Betty White, The Golden Girl From The Golden Days Of Television The Hot in Cleveland actress got her start over 60 years ago on a live TV show called Hollywood on Television. Now she's 92 years old, but she says that's no reason to quit show business.
NPR logo

Betty White, The Golden Girl From The Golden Days Of Television

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/360425512/360957628" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Betty White, The Golden Girl From The Golden Days Of Television

Betty White, The Golden Girl From The Golden Days Of Television

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/360425512/360957628" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Time now for the latest installment of our series My Big Break about career triumphs big and small. Betty White is a pioneer of television, from "Life With Elizabeth" back in the 1950s to the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" to her role as Rose in "The Golden Girls." Sixty years later, she's still in show business. Here she is in a clip from her TV Land show, "Hot In Cleveland."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOT IN CLEVELAND")

BETTY WHITE: (As Elka Ostrovsky) And I got a spray tan.

(LAUGHTER)

VALERIE BERTINELLI: (As Melanie Hope Moretti) You look very tropical.

(LAUGHTER)

WHITE: Oh no. I look like a [bleep] Oompa Loompa.

(LAUGHTER)

RATH: Our producer Daniel Hajek caught up with Betty on the set of her show.

WHITE: I was in the graduation play from high school. And the president of our senior class and I sang "The Merry Widow" and did a little dance. And oh, I thought - I think that's when the show biz bug bit me - and they haven't been able to get rid of me since.

(MUSIC)

WHITE: My big break came when a local disc jockey, Al Jarvis, in Los Angeles invited me to be his Girl Friday on his talk show "Hollywood On Television" - so would I be his Girl Friday? Sure, Friday, that's great.

Well, what he meant and I didn't realize was Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Five-and-a-half hours a day, six days a week live - whatever happened you had to handle it. There was never any rehearsal or script or anything. Whoever came in that door, it was on, and you were interviewing them.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOLLYWOOD ON TELEVISION")

ROB: Some guy robbed him.

WHITE: Is it all right if I call you Rob?

ROB: Mm-hmm.

WHITE: Is it OK if you call me Betty? What do you like to do mostly?

ROB: Mmm.

WHITE: Do you have any favorite games you like to play?

ROB: Mm-mm.

WHITE: The beauty of it is if it didn't go well, it was over. (Laughter) People either sell their television sets or tune you in. (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE BETTY WHITE SHOW")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The second half of "The Betty White Show" from Hollywood.

WHITE: (Singing) Maybe I'm right, maybe I'm wrong.

(MUSIC)

WHITE: Every once in a while, they'll run something that we did years ago and that's always fun. You think, my God, I had hair then. (Laughter).

DANIEL HAJEK, BYLINE: That's funny. I actually I found a commercial you did back in the '50s.

WHITE: You did?

HAJEK: Would you like to watch it?

WHITE: Oh, I'd love to. Can we do that? Oh, my Lord.

HAJEK: 1954.

WHITE: Oh, for heaven's sake.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMMERCIAL, "GERITOL")

WHITE: (Acting) Let's talk about you a little bit. How are you feeling? Do you get the feeling that you just don't have enough energy to finish out the day? That weak, rundown condition may be due to undernourished blood. Doctors have a special name for it. They call it iron-deficient blood.

WHITE: Oh, my Lord, it was Geritol. Oh, that was a hundred years ago.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMMERCIAL, "GERITOL")

(MUSIC)

(MUSIC)

WHITE: (Acting) To feel stronger fast, I wish you'd give Geritol a try.

WHITE: Oh, my goodness. I hadn't even thought about that.

(SOUNDBITE OF COMMERCIAL, "GERITOL")

WHITE: (Acting) And it's good tasting, too.

WHITE: To be able to talk to that camera - the camera became your best friend. You're looking into that little camera lend and they're looking into your soul because they're right under your eyes. You can't be phony. You can't fake it 'cause they'll pick up on it like that. I'm so lucky to still be blessed to be working in it. I love television.

(MUSIC)

RATH: Betty White talking with our producer Daniel Hajek. She's 92 years old and still in show business. Catch her in the new season of "Hot In Cleveland" Wednesday on TV Land. You don't have to be a pioneer of television to have a big break. Send us your story - mybigbreak@npr.org.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.