The year 2016 should be known as “The Year That Took No Prisoners.”
“The Year of the Monkey” wasn’t monkeying around when it blew through Hollywood and wiped out many iconic stars.
It seemed like every time I turned on the television, another celebrity had passed away.
David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Debbie Reynolds (and her daughter, Carrie Fisher) were only a few of the familiar faces we’ve come to know through the years who took a bow.
I was having a conversation with my co-columnist, April Barbe, about how hard 2016 seemed to be on Tinseltown and she, along with everyone else on Facebook, said, “But, it didn’t take Betty White!”
She had a point.
“America’s Grandmother” has survived the year that took so many, but even at the ripe age of 94, her resilience comes as no surprise. She’s survived Hollywood for years.
Betty arrived in Los Angeles, by way of Oak Park, Illinois, during the Great Depression.
It was while performing at Horace Mann School Beverly Hills that she discovered her love of acting and decided to pursue a career in showbiz.
She hustled herself around the movie studios, but couldn’t find work. After being told she was “unphotogenic,” she began her work in radio.
Perhaps the most interesting fact about her eight-decade career in the business is that she was literally one of the first people to ever be on television when, in 1939, her and a classmate sang songs from “The Merry Widow” when TV was just an experiment.
At the end of the 1940’s, she got her own radio show, “The Betty White Show,” and finally began booking small parts on television.
I hate to sound cliché and say “the rest is history,” but it really is.
She was nominated for her first Emmy designated for women in television in the 1950’s, and starred on “Life with Elizabeth” from 1952 to 1955.
The 1960’s saw her become the game show queen that she’s now known to be. Turn on Game Show Network during the day – I guarantee you that you’ll see Betty trying to guess a “Password,” or competing for the big bucks on “Pyramid.” Twenty years later, in 1983, Betty would become the first woman to win a Daytime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Gameshow Host” for her show, “Just Men.”
In the 1970’s, she won two more Emmy’s for her role as Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” but it was the 80’s where White’s career hit its highest note yet.
From 1985 to 1992 she starred as everyone’s favorite air-head, "Rose Nylon," on the hugely successful series, “The Golden Girls.”
Playing Rose garnered her another Emmy win and a nightly appearance on ALL of our television sets due to the show’s syndication. If you can’t find Betty on a gameshow, it’s likely that on SOME station, an episode of “The Golden Girls” is airing.
Betty chugged right along with work though the 90’s and the 2000’s with guest starring and reoccurring roles on various television shows, as well as making her signature gameshow appearances.
Recently, Betty became the oldest person to ever host “Saturday Night Live,” winning her seventh Emmy for her appearance on the program, and starred on TV Land’s hit, “Hot in Cleveland.”
Off screen, Betty White is an avid animal lover who serves in various positions for many animal rights and conservation organizations. She’s received The American Veterinary Medical Association’s Humane Award and is a massive contributor to the Los Angeles Zoo.
She’s a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and amongst her many awards she has received lifetime achievement statues from the Screen Actors Guild, Daytime Emmys and the American Comedy Awards.
When we look back on 2016, let’s not mourn those we lost, but rather, let’s celebrate those we kept.
It didn’t take Betty, and at the rate she’s going, 2017 won’t either.
Thank you for bein’ a friend.
Happy New Year!