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Book Review

If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) by Betty White (G.P. Putnam & Sons, 2011)

Betty White

If you like Betty White (and of course you do), you'll love her latest achievement: a memoir, written at the age of 89.

She is witty, chatty, gossipy, and occasionally wise. Most of all, she's Betty—the Betty we've all come to know and admire, if not downright love. She has graced our television and movie screens for more than six decades. That's 63 years that she's been in show biz, she tells us, continually working in one medium or another, taking on new challenges while still enjoying old ones.

Her book reads like a casual dinnertime conversation. Perhaps because she so often plays the wide-eyed, naïve, open, and slightly "dumb blonde" character, she gets away with telling slightly outrageous anecdotes about herself. For example, she relates how overwhelmed she was when receiving the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. As she faced the star-studded audience, she said, "I look out here and everybody is famous. And I've had the privilege of knowing many of you and working with some of you—I've even had a few of you! You know who you are."

George Clooney was next at the podium. She writes, "He saw me walking across the room and said, 'And while I'm here, I'd like to thank Betty White for her discretion.'"

In another recent interview, she was asked, "Is there anything you haven't done in your career that you would still like to do?"

Her reply, having just watched Robert Redford in the film "Out of Africa" for the third time, was "Yes, Robert Redford."

She had never met him, but had a crush on him. After accepting her Screen Actors Guild award, she received a congratulatory letter from Redford's assistant, the contents of which she proudly published in the book.

That's Betty being Betty. She writes about herself as though she were sitting at your kitchen table just as she sat, for so many years, at the table on the set of "The Golden Girls." Betty represents the best of something that's real and true about all of us. She tells us how she turned down a role in a hit movie because the character she'd be playing threw a dog down the chute, and she cared too much about animal welfare to think it would be a good example on the screen, even for laughs.

She's not afraid to show us her human side in this book. We learn about her fears and her passions. She shares bits and pieces from her history with her beloved husband, Allen Ludden, and her friendships with fellow cast members from "The Golden Girls." (She never expected to be the only one surviving.) She generously shares photos from all stages of her life.

One sentence from her book sums up how you'll feel about her when you read it:

"People greet me on the street as a friend, not a celebrity: 'Hi, Betty!'"

Chances are, you already feel that way. If not, Betty's book is another opportunity to let her win you over.