99 Reasons We Love Betty White
Quotes, facts, and -isms remembering the legend herself.
A legend and icon in every sense of the word, the “Queen of Television” and Golden Girl captivated thousands of hearts and minds across all ages and backgrounds over her many fearless, unapologetic, and compassionate years.
Betty has made every one of us laugh and cry at some point, and has inspired many. A Hollywood trailblazer, Betty’s TV career spanned eight decades, making her a first and “longest-run” in many categories, as a (proudly) older woman, with numerous awards and lifetime achievement titles to her name.
In one of the only ways I know how to process loss, I read through Betty’s Wikipedia pages, IMDb, and other sites (not for the first or last time), and knew without a doubt that I could find a quote or fact to celebrate all of her ninety-nine years. So, I did just that.
Betty’s legacy should inspire us all to live in such a way that the whole world celebrates your life in grand consensus that even 99 years of your presence was not enough.
Today I thank Betty for the laughter, stories, activism, and tears.
Thank you for being a friend.
- “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!”
- Her name is actually “Betty.” It’s not short for Elizabeth!
- “Get at least eight hours of beauty sleep. Nine if you’re ugly.”
- Betty hosted the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for NBC and the Tournament of Roses Parade, each for many years. When NBC pulled Betty, she said, “On New Year’s Day I just sat home feeling wretched, watching someone else do my parade.”
- “You can always tell about somebody by the way they put their hands on an animal.”
- “I’m a health nut. My favorite food is hot dogs with French fries.”
- “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.”
- “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.”
- “My mother always used to say, “The older you get, the better you get. Unless you’re a banana.” — as Rose Nylund in The Golden Girls
- “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!”
- “In my head, I’m the ultimate cougar. Animal lover that I am.”
- “My answer to anything under the sun, like ‘What have you not done in the business that you’ve always wanted to do?’ is ‘Robert Redford’.”
- “I have no regrets at all. None. I consider myself to be the luckiest broad on two feet.”
- Despite being the youngest cast member on a show about growing old, Betty had plastic surgery prior to The Golden Girls. She has since criticized it and admitted it was a painful experience.
- “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.”
- Betty is the Guinness World Record Holder for Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female), awarded in 2014.
- Betty has passionately supported animal welfare groups for years, and intended to be a zookeeper if not an actor.
- “I stayed in show business to pay for my animal business.”
- Because of this, she passed up the role of Beverly in As Good as It Gets and encouraged the director to remove the scene in which the small dog was thrown down the apartment trash chute.
- “Why do people say “grow some balls”? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.”
- “Animals don’t lie. Animals don’t criticize. If animals have moody days, they handle them better than humans do.”
- “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.”
- “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 still like to see that a man opens the door. I like those touches of chivalry that are fast disappearing.”
- Betty endorsed the following presidential nominees: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adlai Stevenson, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
- “I don’t get political.”
- “One thing they don’t tell you about growing old — you don’t feel old, you just feel like yourself. And it’s true. I don’t feel eighty-nine years old. I simply am eighty-nine years old.”
- “I think everybody needs a passion. Whether it’s one passion or a hundred, that’s what keeps life interesting.”
- “Friendship takes time and energy if it’s going to work. You can luck into something great, but it doesn’t last if you don’t give it proper appreciation.”
- “I know unless I’m true to myself I couldn’t be happy. Too much emphasis is placed today on externals and too little on character.”
- “Butterflies are like woman — we may look pretty and delicate, but baby, we can fly through a hurricane.”
- “I’m a big cockeyed optimist. I try to accentuate the positive as opposed to the negative.”
- “It is important that you not believe your own publicity. Be grateful for whatever praise you receive, but take it with a grain of salt.”
- “Keep the other person’s well being in mind when you feel an attack of soul-purging truth coming on.”
- Betty appeared in her first show in 1939, but nobody, including her, remembers what it was called.
- “I go out to the kitchen to feed the dog, but that’s about as much cooking as I do.”
- “I just make it my business to get along with people so I can have fun. It’s that simple.”
- Betty originally auditioned for the role of Blanche in The Golden Girls.
- “People have told me ‘Betty, Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with old friends…’ At my age, if I wanted to keep in touch with old friends, I’d need a Ouija board.”
- Despite not liking Facebook, a group on the platform organized to get Betty White as a host for SNL and eventually convinced Lorne Michaels to do it. She became the oldest person ever to host SNL, won an Emmy for it, and gave the show a massive ratings boost.
- “I have the backbone of an eel.”
- Betty appeared on numerous game shows over the years, including The $10,000 Pyramid, Password, Match Game, and The Hollywood Squares.
- “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 just laugh. Have I got them fooled.”
- Betty was, at one point in 1955, the honorary mayor of Hollywood.
- “Animals are near and dear to my heart, and I’ve devoted my life to trying to improve their lives.”
- “I’ve always liked older men. They’re just more attractive to me. Of course, at my age there aren’t that many left!”
- “Facebook just sounds like a drag, in my day seeing pictures of peoples vacations was considered a punishment.”
- “We didn’t have Facebook in my day, we had a phone book but you wouldn’t waste an afternoon on it.”
- “I kid around a lot, but pranks are not my best strength!”
- “Trying to find your underwear in the big pile?” — as Rose Nylund in The Golden Girls.
- “So I got over there early one morning and didn’t know I was going to be in the ice cold muddy water. This poor stunt woman took the dive, she went in I got the laugh. She’s probably sticking pins in a little Betty White doll.”
- “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.”
- “I not only knew Houdini, but we had a very lovely relationship … I really thought we had something going, and then the son of a gun disappeared.”
- “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.”
- “I love children, the only problem with children: they grow up to be people, and I just like animals better than people. It’s that simple.”
- “People who don’t like cats haven’t been around them. There’s the old joke: dogs have masters, cats have staff.”
- “There’s no formula. Keep busy with your work and your life. Keep the person in your heart all the time. Replay the good times. Be grateful for the years you had.”
- “It’s a little known fact that one in three family pets gets lost during its lifetime, and approximately nine million pets enter shelters each year.”
- “I just care what kind of a decent human being you are.”
- Betty has published seven books, winning a Grammy for “Best Spoken Word Recording” for the audiobook to If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t).
- “A lady likes to be complimented on her looks, her eyes, her figure. But the personality comments are much appreciated.”
- “If everyone took personal responsibility for their animals, we wouldn’t have a lot of the animal problems that we do. Take responsibility and breed kindness.”
- “If one has no sense of humor, one is in trouble.”
- “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.”
- “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 have my golden retriever now, Pontiac. He’s a career-change guide dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind.”
- “I thought you wore too much makeup and you were a slut.” — as Rose Nylund in The Golden Girls
- “Anger tears me up inside… My own… or anyone else’s.”
- “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 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.”
- “Why retire from something if you’re loving it so much and enjoying it so much … What would I do with myself?”
- “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.”
- “It’s fun once in a while to do a serious part but I really enjoy doing comedy because I love to laugh.”
- “The audience today has heard every joke. They know every plot … It’s much more competitive now, because the audience is so much more — I want to say sophisticated.”
- “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 … I’ve worked with the L.A. Zoo for about the same length of time. I get my animal fixes!”
- “I had no idea that I would still be around at this point for one thing, but that I’d still be privileged enough to still be in this business.”
- “Does desire melt away with age? I’m waiting for that day to come.”
- “Gravity has taken over. So there’s not much I can do about it… My problem with plastic surgery is you’ll go to a women’s press conference or something like that, and old friends will come up and I kind of don’t recognize them.”
- “I always wanted to be a zookeeper when I was growing up, and I’ve wound up a zookeeper! … 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.”
- “Doing drama is, in a sense, easier. In doing comedy, if you don’t get that laugh, there’s something wrong.”
- “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.”
- “Still here, bitches.”
- Betty’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star appears alongside her late husband Allen Ludden’s.
- Betty played Rose Nylund on the shows The Golden Girls, The Golden Palace, Nurses, and Empty Nest.
- Betty has won five Primetime Emmy Awards and two Daytime Emmy Awards with the longest span between nominations, 1951 to 2011.
- “I’m a teenager trapped in an old body.”
- “Everybody needs a passion. That’s what keeps life interesting. If you live without passion, you can go through life without leaving any footprints.”
- “Retirement is not in my vocabulary. They aren’t going to get rid of me that way.”
- “I may be a senior, but so what? I’m still hot.”
- Betty’s career began on the radio at the age of 8, playing an orphan on Empire Builders in 1930.
- “You’re never too old for anything.”
- “I love Cadillacs and name them after birds.”
- “Oh I don’t much believe in meantime, life happens in real-time.” — as Caroline Thomas in The Lost Valentine
- Betty has been nicknamed the “Queen of Television.”
- “The writers are the stars of every really successful sitcom.”
- “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.”
- “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 heard Ryan [Redford] can’t get over his thing for me, but Robert Redford is The One.”
- Just days before Betty’s passing, Ryan Reynolds and Betty, who appeared together in The Proposal, continued to joke about their complicated “relationship.”
Dylan is a writer and creator in Seattle. His written works and creative projects often center the LGBTQIA+ community, sobriety, veganism, ADHD and mental health. He is finishing his first book whenever possible between Tweeting unsolicited opinions and excessive houseplant purchases.
Where to find me: www.dylamaustin.com/links