On Betty White’s 99th birthday, 10 fun facts you might not know about her

Betty White wearing a blue blouse
Betty White, America’s honorary grandma, is celebrating her 99th birthday Sunday.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Sunday is Betty White’s 99th birthday, which is as good a reason to celebrate as we’ve seen since before the pandemic. In that spirit, we present 10 bits of trivia about the beloved actress — one for each decade the “Golden Girls” star has been on the planet.

She’s been married three times

White’s third marriage was the charm: She and game-show host Allen Ludden were married from 1963 until his death in 1981. Earlier marriages were to a U.S. Army pilot, Dick Barker, whom she was engaged to for most of World War II. They divorced inside a year, after they were wed in 1945. She also spent a couple of years, from 1947 to 1949, as Mrs. Lane Allen, but the actor wanted her to give up her career. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

She has a lousy diet

White once credited her longevity to vodka and hot dogs, “probably in that order.” A few years back, she told Harper’s Bazaar, “I don’t eat anything special. French fries. Hot dogs if I can get ‘em. And I’m not a big breakfast eater. I’ll have a sandwich at lunch and then come home, and [golden retriever] Pontiac and I have a vodka on the rocks and then our dinner. You can’t get much better.”

The cast of 'Golden Girls'
Betty White, far right, with her fellow Emmy-winning “Golden Girls” cast mates Rue McClanahan, left, Estelle Getty and Bea Arthur.
(ABC Photo Archives / Getty Images)

She loves the L.A. Zoo

White loves all animals, actually, but the L.A. Zoo has a special place in her heart. She’s volunteered there for the past 40 years and wrote in a 2009 note, “I often say that I have to stay in show business to pay for my animal business — true — but it is truly a joy to work with and for animals of all shapes and sizes.” She was named an “Ambassador to the Animals” by the zoo in 2006, with a plaque declaring the honor placed near her favorites, the gorillas. White also has a room in her house dedicated solely to stuffed animals. “I’m a little strange for stuffed animals,” she told Katie Couric in 2017. “I’m a little strange for any kind of animals.”

One actor makes her heart beat faster

White admits to being starstruck — by the Sundance Kid. “I’ve never met him, but Robert Redford is my standard answer. Very close to the top of that one is Sandra Bullock. She’s the epitome of what a movie star should be. She’s not only gorgeous and talented, but she’s the most down-to-earth human being. I just can’t say enough about her.” That’s what White said in 2010, a year after “The Proposal” came out, starring her and Bullock. The friendship is real: Sandy was among those wishing Betty a happy 98th birthday, in song, this time last year.

Betty White, left, and Sandra Bullock sit at the waterfront in the rom-com "The Proposal."
Betty White and Sandra Bullock worked together in the rom-com “The Proposal.”
(Kerry Hayes / Touchstone Pictures)

America’s honorary grandma isn’t a mom

She had three husbands and three stepchildren (Ludden’s), but White — who has spent the past 76 years working — never had kids of her own. Hey, more Betty for the rest of us!

She has a lot of trophies

White has four Primetime Emmys, one Daytime Emmy win and a lifetime achievement Daytime Emmy from 2015. Add to that her spoken-word Grammy for “If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t)” and three Screen Actors Guild trophies, including a lifetime achievement honor. Then there’s her Teen Choice Award: She won a surfboard “trophy” in 2010 for best dance scene in “The Proposal.”

To mark her 99th birthday on Sunday, “Golden Girl” Betty White is planning to party with ducks and a 1970s TV show that’s close to her heart.

Jan. 14, 2021

She’s written books

White has four memoirs to her name, including “Betty & Friends: My Life at the Zoo.” She also cowrote books about guide dogs with Tom Sullivan. And then there’s the midcentury classic “Betty White’s Teen-age Dance Book,” which we’re guessing she didn’t write much of at all. Because that one was written by a different Betty White.

She went to Beverly Hills High — in the 1930s

White was born in 1922 in Illinois, but her family came to Southern California the next year. Then they moved to Los Angeles proper during the Great Depression. She graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1939 — then was invited back in 2014 to kick off Beverly Hills’ 100th-anniversary celebration by leading the crowd in singing the school’s fight song.

A look back at the illustrious and hilarious career of Betty White, from “Password” to “The Golden Girls” to “Hot in Cleveland.”

March 6, 2014


She has hosted her own TV shows

Yep, “The Betty White Show” was a thing. Twice. White (obviously) hosted both versions, which aired in 1954 and 1958. She sang and talked to guests. Then there was “Betty White’s Pet Set,” a 1970s show about stars and their animals, which is being rereleased next month. Another interesting performance? That time she played God.

She posed as a pinup model

It was a long time ago. She was a babe. And no, we are not including a link, ya weirdos.