Betty White and Johnny Carson Disagreed That This Honor Was ‘Really Kind of Dumb’

Betty White received all kinds of acclaim in her 80-plus-year career in television. But when Tonight Show host, Johnny Carson, brought up one big celebration during an interview, White confessed she thought it was “really kind of dumb.”  

In response, Carson flatly disagreed with her. What was the honor and why did she seemingly downplay a tribute dedicated solely to her? Plus, which of her feisty, famous friends did she say was her “chaperone” to the event?   

Betty White in a green top, sitting with her hands clasped on her lap and smiling with Johnny Carson, in a suit and also smiling
Betty White and Johnny Carson | Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Betty White was honored as the Chicago Museum of Broadcasting’s ‘Woman of the Year’

While chatting with Carson on The Tonight Show in 1990, the two spoke about a trip she’d recently made to the Chicago Museum of Broadcasting. Notably, then-future and now-former host, Jay Leno, sat in on the interview, having been the guest before White.

In a clip available on YouTube, White described the museum itself as a “marvelous place” and then somewhat shyly added they made her their “Woman of the Year.” So, that meant they dedicated a whole week to her and shared a retrospective of her career.

“You don’t feel comfortable saying that do you?” Carson asked, noting her hesitance to talk about some of the details. And to that, White responded with a chuckle, “Well, I mean, it really is kind of dumb.”

After a laughing Carson explicitly disagreed with her, Leno added, “Don’t worry about next year!”

Betty White was glad to have forgotten some of the things she’d done in her career

White admitted she’d enjoyed a spectacular career by that point and said the retrospective included a few things she didn’t want to remember. “Some of them I was glad to have forgotten that I’d done,” she told Carson.

So, after clarification, it seemed she was saying excitement over some of the marks in her career was “really kind of dumb,” and not the entirety of the honor. She later told Carson the “dumbest” thing she’d ever done was a commercial for pinto beans.

And she did note to the host, who was an old friend by then, how her parents came from Chicago. So, she thought they would have been delighted to see the big signs saluting her in the city.

Estelle Getty was Betty White’s ‘chaperone’ in Chicago

Betty White in a silky, white top, standing with Estelle Getty in purple
Betty White and Estelle Getty | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

During their Tonight Show chat, Carson mentioned to White how he’d heard she’d been traveling with a “chaperone” who accompanied her to Chicago. White confirmed she did, indeed, have a companion — her Golden Girlsco-star, Estelle Getty.

After filming an episode, the two stars were picked up and flown to their destination on the Disney plane. “I tell you, I’ve been living very high on the hog,” White told Carson of the experience.

The host then noted that Getty was probably the hardest of the show’s cast for fans to recognize without her Sophia Petrillo attire. And White agreed, with an addendum: “Until she opens her mouth.”

She said Getty accompanied her and spoke in her honor for the event. According to White, she “didn’t have a nice thing to say.”

“If she ever said anything nice, I’d think, ‘Why is Estelle mad at me?'” she explained of their friendship.

In the end, White concluded it was all a fun experience, despite any parts that were “kind of dumb.”

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