NBC aired a special on Monday night called “Celebrating Betty White: America’s Golden Girl” that brought together Betty White’s friends and co-stars to reflect on her trailblazing career and a legacy filled with love and laughter.
On Friday, Cher teased the final moments of the special when she shared a video of her performing “Thank You for Being a Friend,” the unforgettable opening number from “The Golden Girls.”
The musician sang her flawless rendition from the same stage where White taped the beloved sitcom each week as Rose.
“She was a true American icon but what really stood out about her is that she was exactly who we all want in a friend–warm, caring, authentic and always fun,” Cher explained before she belted along to the lyrics.
The special also included celebrities and other notable names like President Joe Biden, Drew Barrymore, Valerie Bertinelli, Cher, Bryan Cranston, Ted Danson, Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Fallon, Tina Fey, Ana Gasteyer, Goldie Hawn, Vicki Lawrence, Jane Leeves, Jay Leno, Anthony Mackie, Wendie Malick, Joel McHale, Tracy Morgan, Jean Smart and Mary Steenburgen.
The hour-long event also included clips from the countless shows White appeared in. Leno referred to her as “the first woman of television.”
Here are the five most heartwarming and hilarious moments from the special, which aired exactly one month after White died at the age of 99.
1. Behind-the-scenes skit from “The Proposal”
One of the first funny moments featured was a bit between her and her “The Proposal” co-star Ryan Reynolds on the set of the 2009 rom-com.
In the clip, White mistakenly refers to Ryan as “Bryan” and requests he get her a cup of coffee.
“No, my name’s Ryan,” he corrected her. “We’ve been working together for weeks.”
With a serious look, White replied, “When Betty White says she wants a cup of coffee, you get her a (bleeped) cup of coffee.”
2. Praise and memories from her fellow actors
McHale, who shared the television screen with White back in 2010 on the show “Community” pointed out how “unprecedented” it was for White to star in hit sitcoms in three different decades: “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Golden Girls” and “Hot in Cleveland.”
Fallon recalled hosting the 62nd Emmys and said that White improvised her sensual dance number with Jon Hamm during the opening. Her comedic skills were so impressive that they only shot one take.
Later in the special, Fallon told a story about one of White’s appearances on “The Tonight Show.” A clip played of Fallon teaching White how to play beer pong on the show. By the end of the segment he said, White had chugged a beer, pretended to flash Fallon and eventually beat him.
After a scene from White’s guest spot on “30 Rock” was shown, Tracy Morgan shared, “I’ve worked with a lot of people in my career, a lot of top dogs in my career. Betty White was the Lebron James of comedy. She’s scoring.”
Cher might’ve been the biggest fan included in the special. She remembered being around 7 years old when first saw White on television in the sitcom “Life with Elizabeth.”
The “Believe” singer gushed, “I came upon this face. It was really sweet. She looked like a beauty queen. It had big dimples and I think that was the beginning of my love affair with Betty White.”
White later appeared as a guest star on “The Sonny & Cher Show” in 1977 and the musician was able to express her love in person.
3. Mary Tyler Moore reveals Sue Ann was supposed to have a short run on her show
White’s character Sue Ann was introduced on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in the comedy’s fourth season. She quickly became a fan-favorite for her flirtatious and witty lines.
“Celebrating Betty White: America’s Golden Girl” included a moment from an interview with Mary Tyler Moore in 1997 when she spoke about the development of Sue Ann.
“Well, Betty was added after Valeric (Harper) went on to do her own show,” said the actor, who died in 2017. “It was supposed to be a one-time shop. But she was so good, so great, so inventive that you couldn’t not have her back on.”
Moore described Sue Ann as “everyone’s delicious pixie.” She added that White’s character, “represented all the little evil corners and dark places that we have inside us. And they cheered her on.”
“It is very hard to absorb you are not here anymore,” actor Henry Winkler said Friday after the news of actor Betty White’s death. Here are other reactions from Hollywood.
4. Salute from President Joe Biden
Halfway through the special, President Biden delivered a heartfelt message about White.
“Betty White was an American treasure, an icon and a pioneer,” he began. “She challenged convention. With every laugh and smile, she opened our hearts. But above all, she moved our souls and the soul of our nation.”
He concluded the short speech with, “What a gift we’ll always treasure. God bless you, Betty. We all love you.”
5. Betty White’s legacy as a pioneer.
Jean Smart said that White was a “trailblazer” because she produced her own talk show in the 1950s, which was ‘unheard of” at the time.
As clips from White’s self-titled show were shown, Goldie Hawn noted that White used her show to speak about racial injustice.
One of the most well-known examples of “The Betty White Show” being a revolutionary program was in 1954 when White had a Black dancer named Arthur Duncan on the show.
Anthony Mackie explained, “She was asked to take Arthur Duncan off the show and she said no. For her to do that in 1954 on a variety show paved the way for so many people after him.”
Speaking more about the significance of how White used her platform, Mackie praised the late actor for being “the biggest influence on his career in life.”
He continued, “I’m here because of that. For her to say no, it changed the face of television. It was that type of humility and strength and backbone I try to carry in my career every day.”
The special will also be available on Peacock to stream on Feb. 1.
Tyler Gordon is deaf and has a Vitamin D deficiency, and when growing up, he used art to cope. The 15-year-old self-taught painter has gone viral for past works including a portrait of Betty White and another of Vice President Kamala Harris. Gordon talks with LX News Now host Jobeth Devera about how his art lets him “talk without speaking.”
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY: