How Betty White got her start (1957)
By Margaret McManus – Florida Magazine TV Log, The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Florida) August 4, 1957
NEW YORK — Offhand, one automatically associates four tanks of tropical fish with a curious little boy about the age of ten. That is, if you don’t give the matter an inordinate amount of thought.
Then if you add to these tropical fish, a St. Bernard, a Pekingese, a poodle and a parakeet, you would bet your last dollar that in this particular household, there lived more kids than lived with that old lady in the shoe.
You’re dead wrong. You’ve lost your money. In a pleasant house in Brentwood, Calif., suburb of Los Angeles, lives Betty White, star of the television series, “Date With the Angels,” 9:30 p.m. Fridays, ABC-TV.
She is thirtyish, pretty, unmarried, glib, on her way to getting rich, and she’s an only child, living at home with her father, her mother, her St. Bernard, her Pekingese, her poodle, her parakeet, and her four tanks of tropical fish.
Meanwhile, Miss White would love to add a cocker spaniel to her pet family. “I yearn for a cocker spaniel,” she said, “but my poor mother won’t stand for one more dog. She’s at home now taking care of my pets while I flit around New York.”
Here briefly to do some business with the sponsor of her show, which is filmed on the Coast. Miss White said her television career has been such a series of fortunate breaks that it frightens her to think how easily she might have missed the boat. She was born in Chicago. but her family moved to Los Angeles when she was a young child and she grew up there.
She attended the Beverly Hills High School, where she was given a leading part in a play in her junior year. “That’s a terrible thing to do to a young girl,” she said. “I never got over the applause. I just thought I’d stand there and keep on taking bows.”
She said that after she graduated from high school, the general idea was that she would become an actress, but she wasn’t terribly busy turning down offers.
“Well,” she said “a few years went by and I got a job on a television show called ‘Grab Your Phone.’ I got fifteen dollars a show, and I wasn’t complaining. Al Jarvis. a well-known disc jockey in Los Angeles, saw me on this show, and he asked me to do a television show with him, five hours a day, six days a week.
“This is thirty hours a week on television. Now you know you have to be out of your mind to do this, don’t you? We did anything to fill the time. It was completely ad-lib, and did we talk. It didn’t require talent, but did require perseverance.
“I started this in November 1949, and I did it for four-and-a-half years. I thank heaven every day for the experience. There is hardly a day that I don’t fall back on something I learned during that time. I was one of those lucky people who got into television early enough to get some practice.”
Miss White later did a daytime network TV show for NBC and a syndicated film show called “Life With Elizabeth,” which is still showing in many cities across the country.
Dallied at writing
She claims she has no business head at all and that her partner, Don Fedderson, head of Don Fedderson Enterprises, guides and directs her career. Fedderson is the former manager of the Los Angeles station where Betty White first worked. The only other career she ever considered was that of a writer.
She dallied with the idea of becoming a great, great novelist, but on re-reading some of the fiction she wrote at good old Beverly High, she feels that she has chosen wisely. “I recall one story entitled ‘Society or Cow Girl?’ with a subtitle ‘From Debut To Round-Up.’ I couldn’t decide between the two titles, so I used both of them. Nobody ever ‘said’ anything in my stories. They ‘ejaculated’!”
A slim woman of medium height, with brown eyes and dark hair, she has a kind of wholesome, mischievous charm which is almost girlish. In fact, if Tom Brown was the All-American boy of the motion pictures, Betty White gets my vote as the All-American girl of television.
Sits and knits
She said she couldn’t be happier about her return to television after her recent hiatus. After those marathon hours before the television camera, she said she almost went out of her mind while she was off the air.
Weekdays, after the long hours of filming “Date With the Angels,” she comes home to dinner, and then to sit quietly in front of the television set, watching and knitting. The St. Bernard, the Pekingese and the poodle watch, too.
As do women everywhere, she said she likes to shop on a Saturday afternoon and indulge her extravagances of shoes, jewelry and stiff petticoats. “I’ve got too many petticoats to count,” she said, “and it’s such a problem to store them. They take so much room.
“Alice Lon, on the Lawrence Welk show, collects them, too, and she’s going to ruin me. She just told me the name of someone who makes beautiful petticoats to order, very special ones.”
Not that it’s any of my business, and heaven knows, I’m no gossip, but Betty White just better watch out. How can she keep on buying petticoats like this, when she’s got all her money tied up in tropical fish?
“Like getting every second cup FREE!” (1964)
“Best coffee I ever tasted! Coffee with chicory gives you twice as many cups per pound… just like getting the second cup FREE!”
Betty White’s brewing instructions: Use half your usual measure
TV star Betty White discovers why Luzianne blends chicory with coffee
“When the Luzianne people asked me to try their coffee, I’d never heard of chicory, nor what it could do for my coffee,” says Betty White, popular TV panelist. “My taste test was an interesting challenge.”