The entertainment world is sharing its shock and grief at the loss of Hollywood legend Betty White, who died Friday at 99. Her agent and friend, Jeff Witjas, confirmed the news to USA TODAY.
White died just weeks before her 100th birthday on Jan. 17. She had big plans to celebrate the milestone, including the upcoming “100 Years Young,” a nearly two-hour film about her with cameos from White’s famous friends including Ryan Reynolds, Tina Fey, Robert Redford, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Clint Eastwood, Jimmy Kimmel and others.
“Saturday Night Live” paid tribute to White by re-airing the Mother’s Day show she hosted on May 8, 2010, which featured Jay-Z as musical guest.
“I just can’t believe that I’m hosting ‘Saturday Night Live,’ ” the actress told the audience in her opening monologue. “Many of you know I’m 88 and a half years old, so it’s great to be here for a number of reasons.”
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During CNN’s New Year’s Eve special on Friday, Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen raised their first glass of the night in honor of the beloved and trailblazing actress.
“First, we need to pay tribute to the great Betty White who passed away today,” Cohen began, with Cooper adding, “What an incredible, incredible person, what an incredible life.”
The two went on to list her many accolades and show clips of a young White in earlier TV appearances.
“We’re going to raise our first shot of tequila…” Cohen said. “This is in honor of Betty White. A life well lived.”
“Cheers,” both said.
White’s longtime crush, Redford, also chimed in with a sweet message, telling USA TODAY in a statement, “Betty lived life devoted to her craft and her love of animals. She made us all laugh, including me. I had a crush on her, too!”
In her recent interview with the magazine, White said that despite Reynolds’ teasing devotion of her, Redford was always, “The only one.”
White’s longtime assistant, Kiersten Mikelas, confirmed to People that White was given a life-size cutout of the actor-director for her 99th birthday.
On Friday, Don Cheadle who starred alongside White in the TV sitcom “The Golden Palace,” paid tribute to the actress on Twitter. “Betty was the best of the best,” he recalled of White. “When we were shooting scenes together it was difficult for the (director of photography) to get lighting right between my chocolate and betty’s white!
“She was either a ghost or i was the shadow,” wrote Cheadle, who portrayed Roland Wilson in “Golden Palace.” “I came on set one day and betty had darkened her makeup/hair a bit.”
Cheadle wrote that “nobody” asked White to do it, it was just her “attempt to accommodate for it.”
“And that’s just one small example of her overflowing generosity,” he said, adding she was “the goldenest of them all and will be forever missed.”
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden reacted to the news Friday after leaving a restaurant in Wilmington, Delaware.
“That’s a shame. She was a lovely lady,” the president said when reporters asked about White, with the first lady adding, “Who didn’t love Betty White? We’re so sad.”
On Twitter, the POTUS wrote about how White “brought a smile to the lips of generations of Americans.”
“She’s a cultural icon who will be sorely missed,” Biden continued. “Jill and I are thinking of her family and all those who loved her this New Year’s Eve.”
Reynolds took to Instagram to remember White, whom he starred alongside in “The Proposal.”
“The world looks different now. She was great at defying expectation. She managed to grow very old and somehow, not old enough. We’ll miss you, Betty,” Reynolds wrote.
Fellow “Proposal” co-star Sandra Bullock shared in a statement to Variety how she planned to honor White: “I don’t drink vodka … but I will tonight, on ice, with a slice of lemon with a hot dog on the other side and just be ok being sad.”
“I’ll have to buy some rose-colored glasses because Betty was that for all of us,” Bullock continued.
Michelle Obama posted an Instagram tribute to White, who had posed with the Obama family dog Bo.
“Betty White broke barriers, defied expectations, served her country, and pushed us all to laugh. She was also an animal lover and activist, and Bo loved spending time with her,” Obama wrote in the tribute. “There was no one quite like her, and Barack and I join so many who will miss the joy she brought to the world. I know our Bo is looking forward to seeing her up in heaven.”
Jamie Lee Curtis and Kristen Bell both posted a Dec. 2010 AARP cover they shared with White that answered, “What Women Want.”
“What women WANT is to live a life like Betty White,” Curtis wrote on Instagram below the magazine cover. “Full of love and creativity and integrity and humor and dedication and a life of service to animals.”
“Rest easy you beautiful woman,” Curtis wrote. “We will carry on for you!”
“Betty was one of a kind. Kind, gracious and wit that could stun a sailor,” Bell wrote on Instagram, sharing Curtis’ post. “Thank you Betty, for showing so many of us how to live.”
Niecy Nash, who also starred alongside White in “The Proposal,” shared a selfie with the late “legend.”
“Funny until the end! We were in the movie The Proposal together and worked on neighboring stages when she filmed Hot In Cleveland and I was on The Soul Man. I would be lucky to have a career this long and still have comedic timing! Make em laugh in heaven Betty! You will be missed. Thank YOU for being a friend #rip,” Nash wrote on Instagram.
GLAAD also recognized White for her contributions beyond television in a statement to USA TODAY.
“Betty White was an icon in the entertainment industry and a true ‘friend’ to the LGBTQ community. Her character Rose on The Golden Girls was instrumental in drawing mainstream attention to LGBTQ issues on television, namely an episode that raised awareness about HIV in 1990. Throughout the rest of her career, White used her platform to advocate for many issues affecting the LGBTQ community, including marriage equality and supporting at-risk queer youth,” wrote GLAAD’s Head of Talent Anthony Allen Ramos.
Comedian Billy Eichner wrote that White’s show “The Golden Girls” is “without exaggeration, the greatest TV series of all time. I am genuinely grateful for them and for that show.”
Jane Lynch tweeted an old photo of White and her husband, Allen Ludden, who died in 1981, with the caption “reunited.”
Author Roxane Gay remembered her as a “charming, delightful, hilarious, talented” actress who was also “unproblematic for 99.9 years.”
George Takei called White a national treasure, tweeting, “Our Sue Ann Nivens, our beloved Rose Nylund, has joined the heavens to delight the stars with her inimitable style, humor, and charm. A great loss to us all. We shall miss her dearly.”
White’s “Hot in Cleveland” co-star Valerie Bertinelli wrote on Twitter, “Rest in peace, sweet Betty. My God, how bright heaven must be right now.”
In a thread on Twitter, Kathy Griffin looked back at her personal interactions with the actress, writing that “no matter how long this world continues to spin, there will be only one Betty White.”
William Shatner tweeted how White was “a sweetheart to the world and a gift to the entertainment world.”
Debra Messing was nostalgic and echoed many fans’ feelings with her tweet: “Betty White. Oh oooooooo. I grew up watching and being delighted by her. She was playful and daring and smart. We all knew this day would come but it doesn’t take away the feeling of loss. A national treasure, indeed. Fly with the Angels.”
Daniel Dae Kim added: “2020: ‘I’m gonna make this the worst year ever.’ 2021: ‘Hold my beer…’ #RIPQueen.”
LeVar Burton remembered White as “one of the best humans ever,” and Patricia Arquette called her “a genius.”
“Sending her family and friends love,” Arquette continued. “Great loss.
Seth Meyers honored White by recalling a special moment with the fellow comedian.
“RIP Betty White, the only SNL host I ever saw get a standing ovation at the after party. A party at which she ordered a vodka and a hotdog and stayed til the bitter end,” he tweeted.
Nancy Meyers said White “changed (her) life.”
“She was the first person who made me believe I could be a writer,” the filmmaker wrote on Instagram. “What an enormous thing to do for another person. I bet there’s hundreds of us who she helped over the years.”
Ellen DeGeneres tweeted that she’s “grateful for every second I got to spend with Betty White. Sending love to her family, friends and all of us.”
Dionne Warwick recalled having “the pleasure of getting to know Betty White and (sharing) a few giggles with her.”
“Another brilliant talent has made her transition,” Warwick continued. “May she rest in well-earned peace.”
“So sad to hear about Betty White passing. I loved watching her characters that brought so much joy. Thank you, Betty, for making us all laugh!” Reese Witherspoon wrote.
Journalist Nina Garcia reacted to the news by sharing one of White’s memorable quotes.
” ‘It’s your outlook on life that counts. If you take yourself lightly and don’t take yourself too seriously, pretty soon you can find the humor in our everyday lives. And sometimes it can be a lifesaver.’ RIP Betty White,” Garcia shared.
Nancy Pelosi called White “a beloved TV icon,” adding that she was a “pioneering actress, who blessed generations of Americans with her talent and humor for 8 decades.”
“May it be a comfort to her loved ones and many admirers that so many mourn with them during this sad time,” she wrote on Twitter.
Halsey posted a short yet impactful message: “Betty :(“
“99 years here and millions of laughs left behind. Pretty fantastic,” Ava DuVernay posted in her tribute.
Halle Berry recognized White for being both a legendary actress and “a friend.”
“Your INCREDIBLE legacy lives on forever,” Berry tweeted. “You set the standard for so many to follow. May you rest in eternal peace our forever golden girl.”
Bob Bergan, the voice of Porky Pig in Warner Bros. Looney Tunes, mourned White in a statement. “I had the pleasure of meeting Betty White a few times over the years,” he said. “She never disappointed, as she was exactly whom you expected her to be. As sad as this loss is to our industry and her fans, we all should celebrate the life, laughs and memories which will live on in reruns for generations to come. She truly was a golden girl.”
“M*A*S*H” actor Jamie Farr shared that “one of the very special highlights” of his 67-year career was working with the “brilliant” actress. “She did it all and was always at her best,” he said. “Now she is back with her beloved Allen.”
George Chakiris, best known for his appearance in the 1961 film version of “West Side Story” as Bernando, remembered White as “glorious, ethical, funny, and just fantastic.”
“She was a blessing! May we all follow her example and footsteps for a better world!” he said in a statement.
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Contributing: Mary Cadden, Erin Jensen, Jenna Ryu and Pamela Avila, USA TODAY
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