• Brandon West

Betty White: 5 Things You Probably Didn't Know

Updated: Feb 20

Legendary actress and pop culture icon Betty White died on Friday, Dec. 31 peacefully in her home. You probably know White from her TV roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls and movies such as The Proposal and You Again, among several others. In celebration of her life, we're sharing give things you probably didn't know about the long-time Hollywood star.

Creator: Amanda Edwards  |  Credit: WireImage Copyright: 2015 Amanda Edwards
Creator: Amanda Edwards | Credit: WireImage Copyright: 2015 Amanda Edwards

1) Betty's first work in Hollywood was in a Parkay margarine commercial.

In the mid-1940s, she was hoping for her big break, hopping from audition to audition. Finally, producer Fran Van Hartesveldt took pity on the young Betty. One day, they were both in the elevator and he said, “I’ll take a chance and give you one word to say in the commercial on this week’s Gildersleeve…Think you can say ‘Parkay’ without lousing it up?” And the rest, as they say, is history.

A headshot portrait of American actor Betty White wearing a veiled hat, circa 1955. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images) (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
A headshot portrait of American actor Betty White wearing a veiled hat, circa 1955. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

2) She originally wanted to be an opera singer. If she wasn't going to be a singer, she wanted to be a park ranger or zookeeper.

Not sure if we can imagine her doing anything besides being the queen of comedy, but Betty White's desire to work with animals should be no surprise to her fans, as she has spent much of her life donating to and volunteering with many animal-related organizations including the Los Angeles Zoo.

Betty White in 1957. Photo: ABC Photo Archives/Disney via Getty Images
Betty White in 1957. Photo: ABC Photo Archives/Disney via Getty Images

3) White once turned down an offer to be a "Today" show co-host, paving the way for Barbara Walters to get the gig.

No doubt Betty would have crushed this role, but we're glad she stuck to TV and movies. If White accepted the "Today" show gig, Walters would not have been a cohost. White said she didn't want to live on the East Coast. NBC wanted Betty White so badly, the network offered to give her an apartment at the St. Regis Hotel so she could fly back to California each weekend, but White said it didn't seem practical. The job ultimately went to Barbara Walters.

Credit: CBS/Landov
Credit: CBS/Landov

4) Betty White's Hollywood career could have been cut short if she stayed with second husband Lane Allan.

Betty White's second husband Lane Allan wanted her to stop working and focus on a traditional family life, but the actress chose her career over her husband. Good for her!


"He didn't want me to be in show business," she said. "When you have a calling you have to follow it, so I made the choice, blew the marriage and I've never regretted it." She later married the love of her life, TV host, Allen Ludden in 1963. The pair met while White was a celebrity guest on "Password" in 1961 and remained married until his passing in '81.


5) Betty hosted a show called "The Pet Set" in 1971 featuring celebrities and their pets.

Produced by her husband, this show sadly only one season due to advertising pull-outs.

Betty White and Anson Williams with a St. Bernard in May 1982. Marc Karody/AP
Betty White and Anson Williams with a St. Bernard in May 1982. Marc Karody/AP


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