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An ‘Original’ ‘Role Model’ Who Fought for Her Co-Stars and Swilled Vodka and Hot Dogs: Stars Remember Betty White

In the final hours of another cruel year, storytellers around the world are mourning the loss of Betty White, a comedic treasure, an iconic ray of sass and class, and the last living Golden Girl. She died on Friday weeks before her hundredth birthday.

Here are just a few of their tributes, as the entertainment industry raises its collective glass to a woman who lived life passionately and without regret — someone who once described herself as “the luckiest old broad on two feet.”

In conversation with Rolling Stone, actress Wendie Malick describes White — whom she co-starred with on Hot In Cleveland — as an inspiration who “forever touched anyone” she met. “I cannot credit anyone more than Betty for giving me a sense of purpose and joy about my third act,” she says. “I turned 60 when I worked with her, and she was about to turn 90. Just seeing her as a role model was just so freeing and gave me so much hope and confidence about this next chapter, which for women isn’t always an easy one.”

“Boy, did Betty ever have a fabulous run,” Malick says. “I think she lived her life full-out, right up until the end. She was probably ready, is my sense.” She adds that “the world could sure use more Bettys. I hope that there are people who will follow in her footsteps. But she truly was an original.”

“She was just the perfect person. This is a tremendous loss,” tap-dancing legend Arthur Duncan tells Rolling Stone. Duncan, 88, was a regular featured performer on White’s NBC variety talk show, The Betty White Show, in the Fifties. When some Southern stations objected to his appearances due to his skin color, White refused to budge on his inclusion. “There was some resistance that was put up. Some people were calling in and objecting to me being on the show. She just thrust it off like it was nothing,” he says.

“It’s very heart-warming that she so preciously pursued fairness,” he adds. “She had so much respect for the people who surrounded her. She just loved everybody. And everybody loved her. I’ve never heard one unkind word about her.” Duncan adds that White gave him his “first shot” in television. “I know at the time, it was such a surprise that I went on that show. I’ll never, never forget what she did for me and many others. I have so much respect and love for her.”

Ryan Reynolds also shared the screen with White, co-starring in 2009 comedy The Proposal. Reynolds, a longtime fan, has jokingly referred to White as his ex-girlfriend over the years, and in a just-released People profile, White quipped that Reynolds still “can’t get over his thing” for her. After hearing the news of her death, Reynolds tweeted that “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. Now you know the secret.”

Seth Meyers, who was still a regular on Saturday Night Live in 2011 when White hosted the show, also took to Twitter: “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.”

Child-actor-turned-musician Jenny Lewis — who made a guest appearance on Golden Girls as a “Sunshine Cadet” scout that White kicks to the curb in a 1987 episode — posted a clip of a scene they did together. Her caption: “Thank you Betty White for being so kind to this kid behind the scenes and for teaching me the most important life lesson, ‘sometimes life just isn’t fair kiddo.’”

Singer/songwriters Tegan and Sara also took to Twitter, writing: “Golden Girls was our favorite show to watch with our Dad Saturday nights. When we were 9, his TV broke. The screen went black, but still had sound. We begged to get a new one. ‘Why, we know what the Golden Girls look like!’ he laughed. We listened for months. RIP Betty White.”

Also via Twitter, comedian Mike Birbiglia neatly summed up the magic of White’s finesse: “I loved Betty White’s performances so much because I never knew where the script began or ended,” he wrote. “I just knew I was laughing.”

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