Inside Betty White's Relationship With Lucille Ball

With the death of beloved actress Betty White, a Hollywood era has come to an end. The last of the Golden Girls, she maintained friendships with her co-stars until their individual deaths. However, her most enduring, close friendship was with legendary comedian Lucille Ball until Ball's death in 1989 at age 77.

With just over a 10-year age gap between them, their friendship started on the Desilu Studios lot in 1957, when White was working on the comedy TV show "Date with the Angels" and Ball was filming "I Love Lucy" (via Closer Weekly). On a Reddit AMA in 2014, White noted, "Lucy was one of my dearest friends. ... She was dynamite. Everything you saw was what you got."

While they connected initially in a professional sense, White also looked up to Ball's accomplishments. As actress Ann Dusenberry told Closer Weekly, "Their bond was their common accomplishment as businesswomen in a male-dominated industry." White was newer to the business, while Ball was firmly established as Hollywood's leading lady of comedy, but their similarities became immediately apparent to both. As another friend told Closer Weekly, "Betty really looked up to Lucy, and Lucy saw that she and Betty were cut from the same cloth."

Despite their similarities, they were significantly different people

Betty White and Lucille Ball were contrasting personalities. White was a self-described, "cockeyed optimist," easygoing, charming, and often irreverent, and felt it was important to live life that way. As she told ABC News, "It's your outlook on life that counts. If you take yourself lightly and don't take yourself too seriously, pretty soon, you can find the humor in our everyday lives." In reply to the question, "How do you stay with the mindset of a young woman?" on the Reddit AMA, she quipped, "Oh, because I'm childish at heart!"

Lucy, on the other hand, was a challenging person in real life, according to her daughter, Lucie Arnaz, who told Aaron Sorkin, "I know my mother wasn't an easy woman" (via The Hollywood Reporter). As Arnaz told Outsider, Lucy was a driven, responsible personality with strict rules on sets and a consummate list-maker. And surprisingly, unlike White, she wasn't particularly funny in person. Director Pamela Mason Wagner told American Masters, " I was intrigued by Lucille Ball because she's full of contradictions ... She was a funny actress who couldn't tell a joke, and was quite serious in real life."

Their friendship became incredibly important for both of them

As their relationship grew, both Betty White and Lucille Ball were there for each other during hard times. When Ball divorced Desi Arnaz in 1960, the already twice divorced White was there for her. Similarly, Ball supported White when her beloved husband, game show host Allan Ludden, died in 1981 of stomach cancer (via Showbiz CheatSheet). As a friend told Closer Weekly, "Lucy and Betty's relationship spanned more than just being show business acquaintances. They considered each other family."

Their mothers even became "best friends" as well, White noted in the Reddit AMA, and it was their mothers' influences that shaped both of them. A source told Showbiz CheatSheet, "Lucy saw Betty's fighting spirit — they were really feminists of their time, when that wasn't necessarily the norm in Hollywood ... Betty adored not only Lucy's sense of humor, but her mother and Lucy's children. They were definitely mama's girls, raised by women who told them they didn't have to take a back seat to any man."

They both had a competitive streak

But just because Betty White and Lucille Ball were close doesn't mean the two weren't competitive. As White recalled on the Reddit AMA chat, "We used to play backgammon, and she used to teach me the game, but she used to move the pieces so fast. I used to say, 'How are you teaching me if you move the pieces so fast,' and she would say, I want to win!'" But it was all in good spirits, as White told The Atlantic, "We were buddies. ... We had such fun."

The two appeared together many times a number of game shows over the years. However, after Ball had a stroke in early 1988, the two joined other celebrities — including mutual friend Carol Channing — on the "All-Star Super Password Special" that November. In what was one of Lucy's last TV appearances before her death a year later, Ball failed to come up with the correct answer and got buzzed. Afterward, White quipped off camera in defense of her friend, "You don't buzz a legend."

It's safe to say you don't buzz Betty White either.