Return to Transcripts main page
Piers Morgan Live
Vanessa Williams Tells All; Interview with Betty White
Aired April 21, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, Vanessa Williams. From beauty queen to Broadway to TV star with a bit of scandal in between.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VANESSA WILLIAMS, ACTRESS: Everyone makes mistakes. Mine was on a grand scale.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Tonight, Vanessa Williams opens up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(on camera) You're quite a naughty girl, aren't you, Vanessa?
WILLIAMS: Naughty - fertile, maybe, yes. Naughty - I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Plus, my exclusive hot live date with America's comedy sweetheart.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETTY WHITE, COMEDIAN: I'm just sitting here enjoying my view.
MORGAN: The incomparable and utterly delectable Betty White from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" to "Golden Girls."
Comeback star turn in "The Proposal."
WHITE: Let's see if we can find your boobs. They're in there somewhere. Feels like an Easter egg hunt.
MORGAN: Betty White is back, and she's as sharp and naughty as ever. This is PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
Good evening. Tonight, two extraordinary interviews, two amazing women. The eternally naughty and utterly hilarious, Betty White.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: People say to me, "Betty White, what drives her? What motivates her to still do this?"
WHITE: I happen to love what I do for a living, and they keep asking me. And as long as they - if they really want to get rid of me, don't ask me.
Because I'll say - no is hard for me to say. I used to be able to say it when I was younger. I said no quite a bit. Not often enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: And Vanessa Williams - beautiful, brainy, talented, and a bit of a rebel. Tonight, she reveals what drives her from Miss America to stage, screen, and music stardom.
MORGAN: The signature song from a multitalented superstar, Vanessa Williams. An actress, singer, and of course, a former beauty queen. She's now written a candid, moving, and revealing memoir titled "You Have No Idea."
And Vanessa Williams joins me now to tell me what I have no idea about.
WILLIAMS: That's right.
MORGAN: What do I have no idea about?
WILLIAMS: The title of the book originally came to me because I had gotten some interested about doing a memoir for years. And I kept putting it off and asking, you know - when I would recollect things, I'd ask my mom, you know, what happened here and there.
And I was on the road. What was going on? It was such a more compelling piece involving my mother's recollection, what she was doing at home and what I was doing on the road -
MORGAN: Well, I love this twist because this is you and your mom on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
WILLIAMS: That's right.
MORGAN: She looks like your younger sister.
WILLIAMS: Well, she's -
MORGAN: You are looking fabulous. So great cover. But I love the introduction because - talking of sales pitches for a book, "Throughout my life mum's lessons have helped me survive it all - scandal, love, marriages, divorces, disappointments, children, death, failure, success."
MORGAN: We've got a lot to talk about.
WILLIAMS: We have a lot to talk about. But "You Have No Idea" - it came from when I had won Miss Greater Syracuse as a sophomore, my sophomore year at Syracuse.
And when they crowned me all my friends who were watching and in the audience cheering me on, I said, "They have no idea who they just chose." Because I was a normal kid.
You know, I was not this archetypal beauty queen who had been groomed her whole life. I was a New York chick who was in my sophomore year studying musical theater, and I had lived my life. And it's in the book.
MORGAN: You certainly had lived your life. And we'll come to some of that. Let's get back to September 1983, when you're crowned the first ever black Miss America.
MORGAN: Did you have any concept in that moment of just what was going to happen with your life, your career? Because it went crazy after that.
WILLIAMS: No idea. I was 20 years old, about to start my junior year abroad, actually, in London. Syracuse, their musical theater department has a junior year abroad option.
And I was really excited about starting my year. And I thought I would, you know, get some scholarship money and be able to go back. And I had no idea what would happen.
MORGAN: There you are. You're the winner. And you immediately start getting attacked by almost everybody. You had racist whites who threaten to throw acid on you. You get messages -
WILLIAMS: Kill me, yes.
MORGAN: Yes. I mean, unbelievable. You also get the black community saying you're too white. They used lighting to make you look whiter, that's why you won.
You're getting it from everybody. There you are, young, fresh-faced, beautiful young woman. You should be having the great moment of your life, and it's like hell. What are you thinking when it all starts erupting like this?
WILLIAMS: Well, there was a large part that was fantastic and positive and overwhelming. And you know, at 20 years old, I mean, again, this wasn't my dream, to be a beauty queen.
My dream was to finish school, go to Yale for graduate work, and be on Broadway. So the fact that I was sidetracked and became this symbol overnight, every comment that I made was going to be scrutinized and every comment that I made was going to be the symbol of an entire race. It was a lot of pressure.
MORGAN: Huge pressure.
WILLIAMS: Yes, yes. So that's when I started getting my battle wounds. You know, when I wasn't black enough, when I didn't - people didn't think I had the black experience. And it doesn't mean we're any less or more black than anybody else.
MORGAN: Nine months after you win, you're engulfed in scandal.
MORGAN: I love that phrase. And nude pictures published in "Penthouse" magazine. Let's look at you resigning here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: I must relinquish my title at Miss America. It had never been and it is not my desire to injure in any way the Miss America title or pageant.
I feel at this time I should expend my energies in launching what I hope will be a successful career in the entertainment business. I feel my new career will be the greatest challenge in my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: A dramatic moment for you. Probably a pretty sad and awful moment in many ways. You write, "You have no idea who I am and what I can do."
This is what you're thinking at the time, "One day the dust will settle. You'll see what I'm made of. You'll accept me for who I really am." Do you feel that's happened? Do you feel you achieved that goal?
WILLIAMS: Yes, partly. I think it's always a constant challenge to prove who you are. My whole career, you know, when I first got acclaim on Broadway - oh, I didn't know she could sing and dance and act.
You know, when I first had a recording hit, "Oh, I didn't know she could sing." So I've always had to kind of prove myself. And right now, I'm in my six years I've been on television.
It's been fantastic, and I've gotten three Emmy nominations. Oh, I didn't know she could act. I didn't know she was funny. So I'm used to it.
MORGAN: Do you feel like a little part of you has constantly been having to prove people wrong?
WILLIAMS: But there's no pressure, you know, when you're always underestimated -
MORGAN: Satisfying, too, isn't it? WILLIAMS: Exactly. I love it.
MORGAN: Your mother always said to you, whatever you do, darling - she calls you darling, my mother calls me darling - don't pose for nude pictures.
WILLIAMS: Yes. That's starts the chapter.
MORGAN: What happened? Why didn't you listen to your mum?
WILLIAMS: Because I'm a rebel. You know, we start the book off, and it's called "Thrill Rides." And we start off the book talking about me as a nine-year-old getting on a bike and going as fast as I can with my cousin on the back.
And my mom said, "Don't put your cousin on the back, hold on to the handlebars and be safe." And of course, I put her on the back as soon as I rounded the corner where she couldn't see me, and we raced down the hill as fast as we could.
And that's who I am. And I drive a Maserati. I know you prefer fine cars as well. I love to ride fast horses. There's part of me that loves - I mean, as a kid I would go on, you know, a roller coaster 13 times in a row just to see how many times we could do it.
MORGAN: What I loved about it is your schoolteachers clearly had no idea who they were teaching because they described you as a kid who obeyed rules and followed directions.
In fact, you smoked pot and inhaled, drank beer, had premarital sex, and posed for nude pictures. You weren't quite what your teachers thought, were you?
WILLIAMS: You have no idea.
MORGAN: Let's take a little break. Let's come back with more shocking revelations. There's so much in here.
WILLIAMS: There's a lot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Are those gladiator sandals? Are we in ancient Rome? Will you be wrestling a lion? Take those off. Burn these. You are fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Vanessa Williams in "Ugly Betty." She was nominated for three Emmys for her role as Wilhelmina. That was a great part, wasn't it?
WILLIAMS: I loved Wilhelmina.
MORGAN: The stuff you dream of, isn't it? WILLIAMS: I think so, wearing fabulous clothing and bossing people around. It doesn't get better than that.
MORGAN: It's a very rich book in terms of the content, the detail. It's very inspiring in many ways and actually sad in many ways as well. It's very moving to read it.
You know, you had this awful experience when you were molested. You were 10 years old. It was another woman. She was 18, a young woman. Tell me about that and the effect it had on your life as you got older.
WILLIAMS: Well, it was one of those things where, as a mother of four kids, you know, and also as my mother read it, she didn't know about it before I wrote the book -
MORGAN: Is that right?
WILLIAMS: No. She had no idea.
MORGAN: When did you have that conversation?
WILLIAMS: Actually, we never had it. We did our pages separately and then read each other's pages, so -
MORGAN: So your mother read it?
WILLIAMS: Read it, yes.
MORGAN: Wow. Well, tell me what happened.
WILLIAMS: And knowing that we're both lionesses, that's probably one of the reasons why I never told her, because I knew that she'd go and kick some ass.
But also, you know, you don't want to divulge those kinds of things because they're - you know, they're shameful.
MORGAN: Tell me what happened.
WILLIAMS: Well, you know, I was on a summer vacation with a family friend, and the people that were visiting were our family friends' friends. So we really didn't know them, but we knew our family friends.
And this particular - there was a sister and brother that we were visiting. And the girl, who was 18, was kind of our tour guide and took us to Disneyland and, you know, all the sights out here in California, and we were in New York.
And one particular night, she snuck into where myself and my friend were sleeping. And she told me to get down on the floor, and she went down on me. And I was 10 years old.
And I knew I shouldn't be doing - or she shouldn't be doing it, and I didn't say anything. And I knew that it was wrong. And I might have said something once I finished our vacation, but I remember coming down the jet way, coming back to New York.
And my uncle, my dad's younger brother, had just died. And I saw his face, and I knew that it was a major catastrophe in our family.
And I said, you know what, I'm not even going to bring any of this up because I don't even know how to deal with it myself, and I was 10.
And I really didn't reflect on it until I was in college, you know, with my boyfriend and I don't know how it came up. I said, "You know what? I think I was molested."
I mean, I shouldn't have had that happen to me at such a young age by somebody who was 18, and I was taken advantage of. So you know, I didn't really think about how wrong it was until I was an adult.
MORGAN: When your mother read it, what did she say to you?
WILLIAMS: She didn't say anything. I think she was saddened and shocked. And I'm glad that I told her now once my dad had passed because you know, my dad was very sensitive.
And again, as a parent, all you want to do is protect your child. And it's a lot to handle because you feel like you're out of control.
MORGAN: What happened to that woman? Because you -
WILLIAMS: I have no idea.
MORGAN: You do name her in the book.
WILLIAMS: Well, no, that's not her real name. No, legal wouldn't let me use the real name.
MORGAN: You haven't had any contact again?
WILLIAMS: No. No, no, no. No.
MORGAN: You mentioned your father. He clearly was a hugely influential figure in your life. I mean, so much so that your mother believes that this pedestal that you put him on made it very difficult, I think, for other men because no one ever lived up to your dad, who was clearly this strong, independent-minded, proud, you know, great, great man.
WILLIAMS: Talented, smart, could do anything. Yes.
MORGAN: A hard act to follow.
WILLIAMS: It's a hard act to follow. And - but you know, I did marry lovely men, so I don't want to say that everyone paled in comparison. But my dad could do practically everything.
I mean, he was a musician. He could take an engine apart and put it back together again. He could build a deck, put on a roof. He could garden and grow anything. He knew current events. He could play Trivial Pursuit with you and sing a song. I mean, he was so skilled that - and it was always there.
MORGAN: Of all the things that you did, what made him the proudest, do you think?
WILLIAMS: Oh, I would say Broadway because he knew that that was my dream. And I had always sang and danced and acted and put on shows whenever we could, after any dinner me and my cousins or me.
And my brother would sing songs and perform. So I think opening night on Broadway was his - was the best for us.
MORGAN: What did he say to you afterwards?
WILLIAMS: We had a reception at my parents' house, and he just said that he was very proud and he knew that I accomplished a dream.
And he was very proud of me and I worked really hard and he was just proud that night.
MORGAN: Amazing moment, to watch your daughter play on Broadway, I think.
WILLIAMS: Yes. Live a dream.
MORGAN: I always think Broadway, if you're an actress and you do television, movies, whatever, when you go on Broadway, it's the ultimate test, isn't it? Because there's no escaping, is there?
WILLIAMS: No escaping. You have a star quality or not. You can captivate the stage or not. And the role that I was in as Aurora in "Kiss of the Spiderwoman," the Spiderwoman, you can't fake your dancing, you can't fake the singing. You can't fake the appeal.
And I got laughs where there hadn't gotten laughs before, and I wore these fantastic outfits. And also, besides having my family there, I had all my musical theater majors who'd gone to Syracuse with me who had shared the stage with me, you know, when we were in college. And I got a chance to live the dream for all of us.
MORGAN: Do you think you would have achieved all this if it hadn't been for the notoriety and fame of the scandal, of the Miss America scandal? Do you think you would have had the platform to realize your dreams?
WILLIAMS: Absolutely. I don't think I would have had the initial platform at age 21 or, you know, at 20. But it didn't take away my talent.
It was actually - it kind of negated a lot of talent or any kind of hope that I had to be taken seriously for a long time.
People who had performed with me knew what I could do, but people that did not just thought I was a pageant girl and one-dimensional and I was lucky and one-hit wonder. I mean, it took a long time to have longevity.
MORGAN: Did you lose a lot of parts because of that? Were you slightly stigmatized by what happened?
WILLIAMS: Oh, very stigmatized.
WILLIAMS: I don't think slightly. Yes. Because not only was I coming in the door as a former beauty queen but a scandalized former beauty queen.
So I think a lot of meetings where - I was taken to a lot of meetings for people just to check it out and say they, you know, brought me in the room.
MORGAN: Obviously, if you've had a good relationship with your father as a daughter - I just had a baby daughter. It must be pretty hard to be caught up in a nude photo scandal. What did your dad say to you?
WILLIAMS: My dad - I was in hiding. The press was - this is before I made my announcement. And I had come off the road straight from - Little Rock, Arkansas was my last miss America appearance.
And they whisked me into my lawyer's house at the time, which was right down the street from my parents' house. So the press was camped out on my parents' lawn, trying to get pictures of anything, any kind of movement in and out.
And I was staying down the street at my lawyer's house, and my dad came to pick me up and go for a little talk. And we sat in the car and he said, "Well, Ness, you really blew it."
I said, "Yes, you're right, Daddy. I did." And that's all I needed.
MORGAN: A great way to handle that.
MORGAN: Why try and hide what's happened?
WILLIAMS: You know, I knew my parents were there. They love me. You know, everyone makes mistakes. Mine was on a grand scale. And they never said, "I told you not to do that and you're an idiot and look what you're doing to your life."
They said, "Wow, you're the one who's going to have to handle this. We can't protect from you this."
MORGAN: Was it any comfort to you that it was a massively successful publication, the Vanessa Williams nude pictures?
WILLIAMS: No, no.
MORGAN: Did any part of you go, "Hey, at least I didn't bomb?"
WILLIAMS: No, no, no. I didn't like that at all.
MORGAN: Let's take a break. I want to come back and talk "Desperate Housewives." I want to know how you all really got on. You can tell me, Vanessa.
WILLIAMS: I will.
MORGAN: You can take me into your confidence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: There you go. That's how you bait the hook. Oh, I won't need a ride. I'm going home with Keith.
MARCIA CROSS, ACTRESS: Oh, I don't think so. He just left.
WILLIAMS: Oh, he's pulling the car around. Do you think I should play the "I hate going into a dark house alone" card or the more blatant "I'm not wearing underwear?" Because I'm not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Vanessa Williams joined the ladies of Wisteria Lane on "Desperate Housewives." She's back with me now. So how did you all get on? Because you're all quite tough characters, aren't you? Lots of rumors there was like simmering tensions.
WILLIAMS: Not at all.
MORGAN: Catfights at dawn.
WILLIAMS: Not at all. The women welcomed me with open arms. They're all fantastic. They're all really different and different from their characters.
And I've had such a wonderful ride for two years to be part of an iconic show like that. You know, it's sad. We're getting down to - I think we have another week to go and it's done.
MORGAN: How do you feel about that?
WILLIAMS: It's getting sad. We're losing part of the crew. People are moving on to new shows. And we're trying to figure out what the next chapter is in our lives.
MORGAN: Must be a strange moment when something so iconic comes to an end.
WILLIAMS: Yes. Yes. Well, like what are they going to do with Wisteria Lane? What's going to happen to these houses? But every - you know, I've been to Felicity's house for game night, which is fantastic.
Teri Hatcher has an annual Halloween party that I go to. Eva - I went to one of her - she had a masquerade, roaring '20s birthday party last year.
I mean, everyone has their own thing and their own style. And Marcia's, you know, a rock, and I love her. It's been a really extraordinary experience.
MORGAN: Let's turn to your love life.
MORGAN: Well, you've written about it. So why shouldn't I? Unusually, I'd say, you've managed to go through two divorces but you stayed good friends with both of the men.
WILLIAMS: Because I have children.
MORGAN: I've been through the same, so I know that that in the end is the glue, isn't it?
WILLIAMS: Yes, yes. Absolutely. I mean, and I have to co-parent. I mean, there are decisions that are made. And no matter who's, you know, making more money, it's a joint decision.
So you know, my first husband I had three wonderful kids with - and we just were together for Easter, you know, the past couple weeks. And you know, we're great friends. We talk about the kids a lot.
But also, you know, he congratulates me on achievements and I do for him, too.
MORGAN: How many times would you say you've been properly in love?
WILLIAMS: Oh, boy. One two - probably four.
MORGAN: And you married two of them?
MORGAN: Or am I making an assumption there?
WILLIAMS: Well, I do mention in the book that the two marriages that I ended up getting married to - I was pregnant both times that I got married.
The first time I was with my husband, at the time my fiance, for two years. So we knew each other well and were planning on getting married, but Melanie kind of sped up the process.
And then with Rick, we had dated for about a year. And again, you know, Sasha was a surprise. And that definitely - we got married within three weeks. That was the speediest one.
MORGAN: You're quite a naughty girl, aren't you, Vanessa?
WILLIAMS: Naughty - fertile, maybe, yes. Naughty - I don't know.
MORGAN: Have you matured fully, or are you still slightly naughty? WILLIAMS: I have nothing going on in my life now, so I have nothing to be naughty about.
MORGAN: You say that with a sense of real regret in your voice.
WILLIAMS: I would love to be in a relationship.
MORGAN: Would you?
WILLIAMS: Yes, I would. I'm a romantic. I love having a partner. I love - I'm one of those girls that loves to cook and bake and provide and make - my home is my sanctuary. And I love making my home and my family, my dog, everything, you know, a part of my life.
MORGAN: And you've been out with Eddie Murphy, Robert De Niro -
WILLIAMS: I didn't go out with him. I saw him. He was my first -
MORGAN: He hit on you.
WILLIAMS: He hit on me, which was great.
MORGAN: It's like going out, isn't it? What a moment, to be hit on by Eddie Murphy.
MORGAN: You did go out with Robert De Niro?
WILLIAMS: I went to his house.
MORGAN: Is that the same thing?
WILLIAMS: Yes. Well, you know, I mention in the book that a producer friend of mine said, "Listen, I've got this project that Robert De Niro wants to meet with you about, but you can't tell anyone."
"So I'll pick you up and I'll bring you down to his apartment. It's a Broadway show, but don't tell anyone. It's a Broadway musical with him and you, but don't tell anyone."
I thought wow, a musical? Finally, on Broadway. This is my chance. With Robert De Niro. Wouldn't this be fantastic? And nothing ever came of the meeting. But it was an opportunity to -
MORGAN: To meet Robert De Niro.
WILLIAMS: To meet Robert De Niro. Exactly. That's what came out of that.
MORGAN: Do you think it was ever going to be a Broadway thing out of that meeting?
WILLIAMS: I don't think so. I was 21 and naive.
MORGAN: What have you learned about men? If I could find for you now the perfect man based on all you've learned about love, romance, divorce, heartbreak, what would he be like?
WILLIAMS: Available and available for a relationship and not afraid of a relationship. Accomplished and not afraid of a woman who is accomplished as well.
There's nothing wrong - there's nothing wrong with being accomplished. There's nothing to be afraid about. There's no competition necessary.
Has to have a great sense of humor and love to laugh at life and on a daily basis. Has to be smart. Has to be well-traveled and willing to explore and be adventurous. I love to travel.
MORGAN: That's quite a long checklist, Vanessa. I mean -
WILLIAMS: I'm just getting started.
MORGAN: Luckily, it is CNN. There will be men watching who I suspect -
WILLIAMS: There you go, worldwide.
MORGAN: Will fill this criteria.
WILLIAMS: Here we go.
MORGAN: Consider this an audition.
MORGAN: Anybody out there who fulfills that whole checklist, you can contact me. I will pass on the best suitors to Vanessa Williams. I don't think it's going to be very long, Vanessa. I've got to be honest with you.
WILLIAMS: I hope not.
MORGAN: It's been a great pleasure. It's a great book.
WILLIAMS: Thank you so much.
MORGAN: And I love the fact that you and your mum did it together. It really gives a very special quality to it.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
MORGAN: She has certainly put up with a lot, I'd say.
WILLIAMS: She has.
MORGAN: But you're rewarding her now.
WILLIAMS: And I did buy her a Mercedes for her 60th birthday. So I paid her back.
MORGAN: You know what, Mom, you're not doing too badly.
It's been a real pleasure.
WILLIAMS: Thank you so much.
MORGAN: Nice to see you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW")
"SUE ANN NIVENS": Lou, you're so good, so strong. Such nice chubby little fingers. They're like 10 tiny sausages.
"LOU GRANT": Come on, Sue Ann. This is a place of business.
(END VIDEO CLIP, "THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW")
MORGAN: A classic scene from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," Betty White making us laugh then. She hasn't stopped making us laugh since for what seems like that the entire history of the planet, the Golden Girl's been entertaining us at the age of -- I don't want say how hold you are. A gentleman doesn't do that.
She's still making us laugh, and Betty White joins me now.
WHITE: Is 90 the word you're looking for?
MORGAN: Don't say you're 90. Don't kill the magic.
WHITE: Oh, I'm sorry.
MORGAN: You look about 30.
WHITE: Yes. Well, that's only around here.
MORGAN: But it's taken my 15 months to lure you into my den.
WHITE: Oh --
MORGAN: Why have you been playing so hard to get?
WHITE: I just wanted you to really want me.
WHITE: No, sweetie. It's all been my fault. And I know we've tried to work this out. But we finally did.
MORGAN: No, I've been available. It's your damn schedule. You're the busiest 90-year-old ever.
WHITE: It's -- well, nothing wrong with that if you're enjoying it.
MORGAN: There's only one way you can make this up to me, this terrible delay in the way you've been tormenting me. WHITE: Yes?
MORGAN: I want you to kiss my chubby fingers in the way you just did in that clip.
Oh, my God. This is the most erotic thing that's ever happened to me.
WHITE: You poor baby.
MORGAN: My wife's last words to me tonight before I came down here were, "Watch yourself with Betty White." She said, "She's the ultimate cougar."
WHITE: I am, I am. In my own head. Not any place else, but in my head, I am the ultimate cougar, animal lover that I am.
MORGAN: I know. I know. Now tell me something. I've been curious about this. Why do you still want to be so busy at 90? You're all over the place. You're on this show. You're doing "Saturday Night Live." You're appearing in movies. You're having this great time.
People say to me, Betty White, what drives her? What motivates her to still do this?
WHITE: I happen to love what I do for a living. And they keep asking me. And as long as they -- if they really want to get rid of me, don't ask me. (Inaudible). No is hard for me to say.
I used to be able to say it. When I was younger, I said no quite a bit, not often enough. But I just love what I do.
MORGAN: Why does America love you so much, do you think? When you look at the longevity of your career -- people say you've come back. You have never really have been away. I mean, you've been incredibly successful now for six, seven decades. Why, do you think? What is the Betty White magic?
WHITE: It's not magic. I think it's familiarity. I've been around so long that the kids kind of grew up seeing me. And their parents kind of grew up seeing me. And their grandparents kind of grew up seeing me. I've just been there all that time. And I think it's familiarity.
MORGAN: I have three sons. Two of them are teenagers. And the moment I said I was interviewing you-- they're from Britain and they're on a holiday over here at the moment -- and they said to me, "Oh, Dad, she's that cool lady from 'The Proposal,'" immediately.
WHITE: Oh, bless their hearts. Oh, please give them my love.
MORGAN: I will. I'm keeping you away from the oldest. He's 18.
WHITE: Well --
MORGAN: Tell me about your life. I want to know. You've just been to Vegas for the weekend. I have just been to Vegas for the weekend. We were both in Sin City at the same time.
WHITE: We were in Sin City. But I went in yesterday afternoon and came home this morning, the NAB convention, National Association (inaudible).
MORGAN: You were being honored.
WHITE: I was inducted into their Hall of Fame. It was a big thrill.
WHITE: Yes, it is amazing. Tell me about it. But it was interesting. But I was glad to get on that plane and come home.
MORGAN: Yes, but I'm told you get up at 6:00 in the morning. You have your wonderful dog that you live with. And you tend to your dog. Then you basically work all day long and you don't get to bed sometimes until 1:30 in the morning. Then you just carry on.
WHITE: Well, I don't know why. I don't seem to require a lot of sleep. I just -- if I get four, five good hours, I'm fine. But sleeping is sort of dull. There's a lot of other good stuff that you can do without just lying down and closing your eyes.
MORGAN: You have this incredible energy. A lot of people, I guess, they get to 65, 70, they start to give up on life. Is the secret to your kind of passionate energy at your age just saying, no, I'm going to carry on being this lively spirit? I'm not going to let just old age take over.
WHITE: Well, I think old age is all up in here. I think you -- I just love what I do, as I say, for a living. And the fact that I'm still getting offers at this age is incredible.
MORGAN: Are we still talking professional offers?
WHITE: Yes, mostly.
MORGAN: I mean, you are still a pin-up for many people because of the "The Golden Girls." I mean, do you still get men making inappropriate suggestions?
WHITE: Well --
MORGAN: Maybe you don't see them as inappropriate.
WHITE: That's the thing. It's your point of view as to what's inappropriate.
MORGAN: I want to take a little look now at a clip from "The Golden Girls," because this is why so many love you.
WHITE: Oh, we had such fun.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE GOLDEN GIRLS")
"ROSE NYLUND": You know what I don't understand? I don't understand why he sent you flowers at all. I mean, two days ago you hated each other. And you know what else I don't understand? I don't understand how two people who go off to a business meeting end up in bed together.
And you know what else I don't understand? I don't understand why you didn't tell him this morning exactly how you felt.
"DOROTHY ZBORNAK": Is that it, Rose? I mean, are you finished? Or is there something else that you don't understand?
"ROSE NYLUND": Well, actually, there is. I don't understand how a Thermos keeps things both hot and cold.
(END VIDEO CLIP, "THE GOLDEN GIRLS")
MORGAN: My first thought, looking at you looking at yourself there, is are you wearing the same top that you were wearing then? And if so, how old is that top?
WHITE: Oh, it's probably like the rest of my wardrobe. It's probably ancient. Well, I still wear stuff that I wore on "Mary Tyler Moore." but I do live in this color. I love this color.
MORGAN: It's a beautiful color.
WHITE: Thank you.
MORGAN: You are remarkably glamorous.
WHITE: Oh, thank you.
MORGAN: No, I actually mean that.
WHITE: I wish you hadn't mentioned your wife earlier.
MORGAN: Do you know what I think when I look at you, Betty? I see somebody who has not been surgically enhanced. I see natural beauty.
WHITE: Oh --
MORGAN: Am I right?
WHITE: Yes, well --
MORGAN: Any nip and tuck ever gone on?
WHITE: No. But gravity has taken over.
MORGAN: Let's take a little break. I need to calm down. I'm getting a bit flustered here. When we come back, I want to play a clip from somebody, another male admirer. I think you're going to like this.
MORGAN: One of the many male admirers.
WHITE: All right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR: And I just love Betty so much. She's such a terrific woman."
WHITE: Oh, is that -- ?
(MUSIC PLAYING, "THANK YOU FOR BEING A FRIEND")
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Dear Betty, you look so fantastic and full of energy, I can't believe you're 90 years old. In fact, I don't believe it. That's why I'm writing to ask if you will be willing to produce a copy of your long form birth certificate. Thanks and happy birthday, no matter how old you are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: President Obama and a birthday joke for Betty White, who is back with me exclusively.
What a moment. The President of the United States --
WHITE: Oh, I was --
MORGAN: -- sending you a special -- a special joke, as it turned out, for your birthday.
WHITE: And we had nothing -- we didn't know about it till it -- till it came out. That was all done back in Washington. I was so thrilled. I really was. I just couldn't believe it.
MORGAN: Can you believe the way your life has gone, Betty?
MORGAN: And when you think about it, you came to Los Angeles back in the Great Depression. You were 2 years old originally when you first came here.
WHITE: Year and a half.
MORGAN: And, amazing to see what's happened --
WHITE: Couple of centuries.
MORGAN: -- if you could have imagined the way your life was going to go. Crazy, eh?
WHITE: And in the middle of all that, there was the love of my life. I had 18 wonderful years with Allen Ludden.
MORGAN: Because he was third time 'round for you with a marriage.
WHITE: Yes. The first two were --
MORGAN: Very short-lived.
MORGAN: I mean, they lasted a combined total of about three years, didn't they?
WHITE: Oh, if that.
MORGAN: So what was going on there? Was it -- was it -- you say rehearsal. But what was the reality of you and romantic life in those early days?
WHITE: Well, back in those days -- that's why people like Elizabeth Taylor are married so many times. You didn't sleep with a guy until you married him.
MORGAN: You didn't know how bad he was in bed until you got married.
WHITE: Yes. Well, you heard rumors.
WHITE: But you really didn't. And you didn't sleep around. I'm not denigrating the girls today. But I mean, it's a different set of morals. You know, they just -- so if you -- if you were interested enough, you got married. And then you thought, what have I done? Oh, my goodness. This was not how I planned it.
MORGAN: So when Allen came along, it must have been great for you, third time 'round. You finally found the guy who you genuinely loved. This was the love of your life.
WHITE: Love of my life completely. But I was so smart, I kept saying no, I won't move to New York. No, I won't leave California. No, I won't marry you. And he just kept -- he wouldn't say hello. He'd say, "Will You Marry Me?" So he lived in New York. I lived out here. And he'd call me every night at 11 o'clock. So Easter came along, and he sent me this beautiful, beautiful stuffed white bunny.
And it had diamond and ruby earrings on its ears. And the card said, "Please say yes." So that night I didn't answer the phone with "Hello." I said "Yes."
MORGAN: Did you really?
WHITE: I'll tell you, it was lovely.
MORGAN: You didn't have as much time with him as clearly you would have liked. You were robbed, really, of him far too young.
WHITE: Oh, far too young.
MORGAN: Ever since that day have you ever even really looked at another man, or was that -- for you was that it?
WHITE: As far as falling in love and being in love.
WHITE: I mean, I look at them. I even go out with them. And I enjoy them. But that was it as far as I was concerned. There will never be another one.
MORGAN: What is true love to you?
WHITE: Allen Ludden.
MORGAN: But what was it about the relationship, about him, about the chemistry between you? What should women strive to get to to get the love you had?
WHITE: It was his enthusiasm. He was interested in everything. And he knew how to court -- oh, did he know how to court somebody. He just wouldn't let me up. He just would keep pounding and pounding and pounding about -- we had the -- you've got marry me. You just have to.
And yet, it wasn't overdone to the point where you thought, oh, shut up already. But it convinced me that he truly loved me and he truly wanted to marry me. And after two bad experiences, you're very leery because you have had two failures. And the failures, no matter how you look at it, are your fault. And so I just wasn't about to take another chance. Then I thought, am I going to live the rest of my life without this man? Thank goodness we got married when we did or we would have missed it entirely.
MORGAN: What would he have made of the way your career has just reached this extraordinary plateau?
WHITE: He would have been thrilled to pieces. There was no professional jealousy or competition or anything. He was always so thrilled when something good happened.