BREAKING: Betty White, Trailblazing Comedic Actress, Dies at 99

Matt Sayles

Unfortunately, this year is going out as it came in, with some bad news.

Betty White, the trailblazing comedienne who had an unforgettable television career that included “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Golden Girls” has died. Her 100th birthday would have been January 17, and she’d been featured in a People article about looking forward to that event in which she described herself as ever the “cock-eyed optimist.”

The news was first broken by TMZ, which was told by law enforcement sources.

From NY Post:

The eight-time Emmy winner held the record for the longest TV career of any entertainer — making her debut in 1939 when the medium was just an experiment and going on to appear as an actress, host and in-demand guest well into her 90s.

But she’ll be best remembered for her scene-stealing roles in two pioneering sitcoms — as the promiscuous cooking show host Sue Ann Nivens on the “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the 1970s and sweet-natured simpleton Rose Nylund on “The Golden Girls” in the 80s.

It’s safe to say people from both sides of the aisle loved White, and she was a shining example of how vibrant one could be in later years, still actively involved with the business.

People shared this bittersweet statement from White’s friend and agent:

“Even though Betty was about to be 100, I thought she would live forever,” her agent and close friend Jeff Witjas said in an official statement on Friday. “I will miss her terribly and so will the animal world that she loved so much. I don’t think Betty ever feared passing because she always wanted to be with her most beloved husband Allen Ludden. She believed she would be with him again.”

Syracuse University TV professor Robert Thompson told the NY Post her career even went back before the beginning of television to 1939, when after graduating from Beverly Hills High she sang “The Merry Widow” on an experimental local channel.

During the 1960s, White became a regular guest on TV game shows — where she met her third and final husband, “Password” host Allen Ludden, who she stayed with until he died in 1981.

In 1973, the already popular “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was looking to cast the character of Sue Ann Nivens, described in the script as an “an icky-sweet Betty White type” — and ended up hiring the real thing.

Nivens — a cooking show hostess at Mary Richards’ fictional TV station — was “cloyingly sweet on the surface and something of a dragon underneath, with a tinge of nymphomania,” White wrote in her 1995 memoir. “I was born for the role!”

She was originally supposed to play Blanche Devereaux on “The Golden Girls,” but instead, they switched her to Rose Nylund.

“The way she could deliver that sort of naive ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’ look whenever someone started talking about sex — but same time, we know she’s a widow,” [Thompson] said.

“It was so much fun knowing who Betty White really is uttering those words.”

Since then, she’s also attracted attention with her humor, which was frequently bawdy and had another generation of folks falling in love with her smile that seemed to light everything up. So, it was safe to say today that many were disconsolate today to hear about her passing. People had learned to discount such reports of her demise which cropped up periodically, believing that her force of will would keep her alive forever, that her humor and she would be forever immortal. Unfortunately, the report today was real.

R.I.P., Betty.