Where do I start on Betty White? My feelings haven’t changed since I interviewed her a year ago. She’s my idol, my Golden Girl. Her iconic roles over the years have included, of course, Rose Nylund on Golden Girls, Sue Ann Nivens on Mary Tyler Moore, Ellen Harper Jackson on Mama’s Family, Catherine Piper on Private Practice and Boston Legal, and most recently as Elka Ostrovsky on Hot In Cleveland. Betty just turned 90 for the second time and shows no signs of stopping. She and her friends are in their second season of pulling pranks on young people on NBC’s Betty White’s Off Their Rockers. I got another chance to participate in a conference call with her recently and here is what she had to say about the state of her life.
TheTwoCents: I’ve always enjoyed your appearances on late night talk shows where you’re known for telling rather risqué stories. Do you feel your spicy humor and sense of mischief help keep you young?
Betty White: Well, I don’t know. I was an only child and my mother and dad were great and good buddies, and my dad would bring jokes home. He was a salesman, and he would bring jokes home, and he’d say, now, sweetheart, you can take that one to school, but I wouldn’t take that one to school. And so, we just – I don’t know. I always see more than one meaning to a word, so the double entendre kind of came naturally. But a double entendre is one thing, and then dirty humor is something else. I don’t like dirty jokes, but I do enjoy a double entendre.
TTC: So what’s the best prank you’ve ever pulled, the funniest one?
BW: I don’t – I’m not a real prankster. I love doing Off Their Rockers, because you know, the other people are pranking, but I will maybe kid my friends and say one thing or tell them something happened that didn’t really happen, but I straighten it out pretty fast. The trouble is you can get – you can paint yourself into a corner if you try too many pranks, you know?
TTC: You have had such great, long, illustrious career. Why do you keep going?
BW: Why quit something you’re enjoying so well? I know I do, and it’s such fun, and who would ever expect at 91 to still get invited to do shows. I mean, that’s unheard of, so if they don’t want me to do it, don’t ask me, because if they ask me I’ll take it.
TTC: When you were approached with “Off Their Rockers”, did you think about it for a little while, or did you immediately say okay, this is for me?
BW: No, I was not enthused about doing this. First of all, well not so much for the show but because my schedule just didn’t tolerate it, so I thanked them very much and said, no thank you. But they kept coming back, and it was a show that started in Belgium, and it was the most popular comedy show in Europe for a while, and – according to Emmy, and so when they invited me to do it, I said that’s very nice, but I just can’t work it in. And they kept coming back, and of course I had the backbone of a jellyfish, so I – here I am doing it, but I’m having a good time.
TTC: You’ve had an incredible career spanning over 60 years. What changes in television or film have impressed you or surprised you the most with regard to either content or what audiences want to see?
BW: Well, I don’t think the television has changed nearly as much as the audience has changed. When I started out, television was just starting out, and everything was that miracle on the box in the corner of the room where people were actually moving around, and over the years, as television got to be such a major part of our lives, the audience has heard every joke. They know every storyline. They know where you’re going almost before the first line is out. That’s a hard audience to surprise and a hard audience to entertain, and it gets more difficult all the time. That’s why the real movers and shakers in the television business are the writers. They have a bigger challenge every day.
TTC: Okay, and is there anything outstanding that you haven’t yet done that you would like to do?
BW: Robert Redford. No, no, no, that – no, I think in – it’s been 65 years and I think in that time I’ve been the luckiest person on two feet, so I think I’ve done about as much as I can do. I’d just like to keep on doing the same thing.
*Bonus Question 2*
TTC: Because of all this resurgence of your popularity and everything else, you seem to be surrounded by a lot of young, attractive men, and the question I have is when you’re in your 40’s and you’re a woman with younger men, they’re cougars. What do they call a woman in her 90’s?
BW: Well, in your 90’s, my problem is all my life I never was interested in younger men. He always had to be a little older than I, and my problem now at 90 is I can’t find anybody older than I.
TTC: So you have no choice than to go after younger ones, now, is that it?
BW: Yes, well, I just – I – let’s face it. I enjoy men.
Gotta love her! Please catch two new episodes of Betty White’s Off Their Rockers tonight at 8PM ET on NBC!!
Anne – Assistant TO the Editor-in-Chief