Last Friday, I had just finished putting the final touches on the first new issue of the redesigned Independent-Enterprise pages, when I started getting push notifications on my iPhone that “Golden Girls” actress and game show legend Betty White had died. As your friendly neighborhood game show enthusiast, this is as sad as Alex Trebek’s death.
This past week, her fans have sought to honor her by making donations to their local animal shelters and rescue societies. White was an animal welfare advocate, as many of you know, even serving on the Board of Directors for the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association beginning in 1974.
White was a huge part of the television industry, for those who are not yet as old as me (age 33, yet I’ve seen a lot of her shows!). In addition to being an actress, she hosted the short-lived game show “Just Men!” and was frequently a panelist on many TV game shows, especially the “Password” franchise. She appeared at least once in every incarnation of “Password,” including the most recent CBS version, “Million Dollar Password” with the late Regis Philbin.
Betty even met her husband on the set of “Password,” in the late Allen Ludden.
At first, she was resistant to his advances, but Allen kept the faith and eventually asked Betty to marry him. I can understand why Betty was so cautious at first: She had already been divorced twice, the second time because her second husband, talent agent Lane Allen, wanted her to give up show biz. Despite her initial concerns, she and Allen were wed on June 14, 1963. As Australia’s Nine Network reported early last year, Allen pulled off the big question by sending her a white stuffed bunny with gold flower-shaped earrings on it and a card which read, ‘Please say yes.’
If my recollection is accurate, there was at least one instance on the original run of “Password” in which Betty asked Allen to take her home at the end of the show. My guess is, that was the last episode taped that day. Even celebs get tired, mind you!
They went on to live happily together for almost 18 years, before Allen died of stomach cancer on June 9, 1981. Betty never remarried. From what I’ve read, her stepdaughters (from Allen’s prior marriage) called her “Dragon Lady.” Yeah, at times she could be pretty fiery …
I also must note, among her TV and film credits is an Air New Zealand safety video, which she filmed with several of her cohorts from down at the senior citizens’ centers. It’s pretty funny, go check it out on YouTube.
Still, even though I could tell she had fun being a TV personality, I have to imagine waiting 40 years to be reunited with Ludden on the other side of the veil was hard. Wouldn’t it be for you, if your marriage was that good?
With the passing of White, I leave you with the password of the day: Endurance. Whatever life throws your way, endure it well and to the bitter end.
Never give up in this life. Betty didn’t.