I suppose I thought the snarky, sex-obsessed Happy Homemaker/Homewrecker Sue Ann Nivens would show up; for some reason I equated Betty to Cloris Leachman in her performance on Dancing with the Stars, during which I often cringed with embarrassment for her over-sexed and hyper-suggestive remarks. I also thought Golden Girl Rose Nyland might make an appearance, sweet and rambly and maybe even a bit incoherent.Instead, I was schooled in the lesson that actors actually a c t. Imagine that!
Betty's TV and film career has spanned over 70 years, but at 88 years old young, she's Holly-wood's hottest "It" girl! Ignited by her show-stealing Super Bowl Snickers commercial, the coveted role as guest host for Saturday Night Live (for which she earned an Emmy nomination), and a guest spot-turned-permanent in TV Land's wildly successful "Hot in Cleveland, Betty is the Energizer Bunny!
Betty was in town Sunday for Life: a boomers & seniors expo (since I just barely qualify for "boomer" status, I considered it a personal invitation). My friend Paige and I decided to crash her party and we left wanting to be her new BFF.
Betty was warm, charming, gracious, kind, direct, witty, sharp and honest. She claims she got into acting when she was old enough to know better, she's still trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up and she admitted her affection (with a wink and a smile) for Robert Redford...twice. A few highlights from our experience and Betty's talk show format ~
- When asked what she thought about Hollywood today, she said, "I get mad. I'm impatient with them. They can be so ungrateful." She said multiple times how lucky it is to be in this profession and those who earn success should remember its privilege.
- Q: What's your secret for staying so youthful? A: "Good genes!"
- Q: Do you have any beauty tips? A: "Clean your face before bed!" (I'm sure she meant it.)
- Q: Tell us a secret, something no one else knows about you. A: "I drink a lot, shoot up...." (such the kidder, her snappy delivery had people rolling)
- Q: Have you ever considered marriage again after your husband's (Allen Ludden) death? A: "When you've had the best, who needs the rest?"
Me: "We all know about your Facebook success of scoring a guest host role on SNL..." (to which she quickly reminded me it wasn't her, it was a fan initiative) "and I'm an active Twitter user. I found a bunch of 'Betty Whites' and I'm just wondering are any of them REALLY you...?" And before I could ask her if I could take a cell phone picture of her to Twitpic, she replied, "I don't understand Twitter. I remember when people talked to each other, I remember when people could write..." and she launched into a quasi-lecture about the art of communication being lost in a sea of inferior electronic substitutes. If you listen at the 1:30 mark on her SNL opening monolgue, her sentiments about Facebook mirror her thoughts about Twitter I imagine.
"...and now that I do know what it is, I have to say it sounds like a huge waste of time. I'd never say that people on it are losers but that's only because I'm polite..."The audience surprised a tear-filled Betty with a heartfelt serenade of "Thank You for Being a Friend," the perfect conclusion for her session.
Photo credit: All photos are mine with the exception of the last image, taken by photographer Shannon on staff for spotted.timesfreepress.com.