White Enjoyed The Longest Career Of Any Woman On Television

TV legend Betty White has died at the age of 99.
TV legend Betty White (image via screen capture/SNL)

Beloved TV legend and forever Golden Girl Betty White has passed away at the age of 99 just weeks before she would have celebrated her 100th birthday.

TMZ is reporting White died at her home Friday morning, December 31.

“A source close to Betty tells TMZ … she didn’t have any sudden illness, nor was she battling any particular ailment. We’re told she’s believed to have died from natural causes.”

White has been a pop culture icon for decades earning the title of ‘Longest TV Career for a Female Entertainer’ in the Guiness Book of World Records.

Beginning in radio in the 1940s, she moved into TV in 1949 with a variety show called Hollywood On Television.

In 1952, she starred in her first sitcom, Life with Elizabeth, which she also produced. The role earned her a Los Angeles Emmy Award.

She continued to work steadily throughout the 50s and 60s appearing on sitcoms, talk shows, and game shows. But it was her role as the man-hungry happy homemaker Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (beginning in 1973) that brought her widespread fame as well as her second and third Emmy Awards.

That was followed by The Betty White Show (which only lasted a season) and a recurring role on Mama’s Family in 1983.

But in 1985, White scored her second signature role as Rose Nylund on the smash hit The Golden Girls. 

Originally, she was offered the role of Blanche, but according to TV lore, the director of the pilot suggest she and Rue McClanahan swap roles as they had already played similar characters on long-running shows.

It turned out to be a good idea as she scored another Emmy Award as Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series for the first season, and was nominated again every season for the run of the show.

When The Golden Girls came to a close in 1992, she, McClanahan and Estelle Getty reprised their roles in a spin-off, The Golden Palace. But the show was destined to run just one season.

More TV appearances followed including recurring roles on The Bold and the Beautiful and Boston Legal. In May 2010, she hosted SNL becoming the oldest person to host the long-running show. She also helped deliver the show’s highest ratings in over a year and a half. The appearance, of course, led her 7th Emmy win.

In June 2010, she landed another series regular as Ella Ostrovsky in TV Land’s first scripted sitcom, Hot In Cleveland with Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick and Jane Leeves. Her scene-stealing turn would lead to her 17th Emmy nomination.

Along her lengthy career, she also was honored with Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Grammy Award for spoken word recording for her bestseller If You Ask Me.

Throughout her career, the LGBTQ community adored White for her endlessly witty performances. And she loved us back.

In a 2010 Parade Magazine interview she definitively stood up for queer people and marriage equality.

“I don’t care who anybody sleeps with,” she said. “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. Mind your own business, take care of your affairs, and don’t worry about other people so much.”

She also appeared in a 2019 video for GLAAD in support of Spirit Day which campaigns against bullying of LGBTQ youth.

Just days ago, she posted to her Twitter account her PEOPLE cover story celebrating what would have been her 100th birthday on January 17.

In the article, she said being a “cockeyed optimist” helped buoy her famously upbeat nature. Regarding her age, she jokingly credited her diet: “I try to avoid anything green. I think it’s working.”

Rest In Peace Betty White. Thank you for being a friend.

(Source: PEOPLE, TMZ)

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