Beloved American actress Betty White dies at 99
Betty White, whose saucy, up-for-anything charm made her a television mainstay for more than 60 years, whether as a man-crazy TV hostess on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” or the loopy housemate on “The Golden Girls,” has died. She was 99.
White's longtime agent and friend Jeff Witjas confirmed her death on Dec. 31. She would have turned 100 on Jan. 17.
Her death brought tributes from celebrities and politicians alike.
“We loved Betty White,” first lady Jill Biden said as she left a Delaware restaurant with President Joe Biden, who added: “Ninety-nine years old. As my mother would say, God love her.”
“She was great at defying expectation,” Ryan Reynolds, who starred alongside her in the comedy “The Proposal,” tweeted. “She managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough. We'll miss you, Betty.”
White launched her TV career in daytime talk shows when the medium was still in its infancy and endured well into the age of cable and streaming. Her combination of sweetness and edginess gave life to a roster of quirky characters in shows from the sitcom “Life With Elizabeth” in the early 1950s to oddball 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 stardom erupted as never before.
In a Snickers commercial that premiered during that year's Super Bowl telecast, she impersonated an energy-sapped dude getting tackled during a backlot football game.
“Mike, you're playing like Betty White out there,” jeered one of his chums. White, flat on the ground and covered in mud, fired back, “That's not what your girlfriend said!”
The instantly-viral video helped spark a successful Facebook campaign to have her host “Saturday Night Live.” The much-watched episode won her the seventh Emmy.
A month later, cable's TV Land premiered “Hot In Cleveland,” which starred Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick as three past-their prime show-biz veterans who move to Cleveland to escape the youth obsession of Hollywood.
They move into a home being looked after by an elderly Polish widow, a character, played by White, who was meant to appear only in the pilot episode.
But White stole the show, and became a key part of the series, an immediate hit. She was voted the Entertainer of the Year by members of The Associated Press.