July 21, 2024


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Betty White’s 99th birthday Sunday: Celebrate her best work

Sure, Mary Tyler Moore turned the world on with her smile — but her scene-stealing co-star, the legendary Betty White, is the one who stole our hearts for the long haul.

America’s badass sweetheart, a cultural touchstone who’s entertained generations with her wit and wisdom, is 99 years old Sunday.

Betty has a warning for COVID-19: “Since I am turning 99, I can stay up as late as I want without asking permission!”

After all, the Illinois-born, Cali-raised teen broke into showbiz three months after graduating from Beverly Hills High in 1939, when she was in an early “experimental” TV show, according to the Television Academy Archive.

Ever since — from pioneering work in the 1950s (she was the first woman to produce a sitcom!) to her ’70s breakthough as nymphomaniacal Sue Ann Nivens on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” to innocent ’80s lady Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls” — Betty has always been a sure bet.

We know the truth — but does she realize she’s a legit pop culture icon?

“My egomaniacal answer is — of course, I’m the center of the storm!,” White once told The Post with a chuckle. “That’s a joke. I’m just grateful to be working, and that starts at the beginning. When you start out, you’re so grateful to have a job … and you carry that feeling through your whole career. At least I have.”

Considering that Jan. 17 marks beloved Betty’s b-day, we decided to throw her a socially distant party. In honor of this momentous occasion, we’re taking a look back at some of the best bon mots from this unabashed vodka lover’s more than 80 years in entertainment.


Beloved TV icon Betty White strikes a pose in 1952 and in 2018. She turns 99 on Jan. 17.

Getty Images

Betty white 99th BirthdayCredit: NY Post Photo Illustraion

Betty White turns 99 on January 17.

NY Post photo illustration

Betty White

A headshot portrait of American actor Betty White wearing a veiled hat, circa 1955.

Getty Images


The cast of “The Golden Girls,” from left: Estelle Getty, Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White.

©Touchstone Television/Everett Collection


Ted Knight, Georgia Engel and Betty White in a scene from the classic sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Everett Collection

The Last Mary Tyler Moore Show

The final episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was filmed in LA on March 19, 1977.

Getty Images

2010 Teen Choice Awards - Backstage And Audience

Sandra Bullock and Betty White attend the 2010 Teen Choice Awards at Gibson Amphitheatre on August 8, 2010 in Universal City, California.



Betty White clutches a Smokey the Bear stuffed doll and wears a U.S. Forest Ranger hat during a ceremony where she was named an Honorary Forest Ranger by the U.S. Forest Service at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Cliff Owen/AP


Betty White in her legendary 2010 Super Bowl ad for Snickers candy bars.


Betty White, far right, in 2012 with her “Hot in Cleveland” co-stars Valerie Bertinelli, Wendie Malick and Jane Leeves.


THE GOLDEN GIRLS, from left: Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, (Season 3,

Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, Betty White and Rue McClanahan.

©Touchstone Television/Courtesy

The Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association's (GLAZA) 45th Annual Beastly Ball

Betty White attends the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association’s (GLAZA) 45th Annual Beastly Ball at Los Angeles Zoo on June 20, 2015.



Betty White arrives on pony for her Friars Club roast yesterday, escorted by bulging beefcake.

Marion Curtis/StarPix

70th Emmy Awards - Show

Betty White at the 2018 Emmy Awards.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images


Betty White, center, in 2010 with her “You Again” co-stars Sigourney Weaver, Odette Annable, Kristen Bell and Jamie Lee Curtis.


THE GOLDEN GIRLS, Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur, Betty White, Estelle Getty, 1985-92, © Touchstone / Co

The “Golden Girls” have inspired all sorts of memorabilia and merch over the decades.

Composite: Touchstone


Betty White, center, in 2011 with her “Hot in Cleveland” co-stars Wendie Malick, Valerie Bertinelli and Jane Leeves.


Carl Reiner and Betty White in the HBO documentary “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.”



Sandra Bullock and Betty White in 2009’s “The Proposal.”

Everett Collection

MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, Cast on set of Mary Richards' Apartment, (clockwise from bottom center: Betty

The cast of the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (clockwise from bottom center): Betty White, Mary Tyler Moore, Ed Asner, Gavin MacLeod, Ted Knight and Georgia Engel.

The Golden Girls

Betty White as Rose Nylund in “Golden Girls.”


Mary Tyler Moore and Betty White in the late 1970s.

Everett Collection

Actress Betty White presents the late producer Bob Stewart with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award in Beverly Hills

Betty White at the 2013 Emmy Awards telecast.

Reuters/Danny Moloshok


Former castmates Valerie Harper, Cloris Leachman, Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White and Georgia Engel reunite one last time for a “Hot in Cleveland” episode in 2013.



Betty White arrives at the 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.

Jeff Vespa/WireImage.com

Betty White Waving for Camera

The sitcom pioneer strikes a pose in 1955.

Bettmann Archive


Betty White’s Walk of Fame star in Hollywood, Calif.


Up Next

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First up, check out the “First Lady of Television” revealing never-before-heard details about her first professional acting gig: One line in a trailblazing TV production of “The Merry Widow” — for which she was paid a whopping 37 bucks in 1939.

“When we started in television, there was that magic box in the corner of the room, and, ‘Oh, my gosh — look what it’s doing!,’ ” she said.

However, White wouldn’t make her leading-lady debut until a dozen years later, in the groundbreaking-for-its-time “Life With Elizabeth,” which ran for 65 episodes from 1952 to 1955.

White is characteristically modest — and a little bit sassy — in her assessment of being the first female to produce at TV sitcom.

“Getting it on the air back in those days wasn’t as competitive … They were sort of hungry for programming,” she told The Post in 2018. “I think I was moving on to something else, so I’m not sure if [the show] could have continued, but it was a wonderful stepping stone.”

A selection of Betty’s best bites on a variety of topics

On aging & COVID-19

  • On surviving the COVID-19 pandemic: “I’m blessed with incredibly good health.” Also, White’s rep assured the public, “No one [is] permitted in [her home] except those who must” be there, noting she has “helpers who are great.” The rep added, “The virus is afraid of Betty!”
  • “You probably didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway. What am I doing for my birthday? Running a mile each morning has been curtailed by COVID, so I am working on getting ‘The Pet Set’ re-released, and feeding the two ducks who come to visit me every day.”
  • The bottom line is … I don’t go around thinking, ‘Oh, I’m 90, I better do this or I better do that.’ I’m just Betty. I’m the same Betty that I’ve always been. Take it or leave it.”
  • Her secret to a long, happy and healthy life is the aforementioned vodka — and hot dogs, “probably in that order.”
  • “Retirement is not in my vocabulary. They aren’t going to get rid of me that way.”
  • Finally, “don’t take yourself too seriously,” she advised just days before her big B-day. “You can lie to others — not that I would — but you cannot lie to yourself … Turning 99 is no different than turning 98.”

On social media

  • Well, it’s for “losers,” as she told “Saturday Night Live” viewers when they waged a massive social media campaign to nab her a 2013 hosting slot on NBC’s iconic sketch comedy series with musical guest Jay-Z. Missed it? Revisit her classic — i.e. more than 5 million viral video views — “census taker meets crotch massager” skit.

BTW: Betty hasn’t tweeted since her September 2020 rally cry in support of Smokey Bear’s US Forest Service wildfire prevention campaign — but she still boasts a whopping 1.4 million loyal followers on Twitter.

On her love of animals

  • “Animals don’t lie. Animals don’t criticize. If animals have moody days, they handle them better than humans do.”
  • “I’m not into animal rights — I’m only into animal welfare and health. I’ve been with the Morris Animal Foundation since the ’70s. We’re a health organization. We fund campaign health studies for dogs, cats, lizards and wildlife. I’ve worked with the LA Zoo for about the same length of time.”

On sexual preferences

  • “I don’t care who anybody sleeps with. If a couple has been together all that time — and there are gay relationships that are more solid than some heterosexual ones — I think it’s fine if they want to get married. I don’t know how people can get so anti-something.”
  • “I just make it my business to get along with people so I can have fun. It’s that simple.”


  • “Well, I mean, if a joke or humor is bawdy, it’s got to be funny enough to warrant it. You can’t just have it bawdy or dirty just for the sake of being that — it’s got to be funny.”
  • “Animal lover that I am, a cougar I am not.”

On gratitude

  • “I was flipping through channels the other night and came across something,” she told The Post. “I don’t know what show it was, but they had a TV on in the scene and I was on that TV! I’m just grateful that people have put up with me for so long.”
  • “I’m the luckiest broad on two feet, I’ll tell you that. They say once a woman passes 40 she doesn’t get any good parts, so I’m blessed.”
  • “I cannot stand the people who get wonderful starts in show business and who abuse it. Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen, for example, although there are plenty of others, too. They are the most blessed people in the world, and they don’t appreciate it.”
  • “I have no regrets at all. None.”
Betty White in 1955 and 2018.
Betty White in 1955 and 2018. The Illinois-born, Cali-raised teen broke into showbiz three months after graduating from Beverly Hills High in 1939, when she was in an early “experimental” TV show.
Getty Images/WireImage

With Post wires