Legend Betty White will be greatly missed as she profoundly impacted many people's lives. Readers will now be able to read about a sweet surprise White’s husband Allen Ludden threw her on her 49th birthday to show that humans loved her too.
Actress Betty White and her spouse actor Allen Ludden were married from 1963 until he died in 1981. The Hollywood couple met on the game show "Password," and she was seeing another man at the time while Ludden was newly widowed.
According to a friend Jeff Witjas, Ludden was never too busy to say a warm goodbye after the last show aired, adding the game show host pursued White.
(L) Actress Betty White attends the SNL 40th Anniversary Celebration at Rockefeller Plaza on February 15, 2015 in New York City. (R) Betty White and her husband Allen Ludden during a photoshoot at home for the "Password" on February 14, 1972 | Photo: Getty Images
ALLEN PURSUED BETTY
Just recently, Witjas, a long-time friend pal and agent of White’s, told E! News how the starlet’s romance with the television personality began sharing they had an instant connection on all levels:
"From what I remember from talking to Betty, Allen was very charming, and he loved Betty dearly, and he was a very passionate man. He pursued Betty for a while until she said yes to getting married."
Witjas noted that Ludden deserved the credit because he knew what he wanted, and his future wife did as well. He added White wanted to be careful at the beginning of their relationship and that it was one of the best decisions she ever made in her life.
Pictured: Comedian Betty White smiles in a publicity shot from the 1950's for the television | Photo: Getty Images
“The Golden Girls” alum herself had nothing but praise for her beloved late husband and shared what made them fall for each other, saying it was his enthusiasm:
"He was interested in everything. There wasn't anything that he didn't want to know more about and hear about. That's fun to live. What you saw is what you got. He was one of the nicest, dearest people."
Actors Betty White and Allen Ludden for pose for the show the "Password," on June 28, 1962 | Photo: Getty Images
The couple’s love was true and beautiful as White whispered Ludden’s name moments before her death on December 31, 2021, at age 99.
At the beginning of this month, Vicki Lawrence, who worked with White on “Mama’s Family,” exclusively told Paige Six that she contacted co-star and friend Carol Burnett as soon as she heard the devastating news and recalled:
"I texted Carol and said, 'This sucks. I hate this. It's just horrible to see the people you love so much go away.’”
Pictured: Game show host Allen Ludden with his wife Betty White Ludden during a photoshoot at home layout for the "Password" on February 14, 1972 | Photo: Getty Images
Burnett wrote back and said, “I know, I know. I spoke to Betty’s assistant, who was with her when she passed, and she said the very last word out of her mouth was ‘Allen.’”
Lawrence, 72, continued to say it was heartwarming that her dear friend mentioned her beloved husband's name before she took her last breath: "That is so sweet. God, I hope that’s true. For all of us, it’s a lovely thought.”
Pictured: Television personality and emcee Allen Ludden poses for the show coverage of the "Password" on April 2, 1971 | Photo: Getty Images
HOW ALLEN SURPRISED BETTY ON HER 49TH BIRTHDAY
Ludden knew about his wife’s love for animals, and he was always eager to show her that humans love her too. To keep it a surprise, the emcee ensured White never suspected anything.
For her 49th birthday bash, he casually suggested a night out at an upscale restaurant with just the two of them, including White's mother. Ludden bought her a lovely new dress to wear for the evening.
He persuaded White up to the restaurant's second floor, and from every corner of the room emerged her friends: Mary Tyler Moore, Eve Arden, Grant Tinker, Marjorie Landon, Lorne, and Nancy Greene, among others.
Ludden planned the special occasion for his spouse because he knew she expected something big for her 50th birthday and would not expect anything for her 49th.
He also chose an outfit he knew White would not mind being surprised. The "Cleveland" star had a lot of human friends who came with pet creatures in their lives.
Burnett brought her dog, and Barbara Feldon brought her Siamese cat. Peter Lawford brought Blackie; the dog was given to him by President Kennedy, while Greene brought his Labrador.
Jimmy and Gloria Stewart came with the Irish setter whose death ten years later inspired Jimmy to write a special poem that he recited on "The Tonight Show."
Meanwhile, late comedian Paul Lynde brought Harry McAfee, the pampered dog named after his character in "Bye Bye Birdie.”
Rod Sterling brought his Irish setter, and Amanda Blake brought three falcons and two poodles. Shirley Jones brought a menagerie: two rabbits, two turtles, a lizard, and a miniature schnauzer.
Ludden and friends knew about the comedian’s love for animals and showed this with their sweet thought-out surprise. While exotic pets also made a debut White previously shared, she was against wild animals being kept as pets, saying:
“I’m against anyone keeping exotic or wild animals in their home under the pretext of having pets. They want to draw attention to themselves.”
ANIMALS LOVED BETTY TOO
While she was expressively vocal about her adoration for animals, the creatures loved her too, and evidently, there were some sweet situations on her now-defunct TV show “The Pet Set,” which ran from 1971 -1972.
One time, a buffalo stood still when she climbed up on top. Big cats like tigers, lions, and a 500-pound Bengal became pussycats near White, cuddling against her as she wrapped her arms around each of them.
Another instance on the program was when a 600-pound lion named Major sprawled across her legs, pinning her down, and for some reason, it did not scare her but made her laugh aloud because of how adorable the wild beast was.
Animal affection for White was not a new sight for her husband, Ludden. He and his wife belonged to a country club, and the drive there was scenic.
Back in the day, the couple would pass a large farm owned by the Rockefeller family, with many cattle grazing through the vast pastures.
On a drive to the club one day, White said to her spouse: “You never let me talk to these cattle." But he thought she was kidding and kept driving.
The next time, they passed by again, and she said the same thing, and this time around, Ludden pulled over and stopped the car. The nearest cow was about fifty feet away, but White began talking to it, and after at least ten minutes, she had an audience of 200 Black Angus cattle standing at the fence, listening to her.
ONE OF WHITE’S LAST PHOTOS
White would have celebrated her 100th birthday on Monday, January 17, 2022, and her assistant commemorated the day by sharing one of the final photos of the treasured veteran star.
The image, taken on December 20, 2021, showed White seated, looking vibrant and well. Her assistant Kiersten Mikelas captioned the photo:
“She was radiant and beautiful and happy as ever. Thanks to all of you who are doing kind things today and every day to make the world a better place.”
There have been several television and event tributes to White since her passing along with the #BettyWhiteChallenge, which encouraged her fans to donate $5 to animal shelters or animal welfare organizations in her honor.