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White’s career not faded to black

May 15, 2011
By KATHRYN SPIRA , For The Leader Herald

I was watching Sunday Morning on CBS with my good friend Alan and at the end of the show there was a piece on Betty White. Having been a long-time devotee of White's, I anxiously anticipated the segment.

Katie Couric interviewed her and I was struck by the intelligent and sensitive questions she asked of Betty, who is 89 as of this writing and still acting.

Her first TV show was on "Life with Elizabeth" in 1952, but her first TV appearance was at the beginning of TV broadcasts itself in 1939, three months after high school graduation, when she and a classmate sang songs from "The Merry Widow" on an experimental Los Angeles channel. Talk about a long career!

But her best-known roles were in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Golden Girls" and now "Hot in Cleveland."

As she said to Couric, "One good series is a blessing, two is unusual and three is phenomenal."

I got the feeling that White was as surprised at her notoriety all these years after her career began as anyone else. She marveled that each cast became her friends during production and well after. She said she was surprised to be the only Golden Girl who survives, since she was the oldest.

Besides being friends with so many cast members of her hit series, she is a devout animal lover and supporter of the Los Angeles Zoo. She said she actually likes animals more than people.

As a campaigner for AARP, she said if you think joining AARP makes you old, "get over it."

"You're never too old for anything," she said to Couric. But then with a devilish laugh, "Well, maybe someday."

I think Betty White defies the stigma of age, as well as any typical opinions about stars who've made it.

She seems very unaffected with her popularity and keeps on crusading for animal rights and fair treatment, whether or not she is popular at any particular time. She said she probably got her love for animals "in the womb" because her parents were animal lovers. According to Wikipedia, "Her interest in animal rights and welfare began in the early 1970s while she was both producing and hosting the syndicated series, The Pet Set, which spotlighted celebrities and their pets."

As somebody who knows how hard it is to make it in the entertainment business, White's career is astonishing and something I could only marvel at. I hope we get to see her perform for many more years.

Kathryn Spira, a native of Cleveland who pursued an acting career in New York City and Los Angeles, now pursues freelance writing from Caroga Lake in Fulton County. Previous columns and contact information may be accessed at her website at



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