Betty White, the actress and entertainer whose working career spanned an astonishing nine decades, has died at age 99. She passed on Friday morning at her home in California; the death was due to natural causes, TMZ reports.
Betty White was 99 years and 348 days old when she died. There’s long been chatter about a 27 Club — entertainers like Amy Winehouse and Jim Morrison who died young at age 27. But White is joining a much more exclusive group: the 99 Club. Among the key members:
- Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (99 years, 87 days)
- Evangelist Billy Graham (99 years, 109 days)
- Actress Lillian Gish (99 years, 136 days)
- Cartoonist Al Hirschfeld (99 years, 213 days)
- Royal husband Prince Philip (died just this year at 99 years, 303 days)
- Much-married actress Zsa Zsa Gabor (99 years, 330 days).
It’s good company! But White outlived them all.
Betty White’s first showbiz job was on a radio show called Empire Builders back in 1930. She was eight years old and she played a baby. Her last roles were brief voice jobs on two animated movies in 2019: Trouble (a cute dog story) and the more beloved Toy Story 4, as the teething toy “Bitey White.”
Over the years between she modeled, sang on the radio, hosted her own TV variety and chat shows, did guest spots on TV comedies, and appeared on game shows — whatever she could get. Things really took off when she played Sue Ann Nivens, the catty and tart-tongued cooking show host, on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Sue Ann made a lively foil (one of many lively foils) on the show for good-hearted Mary Tyler Moore.
That would have been a solid career for anyone, but Betty White took it a step further by landing a role on The Golden Girls, the ensemble sitcom that became an eight-year sensation for NBC. White won an Emmy as the sweet and not-too-bright Rose Nylund, alongside Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty.
After the show ended, White still didn’t retire but went back to her mix of film cameos, TV guest shots, and the like. She also continued to advocate forcefully for animals and animal rights. In her last decade, Betty White occupied new territory as a beloved, venerable, nostalgic (pick your adjective) figure of online love and admiration. It may have started with this very funny Snickers commercial in 2011:
Fans freaked out out any time Betty White trended on Twitter the last few years, fearing for her health, much as was the case with her Snickers co-star, Abe Vigoda. It finally ended for Vigoda at age 94, and now the end has come for Betty White as well. The 99 club! It was a good run, with many laughs. Salute!
See our full biography of Betty White »