On New Year’s Eve I was out with a friend for lunch. During our conversation I had to look up something on the phone and happened to stumble on the bold DRUDGE headline – BETTY WHITE DEAD! How could that be? Others around the country felt the same way. How could this entertainment institution be gone? Lately there had been a lot of PR with the “People” magazine cover announcing Betty’s upcoming 100th birthday on January 17th. Word of her sudden death really got to me—much like when I heard of Doris Day’s passing in 2019. Totally out of the blue and a personal loss to me, because I knew Betty.
Immediately I began remembering times I’d met her while I was Doris Day’s secretary in the 1970s. Their common bond was ANIMALS and animal welfare! Both Doris and Betty were avid animal activists. In 1971 Betty White interviewed Doris for her “Pet Set” show. It was so interesting to see and hear about Doris’ many dogs and how they came into her life. I loved Betty saying that Doris is known as “The dog catcher of Beverly Hills.”
Another time I met Betty was at a “Fund for Animals” event hosted by Cleveland Amory at Lion Country Safari in 1970. Doris invited me and my friend, Mary Kay, to go with her and Billy DeWolfe to this special event. Betty was there with her husband, Allen Ludden. Doris, Mary Tyler Moore and Angie Dickinson were seated on stage in front of several other stars, including Allen Ludden and Betty. She was cuddling a little lion all during the presentation. Doris and Betty each gave a powerful talk about animal welfare, along with other celebs who gathered to celebrate animal welfare.
Betty, along with Doris, was also a founding member of Actors & Others for Animals. This organization was founded in the early 1970s by Richard and Diana Basehart to promote the humane treatment of animals. Betty and Doris appeared at many of A&O’s special fund-raising events, including their big yearly “Celebrity Fair.” Thousands of fans and animal advocates gathered at these yearly special events to help raise money for animals’ welfare. Doris and I attended many of the meetings and Betty was there frequently. Like Doris, Betty expressed her passion for animal welfare all the time and in many ways.
I must say it is awesome to remember and share special memories from nearly 50 years ago of times spent with Doris Day and with Betty White. I was truly blessed and am most grateful that I followed my dream and ended up working for Doris Day in her home. Betty was a funny, classy lady. She made the world a better place. Laughter is the best medicine, and you were living proof of that, Betty,
Happy New Year everyone!!!!
Mary Anne Barothy, author of Day at a Time: An Indiana Girl’s Sentimental Journey to Doris Day’s Hollywood and Beyond