Betty White Pens 'If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't)'

'Golden Girl' actress reflections on life and her enduring career.

ByABC News via logo
May 2, 2011, 11:27 PM

May 3, 2011 — -- Betty White's name is synonymous with the popular 1980s sitcom "The Golden Girls," but the the 89-year-old actress is enjoying a tremendous resurgence in popularity and her career is hotter than ever.

The Hollywood funnywoman and seven-time Emmy Award winner also is an author and in her new book -- "If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't)" -- she looks at life through the lens of her time in show business. White shares her thoughts on life's most important topics with her customary humor.

Read an excerpt from "If You Ask Me" below, then check out some other books in the "GMA" library.


One thing they don't tell you about growing old— you don't feel old, you just feel like yourself. And it's true. I don't feel eighty-nine years old. I simply am eighty-nine years old.

If I didn't feel so well, I might have a different philosophy altogether.

But I fall into traps sometimes.

Let's say I meet someone I find attractive. I have to keep reminding myself of how old I am, because I don'tfeel like I'm that old. I fight the urge to flirt and try to shape up. No fool like an old fool.

But I don't get depressed as the number climbs. Perhaps because I don't fear death. To some it is such a bêtenoire that it ruins some of the good time they have left.

Estelle Getty was so afraid of dying that the writers on The Golden Girls couldn't put a dead joke in thescript. This was early on—long before she ever got ill.

Again, I'm quoting my mother, but her take on the subject I thought was great. She said we know so muchand can discover so much more, but what no one knows for sure is what exactly happens when we pass on. Whenwe'd lose someone we would grieve, of course, but she would say, "Now he knows the secret." Somehow thathelped the pain for me.

And now—she knows the secret.

If you've ever lost a loved one, or witnessed it, you can't help but see that the body is an envelope for theletter.

My friends kid me that when it happens to me, Allen's going to be up there waiting for me and probablymy mom and dad. That's my family. But before I can get to them I'm going to have to wade through Bootyand Binky and Bob and Panda and Kitta and all my pets through the years—

Picturing that always starts me laughing.


In show business, the mirror obviously plays a big part in one's life, but early on—long before I startedworking—my beloved mother taught me another role the mirror plays. I can still hear her:

"Bets, you can lie to anyone in the world and even get away with it, perhaps, but when you are alone andlook into your own eyes in the mirror, you can't sidestep the truth. Always be sure you can meet those eyes directly.Otherwise, it's big trouble, my girl."

It may sound like a cliché, I realize, but oh, it's so true. On rare occasions I have tried to prove my momwrong. I stare back at my reflection and try to rationalize my way out of something, but it never works. Thoseeyes in the looking glass take on a life of their own.

It still works, Mom. Even after all these years.


Several times throughout this opus, I mention how much I love this business I'm in. And I meanevery word of it.

But for all the things I enjoy about it, if ever I'm asked if there's something I don't like, the answer is aresounding Yes.

Red-carpet events.

Don't get me wrong. When I'm at home watching television, I love seeing who's there and what they'rewearing. But when you're the walkee, it can be an absolute nightmare.

In real life, you step out of the car and immediately you're struck blind and deaf as you're greeted by a lineof photographers armed with flash cameras and microphone- wielding television reporters, three deep, allshouting at you.



Over here!

Betty, look here!

Look up, Betty!

Mrs. Ludden! (They know that will get my attention!)

With all the flashing lights and the noise, you tend to lose your balance. All of a sudden, you're staggeringand you're sure people are thinking, Oh, she's had a few! The lights are glaring and the noise is horrendous,but you try to be as polite as possible, because these aren't villains, they're just people trying to do their jobs.

Sometimes the function has somebody who takes you down the carpet. For instance, TV Land will sendsomeone if the four of us are doing the event. But always, I also have Jeff walking behind me, at the edge ofthe media zone, off the red carpet. Riding shotgun, which I need.

Historically, premieres have always had these redcarpet events. But the process has taken on new proportionsof late. Every event has a system of protocol, and the number of stars and reporters and photographersand media outlets just seems to grow and grow.


After more than thirty hours a week on live television for four years, there were those who thought of me as sickeningly sweet. They'd say, "She'll make your teeth fall out!" But if we met at a party,they would tell me, "Oh, you're not as bad as I thought you were!"

I was certainly typecast as icky sweet on Life with Elizabeth and even Hollywood on Television. But then SueAnn Nivens came along and changed the whole picture.

It feels like everyone's there with a microphone. And I know a lot of them—we do interviews all through theyear. So as you're stumbling around, you're trying to talk to all sorts of different people. Usually a representativefrom the project (whatever project it may be) guides you to various reporters along the way—likely, they mix andmatch us along the way, to be fair to all the outlets. But you can't really hear what they're saying, given all thenoise, so you just keep talking and hope you're making some kind of sense. It's all seat-of-the-pants.

You can't resent it—it's a necessary evil to promote a project. It's a hazard one just has to get over.It's not my favorite part of my job. Have you noticed?

I would rather go to the dentist for a root canal.

The neighborhood nymphomaniac on The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a surprise to everyone (including me)!The character was written as "an icky-sweet Betty White type."

The casting director, Ethel Winant, said, "Why not get Betty White?" But the executives said they couldn'thave me read for the role because Mary and I were best friends, and it might make it awkward for Mary if it didn't work out.

As an actor, you don't get every role you try out for, so it wouldn't have bothered our friendship at all, but theydidn't know that.

Well, I guess they couldn't find anybody sickeningly sweet enough, so they finally called me one Saturdaymorning and explained the part of the Happy Homemaker and asked, "Would you do it?"

Of course I said I'd be thrilled!

So I called Mary and said, "Guess who's doing your show next week?"

She said, "Who?"

I said, "Me."

She said, "Oh, no, you're not! I have veto power!"

She was kidding, of course.

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