Lucille Ball was known for her long friendship with Vivian Vance, her co-star on the 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. Fellow comedic actor Betty White shared a sweet friendship with Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty, her three “roommates” on her long-running sitcom The Golden Girls. But in real life, it was Ball and White who were actually best friends.
The two comedy legends became pals in the 1950s and enjoyed a close friendship until Ball’s death in 1989 at age 77. White confirmed the friendship several years ago during a Reddit AMA. “Lucy was one of my dearest friends,” she told fans, according to Showbiz Cheatsheet. “Our mothers were best friends. She was dynamite. Everything you saw was what you got.” White dished that she used to play backgammon with the I Love Lucy legend, but that Ball would confuse her by moving the pieces around super fast because she wanted to win.
Although the two funny ladies had a large age gap between them — Ball was born in 1911 while White was born in 1922 — their more than 10-year age difference didn’t matter. An insider told Closer Weekly that “Betty really looked up to Lucy,” who was one of the biggest television stars of the era, and that “Lucy took Betty under her wing” and helped her younger pal find a path to success in the business.
Betty White and Lucille Ball were there for each other during their saddest moments
While their friendship was full of laughs, the two stars also stood by one another during dark times. After Betty White’s husband, game show hosting icon Allen Ludden, passed away from stomach cancer in 1981, Lucille Ball was there for her. “She was there with a meal and kind words when Betty needed it most,” an insider told Closer Weekly. White added Ball helped put the pieces of her life “back together,” since she “was convinced the sure cure for anything was backgammon. She made me laugh in spite of myself.”
White returned the favor after Ball’s ex-husband Desi Arnaz died. On the day in 1986 that the Cuban-born bandleader passed away, Ball and White were together, filming an episode of the game show Password, which Ludden hosted from 1961 until just before his death. White told People that during the Password taping she consoled Ball. “She was being real funny on the show, but during a break she said, ‘You know, it’s the damnedest thing. Goddamn it, I didn’t think I’d get this upset. There he goes,'” White revealed, adding, “It was a funny feeling, kind of a lovely, private moment.”
Speaking of Password, during what would be Ball’s final game show appearance in 1988, White defended her friend when she struggled to come up with a word and was “buzzed” out of a round — even though they were opponents in the game. “You don’t buzz a legend!” White declared.
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