LOS ANGELES (AP) – Betty White, whose sassy, ready-to-do charm has made her a TV mainstay for over 60 years, whether as a crazed TV hostess in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show “or roommate in” The Golden Girls “, has passed away. She was 99 years old.
White’s agent and longtime friend Jeff Witjas confirmed his death on Friday. She had no diagnosed illnesses and it was not clear whether she died Thursday night or Friday, he said.
She would have turned 100 on January 17.
His death brought tributes from celebrities and politicians look alike.
“We loved Betty White,” First Lady Jill Biden said as she left a Delaware restaurant with President Joe Biden, who added, “Ninety-nine. As my mother would say, God loves her.
“She was good at defying expectations,” tweeted Ryan Reynolds, who starred alongside her in the comedy “The Proposal.” “She managed to get very old and somehow not old enough. We will miss you, Betty.
White launched his television career in daytime talk shows when the medium was in its infancy and lasted until the era of cable and streaming. Her combination of sweetness and edginess brought a roster of original characters to life on shows from the early 1950s sitcom “Life With Elizabeth” to eccentric Rose Nylund in “The Golden Girls” in the 80s to ” Boston Legal “, which ran from 2004 to 2008.
But it was in 2010 that White’s fame exploded like never before.
In a Snickers commercial that premiered during that year’s Super Bowl airing, she imitated a low-energy dude getting tackled during a backlot football game.
“Mike, you play like Betty White over there,” quipped one of her buddies. White, flat on the ground and covered in mud, retaliated, “That’s not what your girlfriend said!”
The instantly viral video helped spark a successful Facebook campaign to have its “Saturday Night Live” host. The much-watched episode earned him a seventh Emmy.
A month later, cable TV Land premiered “Hot In Cleveland,” which starred Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendie Malick as three show biz veterans who moved to Cleveland to escape the obsession with Hollywood youth.
They move into a house attended by an elderly Polish widow – a character, played by White, who was only to appear in the pilot episode.
But White stole the show and became a key part of the series, an immediate success. She was voted Artist of the Year by members of the Associated Press.
“It’s ridiculous,” White said of the honor. “They didn’t understand me, and I hope they never will.”
By then, White had not only become the hottest star in the world, but also a role model for how to age happily.
“Don’t try to be young,” she told the AP. “Just open your mind. Stay interested in things. There are so many things that I won’t live long enough to find out, but I’m still curious about them.
White stayed young in part thanks to his ability to play debauchery or villain while radiating kindness. The horror parody “Lake Placid” and “The Proposal” were marked by the surprisingly salty language of its characters. And her character Catherine Piper killed a man with a pan in “Boston Legal”.
Her role as “Happy Homemaker” Sue Anne Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, which was already a huge success, was scheduled as a one-time appearance in 1973, but it would last until the show’s end in 1977.
“Although she’s very sweet on her cooking show, Sue is really the piranha type,” White said. The role won her two Emmy Awards as a supporting actress in a comedy series.
In 1985, White starred on NBC with Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Estelle Getty in “The Golden Girls”. Its cast of mature actors, playing single retired Miami women, pitched a bet in a youth-conscious industry. But it turned out to be a solid success and lasted until 1992.
White played Rose, a sweet and dark widow who drove her roommates crazy with wacky childhood stories in the fictional St. Olaf, Minnesota.
The role won her another Emmy, and she reprized it in a short-lived spin-off, “The Golden Palace.”
White began his television career in 1949 as the $ 50-a-week sidekick of local Los Angeles TV personality Al Jarvis. White turned out to be a natural for the new medium.
“I did this show for five and a half hours a day, six days a week, for four and a half years,” she recalls in 1975.
A skit she did with Jarvis turned into a syndicated series, “Life With Elizabeth,” which won its first Emmy.
Offscreen, White has tirelessly raised funds for animal causes, hosted a syndicated TV show, and wrote three books about her love of animals, which she said came from her family who looked after up to 15 dogs at the times during the Depression.
Are there any creatures she doesn’t like?
“No,” White told the AP. “Anything that has a leg on every corner. “
What about snakes?
“Ohhh, I love snakes! “
She was born Betty Marion White in Oak Park, Illinois, and the family moved to Los Angeles when she was very young.
“I’m an only child and had a mom and dad who never drew a straight line: they just thought funny,” she told The Associated Press in 2015. “We were sitting around from the breakfast table and then we start hitting it.
Her initial ambition was to be a writer, and she wrote her high school graduation play, giving herself the lead role.
While in Beverly Hills High School, her ambition turned to the theater and she appeared in several plays. Her parents hoped she would go to college, but instead she performed roles in a small theater and played small roles in radio dramas.
After two very brief marriages in the 1940s, White married her third and final husband, actor and game show host Allen Ludden, in 1963. They remained married until his death in 1981.
When asked in 2011 how she had managed to be loved by all over her decades-long career, she summed up with a dimpled smile: “I just make a point of getting along with people to be able to have fun. It’s that simple. “
Associated Press editors Lindsey Bahr, Lynn Berry and the late Bob Thomas contributed.