She stirred the pot as the sex-crazed Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and always made us feel welcome at her kitchen table as The Golden Girls' sweetly naive Rose Nylund. Now, at 88 years young, Betty White is again Hollywood's "it" girl.
After more than 60 years in show business, Betty's big comeback began in 2009. Playing opposite Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal, Betty stole the show as a brutally honest, rain-dancing granny. In February 2010, she had Super Bowl viewers falling out of their seats as a sassy touch football player in the breakout commercial of the game.
A new generation of fans was born, and a massive Facebook campaign was launched to land Betty a Saturday Night Live hosting gig. Now, Betty's going where few octogenarians have gone before—she'll be taking the stage at SNLStudio 8H on May 8, 2010.
Betty says she's having a blast. "The silly part about everything is that I didn't know I'd been away, and then all of a sudden that Snickers commercial kind of turned a lot of other things on," she says. "Now I'm busier than I've ever been."
Betty says the Saturday Night Live movement took her by surprise. "First of all, it's a young people's show, and it's all the young humor and stuff. And I'm a little past that—just a little," she says. "I think they've lost their minds if they have an 88-year-old woman doing the show. But what do they know?"
Once Betty wraps Saturday Night Live, she won't have much downtime. "The very next day, we start our new series, Hot in Cleveland for TV Land," she says. "So it's going to be a busy kind of May."
Betty has starred in some of the most beloved television shows of all time, but says she had the most fun playing Rose on The Golden Girls. "I was on every week there, and with Mary, I just did like six or seven shows out of 22," she says. "So it was more fun to play with those other wonderful gals every week."
Despite what some viewers may think, Betty says Rose was not dumb. "She was terminally naive," she says. "I like Rose because she thought life was like a musical comedy. It was going to have a happy ending no matter what ever happened."
Still, Betty says "neighborhood nymphomaniac" Sue Ann Nivens was great fun to play. "I used to ask my husband, Allen Ludden, 'How close to Sue Ann is Betty?'" she says. "He'd say, 'Well, she's actually the very same character except she can't cook.'"
Looking toward her future, Betty says she consults her to-do list—not a bucket list. "I'm just blessed with good health, and I'm having a ball because I love what I'm doing," she says.
So what would Betty most like to do next? "My answer is always ... Robert Redford," she says. "Bless his dear heart, he's heard me take his name in vain for decades. And he wrote me a very sweet congratulation note when I got the Lifetime Achievement Award from [the Screen Actors Guild]. I was thrilled. I haven't stopped ringing his doorbell since."
Betty, who is also a passionate animal activist, says she's grateful for every opportunity. "My life is divided in two parts—half animal work and half show business," she says. "So when you're lucky enough to be doing the two things you like best, that is my to-do list. It's such a blessing."