The Aug. 7 event, “Betty White: Celebrating 60 Years on Television,” is already sold out, even though it hasn’t even been formally announced with an Acad press release. I noticed it as an events listing today on the Acad’s emmys.tv home page. (Pic of Betty with Emmy swiped from that site.)
Among those set to appear are Ed Asner, Cloris Leachman, Mary Tyler Moore, Craig Ferguson (White makes semi-regular visits to “The Late Late Show,” in a tribute to Craig’s excellent taste), Bob Stewart, Gavin MacLeod, Tom Sullivan, Susan Harris, Valerie Harper and John McCook. Pete Hammond is set as moderate, and the event also promises a perf by Michael Feinstein. I’m there.
As Betty-philes know, her first paying gig on TV came in the summer of 1949 with her appearance on a local special hosted by singer Dick Haynes, on KLAC-TV, known today as KCOP-TV. From there she appeared on a short-lived (by weeks) comedy “Tom, Dick and Harry,” starring three third-rate vaudevillians, and then she segued to game show “Grab Your Phone,” according to White’s 1995 memoir “Here We Go Again: My Life in Television.”
Betty’s first steady work came in November 1949 with the debut of KLAC’s “Hollywood on Television,” in which she was a “girl Friday” sidekick to Al Jarvis, then a top L.A. disc jockey.
“Hollywood on Television,” by Betty’s description, was a prototypical morning TV show. Betty and Al would chat about the headlines, interview guests ranging from human interest to celebs, have musical and how-to segments, etc. Five hours a day, five days a week of live without-a-net television. She did “Hollywood on Television” for about four years, and then moved into her first lead role in a scripted series, the syndie “Life with Elizabeth” (she did both shows simultaneously for a little while). No wonder she’s so good.