Betty White Revealed How Mary Tyler Moore’s ‘Halo Would Slip’ Once in a While During Their Occasional Lunch Outings

The recent passing of Betty White has viewers revisiting her former sitcoms. Many fans remember her portrayal of innocent Rose Nyland on The Golden Girls, yet White played a completely opposite character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show as the saucy Sue Ann Nivens. White was close friends with Moore when she was hired for the role and revealed how her pal would occasionally have her tag along on some decadent lunches.

Mary Tyler Moore and Betty White of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'
Mary Tyler Moore and Betty White of ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ | CBS Photo Archive

Betty White joined the cast of ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show’ in 1973

White was introduced as Happy Homemaker Sue Ann Nivens in season four of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The comedy actor recalled discussing her debut with Moore, who enjoyed ribbing her pal about the part.

“I dialed Mary’s number and said, ‘Guess who is coming on your show next week?’ “ White described in her book, If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t). “When I told her, she said, ‘Oh, no, you don’t! I may not butt into the show often, but I do have veto power!’ With that kind of response, I knew she was just as tickled by the idea as I was.”

The character of Sue Ann was such a hit, White became a regular cast member until the show ended after its seventh season. 

“My career had been given a giant boost in the right direction,” White remarked. “That first year, I did 12 out of 22 shows, and then seven or eight for the remaining three seasons. But even when she wasn’t there, Sue Ann was always mentioned (not always flatteringly), which kept her alive.”

Mary Tyler Moore had a disciplined diet – most of the time

White knew of Moore’s strict dietary habits due to her diabetes, and noted how her cast mate would usually spend her lunch hour.

“While the rest of us were chowing down, she used to use the lunch break to do what she liked best,” White explained of Moore. “A mirror would be rolled in onstage, along with a piano and piano player (he walked in). Soon, several of Mary’s dance-class buddies would arrive, along with her dance teacher. They would have an hour dance class every day, which was a delight to watch.”

Still, there were times when Moore would stray from her usual routine and bring White along for a dining adventure.

“This was all very noble, but once in a great while, Mary’s halo would slip,” The Golden Girls alum wrote. “She’d get a gleam in her eye around 11 in the morning, look at me and say, ‘What are we doing for lunch?’ That meant it was a binge day.”

French fries and ice cream were occasionally on the ‘Mary Tyler Moore’ lunch break menu

White gave details of their decadent lunch items she and Moore would feast on during these rare “binge days”. 

“We would head for Art’s Delicatessen,” she remembered. “Sometimes one or two of the others would join us, but usually it was just the two of us sinners. We would indulge in humongous sandwiches and French fries. … on the way back to the studio we would hit Baskin-Robbins for double-decker ice cream cones!”

With Moore’s advocacy of a national diabetes nonprofit organization, White was quick to point out that these edible splurges were few and far between.

“Let me hasten to add that this happened very rarely and long ago,” White wrote. “Mary devotes so much of her time, energy, and money to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation that the above was only an aberration. We knew it was wrong.”

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