Betty White, the beloved legendary entertainer, television pioneer, and animal rights activist, who enchanted audiences over the course of an almost ninety-year career, passed away Friday morning at 99, weeks before her 100th birthday.
— Betty White (@BettyMWhite) December 28, 2021
The Golden Girls was unapologetically progressive and had unmistakable gay sensibilities. Its cast, which also included Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty, became forever immortalised in the gay pantheon. Gay and lesbian issues were sensitively portrayed, and the show continues to be an LGBTQ cultural fixture.
Supporter of the LGBTQ Community
White spoke of her support for the LGBTQ community in an interview with Parade in 2010. “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,” she said.
“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.”
White’s work on The Golden Girls was a delightful change of pace from her indelible work as the man-hungry, Happy Homemaker Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
In 2010, White starred in the sitcom, Hot in Cleveland. While she had signed on to only appear in its pilot episode, White became a full-time cast member and stayed with the show through its entire six-year, 128-episode run.
It’s All About the Snickers
Over the course of her remarkable career, White won five Primetime Emmys and amassed 21 nominations.
White also won a Daytime Emmy, a Grammy Award, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. She was honoured in 2009 with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award and in 2015 with the Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 1952, White headlined the nationally syndicated comedy, Life With Elizabeth, and served as the show’s producer, becoming one of the first women in television to have creative control over a program.
In 1954, #BettyWhite was criticized after having Arthur Duncan, a Black tap dancer, on her show.
Her response: "I'm sorry. Live with it."
She then gave Duncan even more airtime. The show was canceled soon after.
— The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center (@TheKingCenter) December 31, 2021
White was also a dedicated animal rights advocate and worked with several animal welfare organisations, including the Los Angeles Zoo Commission, and served on the Board of Directors from 1974.
“I’m the luckiest person in the world. My life is divided in absolute half: half animals, half show business,” White told TV Guide. “I have to stay in show business to pay for my animal work!”
Wonder Woman’s Tribute to a Golden Girl
Tributes poured in following White passing. Lynda Carter tweeted, “She was a vanguard who paved the way for women in TV. Now we say goodbye to her irrepressible presence, and like millions of others, I will miss her.”
I met Betty White several times over the years, in many green rooms. She was a vanguard who paved the way for women in TV. Now we say goodbye to her irrepressible presence, and like millions of others, I will miss her. Thank you for all the joy and laughter, Betty ❤️ pic.twitter.com/XTxLaVFTlw
— Lynda Carter (@RealLyndaCarter) December 31, 2021
Ryan Reynolds, who starred in The Proposal said of his co-star, “The world looks different now. She was great at defying expectation. She managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough. We’ll miss you, Betty. Now you know the secret.”
The world looks different now. She was great at defying expectation. She managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough. We’ll miss you, Betty. Now you know the secret. pic.twitter.com/uevwerjobS
— Ryan Reynolds (@VancityReynolds) December 31, 2021
US President Joe Biden tweeted, “Betty White brought a smile to the lips of generations of Americans. She’s a cultural icon who will be sorely missed.”
Betty White brought a smile to the lips of generations of Americans. She’s a cultural icon who will be sorely missed. Jill and I are thinking of her family and all those who loved her this New Year’s Eve.
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 31, 2021
Ellen DeGeneres tweeted, “What an exceptional life. I’m grateful for every second I got to spend with Betty White. Sending love to her family, friends and all of us.”
What an exceptional life.
I’m grateful for every second I got to spend with Betty White.
Sending love to her family, friends and all of us.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) December 31, 2021
White’s long-time agent and friend, Jeff Witjas told People, “Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever. I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much. I don’t think Betty ever feared passing because she always wanted to be with her most beloved husband Allen Ludden. She believed she would be with him again.”