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Betty White, who created two of the most memorable characters in sitcom history, the nymphomaniacal Sue Ann Nivens in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and the sweet but dim Rose Nylund in "The Golden Girls" passed away on New Year's Eve at her home in Los Angeles. She was 99 and it was just three weeks before her 100th birthday.

Betty won five Primetime Emmys and one competitive Daytime Emmy, as well as a lifetime achievement award, in a television career that spanned seven decades. The 2014 edition of "Guinness World Records" certified her career as the longest ever for a female entertainer. She played many different characters over the years but she'll be most fondly remembered for her role as Rose in one of the most memorable, often gritty but gentle, comedy programmes of all time.

Whether you're of my generation, who watched The Golden Girls during their original run between 1985 and 1992, or have only recently discovered it from re-runs on freeview or satellite tv, it's a tv sitcom that will always be remembered. It's especially true now as the entire eight seasons are now available in DVD boxsets or for download. Recently OutUK correspondent Tim Nasson spoke to Golden Girl Betty White about the show and its gay appeal.
"Isn't it remarkable," recalls Betty White, to me during a recent phone conversation from her home in Beverly Hills. "The gay bars, when we were on Saturday nights on NBC here in the US, first run, would shut down the music when the show came on and the dancing wouldn't start back up again until the end credits were over. It was wonderful."

Since the show's debut thirty or more years ago, there has always seemed to be a fascination between gay men and boys and The Golden Girls.

Betty White, thinks she knew why. "I think the gay community likes old ladies," she says, laughing. "I know I get a tremendous amount of mail from men who talk about watching the show when they were growing up with their mothers or grandmothers, but mostly it's the grandmothers that they watched with. Maybe, in a way, we were an extension. Maybe we were their surrogate grandmothers."

While Betty White and the rest of the "Girls," who are now all also sadly departed Estelle Getty, Bea Arthur and Rue McLanahan may be best known for their roles in the salty, senior sitcom, they each began their half century careers long before The Golden Girls hit the airwaves.

The Golden Girls: The Complete First Season is available online as an import from Amazon
"I think most people of a certain age," says White, speaking of anyone under forty, "thinks of me only as Rose, but the older generation, of course, also knows me as Sue Ann from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, where instead of playing the truly naive Rose, I was the neighbourhood nymphomaniac." For that role, White won two Emmy Awards.

It will probably come as a surprise to most that for The Golden Girls, Betty White was originally cast as Blanche....



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