May 11, 2011

USA: Surviving 63 Years With No Backbone

WASHINGTON DC / The Atlantic / Entertainment / May 11, 2011

By Kevin Fallon

Betty White on
Surviving 63 Years in Show Business
With No Backbone

A conversation with the 89-year-old actress, whose fifth book, If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't), came out last week

Reuters/Phil McCarten

Betty White has won seven Emmy awards (and counting) over the course of her 63 years in show business. With her roles on syndication staples The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls she can sometimes be seen on TV four times a day. She was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Screen Actors Guild in 2010, only to win another statue at this year's ceremony, for her role on the hit TV Land sitcom Hot in Cleveland.

At 89 years old, White's career is hitting a stride most actresses dream of when they're in their 20s. She not only stars on Cleveland, but is producing an upcoming senior citizen prank show called Off Their Rockers, will voice a character in The Lorax, and last week released her fifth book. If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't) is a collection of essays reflecting on her long career and ruminating on her current professional hot streak. (How hot? Twilight's Robert Pattinson provides one of the book's celebrity endorsements: "Betty White is one of the sexiest women in America.")

I spoke with her about the book, her thoughts on Bridesmaids and the "can women be Funny?" debate, why Hot in Cleveland found success, and how she finds the energy to work so hard.

The title of your book is If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't), but it's my impression that these days everybody is asking about your career and wants to hear your stories.

When they came to me and wanted me to do the book, they suggested calling it Listen Up. Well the last thing in the world I'd ever say is "listen up" because I don't have that much worth listening to. It's a series of short pieces on how I feel on a variety of subjects. If you ask me how I feel on such and such, I'll tell you. But you probably won't ask me. So all of a sudden that seemed to be the right title.

But do you find that many of your younger co-stars asking for advice?

Not really. Advice is a hard thing. We just have fun together, but we work so closely. I'm so lucky to be working with that group on Hot in Cleveland—Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, and Wendy Mallick—that it's not a case of asking advice. It's wanting to hear stories about earlier times in television. That's all anecdotal.

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