Sur­viv­ing Hol­ly­wood

The Washington Times Weekly - - Culture, Etc. -

Ilove Betty White. Who doesn’t? She’s 89 years old, still go­ing strong and has no in­ten­tion of quit­ting be­cause she’s pas­sion­ate about what she’s do­ing in both her pro­fes­sional and per­sonal life.

She can’t wait to get up ev­ery morn­ing, sleep­ing no more than four hours. She gives us hope that we, too — if we’re lucky — could end up like her.

Ms. White says writ­ing is her fa­vorite thing to do, and she prefers long­hand to a key­board. In her sixth book, she shares her views about, well, pretty much what­ever she wants.

Take hot dogs, which she likes plain.

Pink’s Hot Dogs named one af­ter her and called it the Betty White Naked Dog.

She also likes to be around an­i­mals more than hu­mans be­cause she doesn’t be­lieve an­i­mals lie or crit­i­cize.

Then there’s her desk, which is so messy she has started pil­ing stuff up on her din­ing room ta­ble, and now she’s em­bar­rassed to have friends over. “If You Ask Me” is es­sen­tially a Hol­ly­wood tell-all about Ms. White her­self.

It sounds trite but some­how she pulls it off with her charm and self-dep­re­cat­ing wit.

Her hon­esty is so dis­arm­ing, it could even pass for wis­dom, at least in Hol­ly­wood where disin­gen­u­ous­ness is an art form.

It’s no co­in­ci­dence she doesn’t have a per­sonal pub­li­cist.

Folks in the “En­ter­tain­ment Cap­i­tal of the World” are ob­sessed with age.

They might be in de­nial about their own mor­tal­ity but not about any­one else’s. It isn’t even con­sid­ered im­po­lite to ask a per­son’s age in Tin­sel­town.

But then there’s Ms. White, who doesn’t mind telling any­one she’s 89 and a third.

She has some­how man­aged to turn old age into an as­set.

As she puts it, “I don’t feel eighty-nine years old. I sim­ply am eighty-nine years old.” She says if she meets some­one, she has to re­mind her­self how old she is.

She likes older guys, but at her age there aren’t any, al­though she has had eyes for younger guys who are about 80.

I do think the book has flaws, start­ing with the ti­tle: “If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t).” Ms. White says she has many fans who of­ten ap­proach her and send her let­ters. I have no doubt they will ask her some ques­tions about this book, just as I am about to do.

Let’s face it. Ms. White is a lit­tle old lady who should have been washed up years ago, yet she has made an amaz­ing come­back, and now is a big­ger star than ever. How does that hap­pen? She never ad­dresses it, al­though she does give credit to sev­eral ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing: “The Pro­posal” (2009), the hit film in which she co-starred with San­dra Bul­lock, the Snick­ers Su­per Bowl com­mer­cial (2010) and a host­ing gig on “Satur­day Night Live” (2010) for which she was awarded a sev­enth Emmy. Per­son­ally, I think she brought more to the strug­gling SNL than it did to her ca­reer, but I di­gress.

I be­lieve it was “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” that put Ms. White back on the map af­ter “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (19701977) and “The Golden Girls” (1985-1992). For years, Ms. White made fre­quent ap­pear­ances with Jay, which kept her in the limelight.

In a bit called “Will This Make Betty White Flinch?” she would stand be­hind a Plex­i­glas wall with her nose right next to it while ob­jects were hurled to­ward her, in­clud­ing ar­rows, bul­lets, ping­pong balls fired from a can­non and even a guy.

Her re­ac­tions were in­cred­i­bly funny.

How­ever, I may be bi­ased here, as I worked as pro­ducer for Mr. Leno dur­ing that time.

I am also per­plexed by Ms. White’s views on the af­ter­life. She’s cer­tain there will be one, but doesn’t know what it will be like, al­though she im­plies when her time comes, her de­ceased fam­ily mem­bers and pets will be “up there” wait­ing for her. Yet she makes no men­tion of God or any de­ity any­where in the book. I don’t want to get too heavy­handed, but I am cu­ri­ous, nonethe­less.

Ms. White once played a char­ac­ter on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” named Sue Ann Nivens, the Happy Home­maker. Sue Ann had a crush on Chuck­les the Clown, who had a whim­si­cal view of life, or as he put it, “A lit­tle song, a lit­tle dance, a lit­tle seltzer down your pants.” Hmm, sounds like some­thing Ms. White would say.

I love it when life im­i­tates art.

Dave Berg was a pro­ducer for NBC News, “The O’Reilly Fac­tor” and “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” He’s now writ­ing a book about “The Tonight Show.”

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