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About (Late) Last Night: Betty White and David Letterman throw back some vodka

January 19, 2011 |  7:19 am


The past year has been an unexpectedly big one for Betty White, full of accomplishments like a "Saturday Night Live" hosting gig, a Super Bowl commercial, a calendar, and a successful sitcom, "Hot in Cleveland," now in its second season.

Last night on "The Late Show," David Letterman remarked on the actress's unlikely career trajectory."In the last year you're like the best-known person in Hollywood," he remarked.

White, who just celebrated her 89th birthday on Monday, has a healthy perspective about her resurgence. "You're talking overdose," she said, modestly. Pehaps White has suffered a tad from overexposure in the past year, but unlike many stars, it's easy to see why she's so appealing.

While discussing her decades-long friendship with Mary Tyler Moore, White got a little misty-eyed. Letterman handed her a box of tissues, and White took the bait and pretended to weep, turning a sweet, human moment into a wonderfully comic one. 

Later on, when Letterman asked her what she likes to do when she's not working, she deadpanned, "Vodka's kind of a hobby." The host whipped out two tumblers and a bottle of Grey Goose. Sure, it was all staged, but Letterman and White made it look as impromptu as can be.

White's unlikely popularity, fueled by a grassroots Facebook campaign, is a rare example of bottom-up star-making: She's popular now because "the people" want her to be. With that in mind, it was strangely perfect that Kim and Kourtney Kardashian were also guests on "The Late Show" Tuesday night. (The sisters got second billing, proving that at least a few things are right in this crazy world.) They represent the polar opposite, celebrities who are famous because they insist on being so. The Kardashians' collective overexposure, unlike White's, is the result of aggressive publicists, shameless reality-show producers and their own blithe willingness to shill any product, no matter how suspect.

Let's hope the sisters Kardashian were taking notes when White doled out this bit of wisdom: "You do a thing once and then you run like a thief." Personally, I'm glad White has decided to stick around the scene of the crime.

--Meredith Blake