I am a huge fan of “The Golden Girls,” but I have a confession to make. Rose, played by the late Betty White, was not my favorite. In fact, she wasn’t even my second favorite. Those honors go to Blanche (Rue McClanahan) and Dorothy, played by the inimitable Bea Arthur.
Still, I was sad when a call from my best friend on New Year’s Eve afternoon alerted me to the fact that White was gone, a TV legend and the last of the Girls to go.
When people think of White, so many things come to mind—her status as a pioneer for women in the world of television, her stand for civil rights in the 1950s when she refused to boot Black tap dancer Arthur Duncan off her show (which was canceled shortly thereafter), and the importance of Rose and “The Golden Girls” to the LGBTQ community (please see the “72 Hours” episode from season 5).
White was also a lifelong animal lover and advocate and, while she was not a collector on the level of someone like Elizabeth Taylor, I think her jewelry deserves some attention, as does the #BettyWhiteChallenge.
A viral movement, the challenge encourages people to donate $5 to their favorite animal charity this coming Monday, Jan. 17, which would have been White’s 100th birthday. My money is going to Little Wanderers
, a nonprofit that helps New York City’s neediest cats.
Happy heavenly birthday, Betty! Now on to the jewels …
Jewelry, as we all know, is an expression of the personal. It’s worn to remember and honor love ones, and to communicate passions and beliefs.
For White—who cited animals as one of her two (or more) passions while accepting the SAG Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010—it was a way to communicate her love of all things wild, and it was done in the most elegant way.
A pair of panda bear earrings set, perhaps, with black and white diamonds appear to be a favorite and I love the big gold elephant earrings she’s wearing in this tribute video the Los Angeles Zoo made.
White also had an enviable collection of statement necklaces, including more than a couple big cats (a personal favorite of mine) and a dazzling diamond elephant she sported at the 2015 People’s Choice Awards, where she took home the award for Favorite TV Icon at the age of 93.
Embed from Getty Images
One of my favorite Betty White jewelry looks isn’t from an awards show, though; it’s fittingly from an event at the Los Angeles Zoo.
White’s relationship with the Los Angeles Zoo started when it opened in 1966 and continued for the next five decades.
To understand how much animals meant to her—and how much she meant to them—check out the homepage of the Los Angeles Zoo’s website.
A memorial to White is front and center and it links to an entire page honoring White
and her decades of dedication to the zoo, its missions of conversation and education, and its animals.
Like Marion Fasel
, I love the fashion on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
The show, which ran from 1970 to 1977, was one of the highlights of Betty’s career, with her role as horny homemaker Sue Ann Nivens garnering her two Emmys.
The characters’ style on Mary Tyler Moore is simple, sleek and classic, just what I like—the mini-dresses, the pantsuits and, my favorite, the plain turtlenecks worn with a few gold chains.
It was #neckmess lite, if you will, and Sue Ann Nivens was here for it.
I love the layered look in this publicity photo of White from 1974, the medallion paired with what looks like two longer gold chains.
Thank you for being on-trend.
Related stories will be right here …
In her 1995 book “Here We Go Again,” White tells the tale of what I can only assume were two of the most meaningful pieces of jewelry she ever received and they both came from the love of her life, Allen Ludden.
The way White tells it, Ludden, a widower with three children whom she met while a guest on his game show, “Password,” wanted to marry her. Twice divorced by then, White was understandably a reticent bride.
One night over dinner in New York, Ludden gave White a “beautiful gold wedding ring with a small circle of diamonds,” and told her, “You might as well keep it, because one of these days you’ll put it on for keeps.”
White refused the ring, but Ludden wasn’t giving up. He “put that damned ring on a chain around his neck, where I would be constantly aware of it … This went on for three months,” she wrote.
That Easter, Ludden gave White another piece of jewelry, a pair of “small flower earrings—petals of gold, with tiny diamonds, rubies and sapphires” that were clipped to the ears of a stuffed bunny, with a note imploring her to say yes. (White was also a stuffed animal lover.)
She did. White and Ludden were married on June 14, 1963 and remained married until his death in 1981. She never remarried.
I’ve had a hard time finding any good pictures of either the ring or the earrings. Perhaps I am just missing them, or maybe she found these items difficult to wear following Ludden’s death.
Either way, the last of the beloved Golden Girls gave me plenty to look at—and smile about—over the last couple weeks.
Rest well, Betty.