At 88-years-old, Betty White has the sizzling hot career that most 20-year-old starlets could only dream of. Refusing to sit back and enjoy her “golden years,” White is one of the busiest actresses in Hollywood today. When she’s not starring opposite America’s sweetheart Sandra Bullock in The Proposal, getting slammed into a puddle of mud for a Snickers, or spotted as dim-witted Rose Nylund in reruns of “Golden Girls,” White tirelessly fights for animal rights and accepts countless lifetime achievement awards. It’s no wonder that many demanded to see the funny lady host “Saturday Night Live” on Facebook and several thousands of fans later, White finally accepted one of the most highly anticipated gigs of her life. As she prepares for the big night on Saturday, May 8th, Starpulse participated in a telephone conference where she chats about the famous online campaign, meeting Jay-Z and which male celebrity is super hot (yes, his name is Robert!).
Could we get your reaction to Sandra Bullock filing for divorce?
Betty White: I love her dearly and her personal life is her business, not mine or anybody else’s.
When and how did you become aware of the Facebook campaign to get you as an SNL host?
Betty White: Well all of a sudden people would tell me that they saw the Facebook thing and all these people had joined in. I couldn’t believe it. At first I thought they were putting me on. It just came out of left field and I was astounded. I told my agents to please say thank you, I appreciate it, but no thank you. And he said, ‘You have to do it and if you don’t do it I’ll divorce you.’ I love my agent so here I am doing it.
Why did your agent say he would divorce you if you didn’t do this?
Betty White: At my age I’m an old broad. And at my age to be invited to do a show as current as ‘Saturday Night Live’ he thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a different direction to go in. I said I’d rather watch it than do it and he said, ‘No, no, no.’ So I trust his judgment. He’s done a wonderful job for me. So here I am, going to do it and scared to death.
When the idea of being on ‘Saturday Night Live’ was first brought up to you, you said you didn't want to do it. Why was that your reaction?
Betty White: I would love to just be able to continue to watch it and never have to do it. It’s an intimidating assignment. First of all it’s so New York and I'm so California I'll feel like a fish out of water. But as long as I'm committed to do, it I’ll go back and I want to make it a fun adventure.
Can the man who started the Facebook campaign meet you?
Betty White: If he doesn't mind me beating him up for getting me into this trouble. I'd love to meet him, of course!
Do you have a Facebook account?
Betty White: No. I’m a technological spaz.
Would you be in favor of a ‘Golden Girls’ remake at some point and if so, who do you think should play Rose?
Betty White: Oh isn’t that funny? Well, Mae West is gone. I have never given it any thought, but it’s an interesting question. I’ll brood on it and try to come up with somebody. But I can’t right off the top of my head.
Do you think it’s a good idea?
Betty White: Sure, why not? It would be lovely for the writers. But let’s face it, ‘Golden Girls’ and all the hit shows really go back to the threshold of the writers. We can’t do it unless it’s on the page.
Is there any sketch or subject that SNL ran by you, but you didn’t want to do or is everything fair game?
Betty White: I haven’t any idea what I’m going to be doing. All I know is I have veto power if it’s something I really don’t want to do. And they promised me I wouldn’t have to do any nudity.
Will we be seeing Sue Ann Nivens resurrected in any skits?
Betty White: I haven’t heard anything about content, so I’m getting a little panicky, but I look forward to maybe sitting down with the writers and hearing what they have in mind.
Last year you faced off with Jimmy Fallon in beer pong and he beat you. Can we expect a rematch on SNL?
Betty White: Oh I’m dying for a rematch. I almost had him and then at the very last minute he not only beat me, but he drank my beer.
Are there any special regimens or preparations that you’re undertaking in order to be in a fighting spirit for a late night show?
Betty White: I stay up late or get up earlier. If I get four, five good hours a night, that’s all the sleep I need. The physical part of ‘Saturday Night Live’ doesn’t worry me at all. It’s just the hoping I can do justice to all those other great people who were on there.
Will we see you working with any animals on the show at all on ‘Saturday Night Live?’
Betty White: I hope I’ll be with some kind of animal. They’re the other half of my life and I love them. And they always kind of get me calm and tone me down.
What do you think is more important to you, your actual celebrity or the fact that you’re able to use your celebrity to contribute to your charities?
Betty White: Oh I think helping the animals is - that’s the lovely upside of any celebrity that happens. I'm not an animal activist. I'm not into anything political, demonstrations, or anything like that. I'm just into animal health and welfare. And have been with the Morris Animal Foundation, a health organization for 45 years, and with the Los Angeles Zoo for 45 years. Over the years of enjoying show business we've been able to help the animals.
What are you most nervous about?
Betty White: The fact that I understand you work from cue cards. And I have never been able to work from cue cards. I memorize everything or ad lib it. I know with the changing scripts that won't be possible. And with cue cards I hope I don't have to wear my glasses. I hope the print is big enough. If it isn't I'll do the show with my glasses.
Was there ever a harrowing live TV experience where something went wrong?
Betty White: Oh life’s darkest moment. I was doing a song on Jack Paar’s show and all of a sudden I lost the lyrics. It was a song I knew so well, ‘When I Fall in Love.’ I don't know what broke my concentration or whatever. I went on and I sang something. I made up lyrics as I went along but that is sheer panic. And I have a feeling it’s the same kind of panic that I may feel when I do ‘Saturday Night Live.’
Is there anybody from the history of the show that you would love to work with?
Betty White: I love the church lady. I don’t know why. She always just tickled me pink. But I’m thrilled that they are bringing back the gals who have hosted before. It means I’ll have wonderful people to work with.
Is there anything Betty White won't do?
Betty White: Yes. I won't do any dope jokes. I don't like dope jokes. I don't think dope is a joke. That’s about the only no that I would, let’s say, resist doing.
Since Jay-Z is going to be the musical guest this Saturday, were you a fan of his before the show and if not, have you started listening to his music?
Betty White: I’m thrilled to meet him and hear that he’s going to be on the show because he’s the hottest thing since sliced bread. I will certainly enjoy him. I hope that we get along well.
Is this going to be an all mom show? Are there going to be any men at all involved other than Jay-Z?
Betty White: I hope not. But if there isn’t I’ll hit on every member of the crew.
Are you surprised with the appeal you have with such a young audience?
Betty White: Well the amazing thing is, and with the ‘Mary Tyler Moore Show,’ some of the kids grew up with me, but their parents also grew up with me, and in many cases, their grandparents. When I do a book signing or anything like that, the kids come up and they weren’t born when ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ came on. And now as you say, even when ‘Golden Girls’ was on the air they hadn’t been born yet. But that’s what comes of good writing. That’s what keeps bringing them back and makes them work for any generation because it’s funny.
You’re beloved in Minnesota because you play sort of Minnesota icons within ‘Golden Girls’ and in ‘Mary Tyler Moore.’ Why do people cast you from Minnesota?
Betty White: I don’t know because I’m not Norwegian although both the characters more or less lean that way. I’m Danish. I had a Danish grandfather. Maybe geographically close. Let’s put it that way.
Has comedy gotten worse over the years?
Betty White: No, I don’t think so. I think what’s changed the most is the audience, not the comedy. The problem is the audience has heard every joke. They know every storyline. They know where something’s going before we even take off. That’s hard to write and perform for because that’s a tough audience to surprise. You just have to take your best shot. I find I do better if I just sort of shoot from the hip and hope for the best.
Is your bawdy sense of humor the real you?
Betty White: I’ve always had a bawdy sense of humor. My father was a traveling salesman and he would bring jokes home. He’d tell them and they’d never explain them to me. My mom and dad had a wonderful sense of humor. We would even get through some of the grim times by at least keeping a little sense of humor. It sure beats the alternative.
When was the last time you've been in touch with Rue McClanahan?
Betty White: Oh Rusey! We talk every three, four weeks. She lives in New York and she had a triple bypass and then a stroke. She’s doing fine. I talked with her. She’s home and doing better and better. Her speech is all cleared up. She’s in great shape.
What do you think the Craig Ferguson appearances have done for your new appeal?
Betty White: They‘ve been the most fun of anything I’ve done. He is just incredible. He’s a good friend. The only thing is we can't ever dare make eye contact when we’re working together or we both crack up. I don't know why. We just tickle each other. I love him.
Are there any male celebrities that you think are super hot?
Betty White: My standard answer and has been forever and will continue to be is Robert Redford. I've never met the man, but I just enjoy fantasizing about him completely.
You’re doing a sitcom for TV Land. How is that going and how is that different from your past sitcom experiences?
Betty White: This is a delight. Jane Leaves, Wendy Malick, and Valerie Bertinelli are the three stars of the show. Their chemistry together is wonderful. The pilot got picked up so fast that it blew all our minds. We actually start working on the series the day I get back from ‘Saturday Night Live.’ It’s a quick turnaround, but I think it’s going to be great fun.
What advice do you have for younger actresses that are struggling in Hollywood with the distractions of fame?
Betty White: I’m so thrilled we’ve been around in this business for so long. And I keep getting young actresses who ask, what do you do? And Betty Davis did an answer to that question on the ‘Late Night Show’ that just cracked me up. She said, “Take Fountain.’ Well that doesn’t mean anything to anybody outside of Los Angeles. But Fountain is the direct street that has the least traffic on it. So young actresses, take Fountain.
Story by Stephanie Nolasco
Starpulse contributing writer