal pictures. All through the years he’s given me copies of these pictures. Well, I have all these gorgeous ones, so I said, ‘Tad, I want to do a book with your picture on one side.’
Animal lover that I am, a cougar I am not.
I am interested in a lot of things – not just show business and my passion for animals. I try to keep current in what’s going on in the world. I do mental exercises. I don’t have any trouble memorizing lines because of the crossword puzzles I do every day to keep my mind a little limber. I don’t sit and vegetate.
I didn’t know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time.
Anger tears me up inside… My own… or anyone else’s.
You can always tell about somebody by the way they put their hands on an animal.
Why retire from something if you’re loving it so much and enjoying it so much, and you’re blessed with another group of people to work with like the gang on ‘Hot in Cleveland?’ Why would I think of retiring? What would I do with myself?
If you’re walking with your lady on the sidewalk, I still like to see a man walking street-side, to protect the lady from traffic. I grew up with that, and I hate to see something like that get lost. I still like to see that a man opens the door. I like those touches of chivalry that are fast disappearing.
Animals don’t lie. Animals don’t criticize. If animals have moody days, they handle them better than humans do.
The bottom line is, I’m blessed with good health. On top of that, I don’t go around thinking ‘Oh, I’m 90, I better do this or I better do that.’ I’m just Betty. I’m the same Betty that I’ve always been. Take it or leave it.
I don’t know where I learned elephants like their tongues slapped. Whatever turns you on.
I may be a senior, but so what? I’m still hot.
During the Depression, my dad made radios to sell to make extra money. Nobody had any money to buy the radios, so he would trade them for dogs. He built kennels in the backyard, and he cared for the dogs.
I had to make a major decision with myself because I just don’t think you can do both: try to have a baby career and raise it and have a baby baby and raise it. And to try to do justice to either one. It was a very conscious decision on my part not to have children – which I have never regretted.
I love words. Sudoku I don’t get into, I’m not into numbers that much, and there are people who are hooked on that. But crossword puzzles, I just can’t – if I get a puppy and I paper train him and I put the – if all of a sudden I’d open the paper and there’s a crossword puzzle – ‘No, no, you can’t go on that, honey. I’ll take it.’
I’m a big cockeyed optimist. I try to accentuate the positive as opposed to the negative.
I always wanted to be a zookeeper when I was growing up, and I’ve wound up a zookeeper! I’ve been working with the Los Angeles Zoo for 45 years! I’m the luckiest old broad on two feet because my life is divided absolutely in half – half animals and half show business. You can’t ask for better than two things you love the most.
I just make it my business to get along with people so I can have fun. It’s that simple.
When I pontificate, it sounds so, you know, Oh, well, she’s preaching. I’m not preaching, but I think maybe I learned it from my animal friends. Kindness and consideration of somebody besides yourself. I think that keeps you feeling young. I really do.
Animals are near and dear to my heart, and I’ve devoted my life to trying to improve their lives.
Doing drama is, in a sense, easier. In doing comedy, if you don’t get that laugh, there’s something wrong.
Hot dogs and Red Vines and potato chips and French fries are my favorite foods.
Wilderness is harder and harder to find these days on this beautiful planet, and we’re abusing our planet to the point of almost no return.
I don’t care who anybody sleeps with. If a couple has been together all that time – and there are gay relationships that are more solid than some heterosexual ones – I think it’s fine if they want to get married. I don’t know how people can get so anti-something.
Long ago, I did a five-and-a-half-hour-a-day, six-day-a-week talk show for four years, early on, in Los Angeles – local show. And when you are on that many hours with no script, you know, you get very comfortable, maybe overly comfortable with that small audience.
A good friend of mine was Lucy Ball. Her mother and my mother were best friends.
I have a two-story house and a bad memory, so I’m up and down those stairs all the time. That’s my exercise.
It’s a little known fact that one in three family pets gets lost during its lifetime, and approximately 9 million pets enter shelters each year. That’s why it’s a wonderful thing to get your pet microchipped and registered with your contact information because then they can be located and the owners can track where their pets are.
Retirement is not in my vocabulary. They aren’t going to get rid of me that way.
I don’t seem to require a lot of sleep. I just – if I get four, five good hours, I’m fine. But sleeping is sort of dull. There’s a lot of other good stuff that you can do without just lying down and closing your eyes.
A lady likes to be complimented on her looks, her eyes, her figure. But the personality comments are much appreciated.
I enjoy being busy, I really do. Remember, I’m the stub end of the railroad. I have no family, so I’m not taking busy time away from people that I should be spending it with. So I’m just relaxing and enjoying it.
If everyone took personal responsibility for their animals, we wouldn’t have a lot of the animal problems that we do. I’m a big spay-and-neuter supporter. Don’t have babies if you’re not going to take care of those babies. We don’t need more. We just need to take care of the ones we have. Take responsibility and breed kindness.
I think it’s your mental attitude. So many of us start dreading age in high school and that’s a waste of a lovely life. ‘Oh… I’m 30, oh, I’m 40, oh, 50.’ Make the most of it.
I go out to the kitchen to feed the dog, but that’s about as much cooking as I do.
I’ve enjoyed the opposite sex a lot. Always have. Always will.
My mother and dad were big animal lovers, too. I just don’t know how I would have lived without animals around me. I’m fascinated by them – both domestic pets and the wild community. They just are the most interesting things in the world to me, and it’s made such a difference in my lifetime.
I really don’t care with whom you sleep. I just care what kind of a decent human being you are.
The writers are the stars of every really successful sitcom.
I like bawdy humor. I love bawdy humor, but not dirty humor.
I’m so compulsive about stuff, I know if I had ever gotten pregnant, of course, that would have been my whole focus. But I didn’t choose to have children because I’m focused on my career. And I just don’t think, as compulsive as I am, that I could manage both.
I kid around a lot, but pranks are not my best strength!
A lot of people think this is a goodie two-shoes talking. But we do have a tendency to complain rather than celebrating who we are. I learned at my mother’s knee it’s better to appreciate what’s happening… I think we kind of talk ourselves into the negative sometimes.
It’s fun once in a while to do a serious part but I really enjoy doing comedy because I love to laugh.
I have my golden retriever now, Pontiac. He’s a career-change guide dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind.
Take personal responsibility. A lot of people go, ‘Well, I’ll get a dog because I have a kid and a kid needs a dog.’ And it doesn’t work out for that dog and the dog is on the street.
I’m in the acting business. That’s the ego business.
You know what the problem that animal activists sometimes have? They only concentrate on the heartbreaking things to the point where the general public thinks, ‘Oh, here comes those animal folks again and I’m going to hear all the things I don’t want to hear.’
I cannot stand the people who get wonderful starts in show business and who abuse it. Lindsay Lohan
and Charlie Sheen
, for example, although there are plenty of others, too. They are the most blessed people in the world, and they don’t appreciate it.
Of course, nobody’s tearing my door down. If you’re successful you’re going to intimidate and scare off the people you’d like to spend time with. They’re not going to approach you. And the ones who do are often there because you are a celebrity.
It’s been phenomenal, but everybody keeps congratulating me on my resurgence and my big comeback. I haven’t been away, guys. I’ve been working steadily for the last 63 years.
I was an only child and I had a mother and father who were just – there wasn’t a straight man in the house, and I mean that in a very nice way. They were fun, and we would laugh a lot.
I think that a show that is as successful as The Golden Girls
(1985) is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. If you don’t feel proud to be part of a show that has that kind of track record, then shame on you, because that’s a privilege.
I don’t get political.
I have the backbone of an eel.
The audience today has heard every joke. They know every plot. They know where you’re going before you even start. That’s a tough audience to surprise, and a tough audience to write for. It’s much more competitive now, because the audience is so much more – I want to say ‘sophisticated.’
I like double entendre because then the people who get it enjoy it, and the people who don’t get it don’t know about it.
I’m not what you might call sexy, but I’m romantic. Let’s put it that way.
I stayed in show business to pay for my animal business.
I love Cadillacs and name them after birds.
I was one of the first women producers in Hollywood.
I’m the luckiest broad on two feet, I’ll tell you that. They say once a woman passes 40 she doesn’t get any good parts, so I’m blessed.
I’m in the middle of my sixth book, which is about animals at the Los Angeles Zoo.
I am the luckiest old broad on two feet if the truth were known. It’s – but it all goes back to Mary Tyler Moore
, The Golden Girls
(1985) all those – actors love to take the credit. We couldn’t do it without the writers.
If you get into a Broadway show and it doesn’t work, you’re a failure. And if it does work, you may be stuck for who knows how long. It just doesn’t sound great to me!
I just want to bring as much natural as I can. I’m not saying that people who take acting lessons are false. They’re much better than I am, but it doesn’t work for me.
When we started in television, there was that magic box in the corner of the room, and ‘Oh my gosh – look what it’s doing!’
Well, I mean, if a joke or humor is bawdy, it’s got to be funny enough to warrant it. You can’t just have it bawdy or dirty just for the sake of being that – it’s got to be funny.
When I realized I could use Facebook as a way to communicate directly with my fans, I thought it would be a great idea.
I’m having the time of my life and the fact that I’m still working – how lucky can you get? I’m 90 years old and still able to work as much as I do. That’s a privilege.
I’ve worked with Morris Animal Foundation for more than 40 years now, and I’m so proud of all they’ve done to advance veterinary medicine for animals worldwide.
(2005)] I had seen the show, of course and heard it was one of the happiest sets in town. That’s a great reputation to have and is well deserved.
[on Ralph Helfer
‘s book “Modoc”] Once I started this incomparable story, I couldn’t put it down, and I cannot get it out of my mind-nor will I ever. Were Modoc a work of fiction it would still be a wonderful read, but the fact that it is based on a true story makes it absolutely irresistible. The message of what can be accomplished by training through affection and joy will thrill all animal lovers, and will hopefully, bring new insight to others as well.