LOS ANGELES—The late actress Betty White was honored on Jan. 17—what would have been her 100th birthday—with an emotional tribute at the Los Angeles Zoo, where she was a trustee, donor, and honorary zookeeper, and at Madame Tussauds Hollywood, where fans gathered for photos with her wax likeness.
“Something feels a little incomplete here today, not just at the zoo, but in Los Angeles, and that’s the loss of an angel here in the City of Angels,” said Mayor Eric Garcetti, who attended the Los Angeles Zoo event along with Councilwoman Nithya Raman. “Our dear friend, Betty White … Even bigger than her talent was her heart—her heart for people, for all living things. It was that heart and humanity that she expressed right here at the Los Angeles Zoo.”
White died on Dec. 31 at the age of 99 at her Brentwood home. On Wednesday, the zoo announced the opening of a white rose memorial garden located in the Allen Ludden Plaza, which was named for White’s late husband. Zoo visitors can honor White by leaving a message, memory, or drawing on a card, which will be displayed through the end of January on a gold string hung between silk white roses.
The zoo also created the self-guided “Betty’s L.A. Zoo Tour,” honoring White’s contributions to the facility. The tour includes signs at 16 stops where guests can learn about her connection to a particular animal or location through a series of pictures and quotes.
The walking tour will be up through Jan. 31, paying homage to White’s longtime dedication to animals and the LA Zoo. People who are unable to visit the Los Angeles Zoo but want to experience “Betty’s L.A. Zoo Tour” can do it virtually on the event website.
Best known for Emmy Award-winning roles on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Golden Girls,” the television star was a supporter of the zoo for more than five decades, said Tom Jacobson, president of the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association.
“From those in the wild, to those in shelters, guide dogs for the blind—she loved all animals, large and small. She was never one to stand outside and criticize. She would always work with us to do what she could to help,” Jacobson said Monday.
“She always looked forward, never back, and wanted to have a positive impact on the world, and that’s what she did. She was an endearing figure on and off the screen.”
Jacobson added that the zoo was planning a permanent way to honor White’s service, but details will be announced at a later date.
Zoo Director Denise Verret on Monday described White as “kind, gentle-natured, funny, and … such a humble individual.”
“She was a rare gem. I call her an endangered species. She made it her life’s purpose to use her humor, her influence to make the world a better place for all creatures. Her body might be absent today, but her spirit will live on at the Los Angeles Zoo forever,” Verret said.
Monday’s event honoring White also included a $3,000 donation to the zoo from Pink’s Hot Dogs, which donated proceeds from sales of White’s favorite hot dog—the Naked Dog—since her death at the end of December.
“Betty White used to come to Pink’s and get her ‘Naked Dog.’ And she said, ‘Look, just tell everybody Betty White gets naked at Pinks!’ And she just liked the beef in a bun, just keep it simple,” Richard Pink of Pink’s Hot Dogs said.
“But when she would come there with her actress friends she would just entertain the crowd in our dining room, and nothing was more memorable, because you just mention the name Betty White, and what comes to mind but joy and laughter and fun.”
Pink’s Hot Dogs also teamed up with Madame Tussauds Hollywood for a Betty White birthday celebration on Monday. Fans lined up outside the museum to have their picture taken with White’s wax likeness, and they joined in singing “Happy Birthday” to the late actress. There was also a sing-along of “Thank You for Being a Friend,” the theme song from “The Golden Girls.”
Pink’s was on hand to offer signature “Naked Dogs” for fans who made monetary donations for the L.A. Zoo.
Country singer Trisha Yearwood also raised more than $36,000 through TalkShopLive, a livestream shopping website, in support of the widely popular #BettyWhiteChallenge to raise money to support animal causes on what would have been White’s 100th birthday.
Yearwood encouraged donations to Dottie’s Yard Fund, a nonprofit that will distribute funds to animal charities across the country.
“I just think that Betty is so happy right now that this is the way that the world is choosing to celebrate her birthday, by giving to animals, which was so near and dear to her heart,” Yearwood said.
Meanwhile, in hundreds of theaters nationwide, screenings were offered of “Betty White: A Celebration,” a documentary film about the actress’s life and career.
The film traces her life on screen, including behind-the-scenes footage from “The Golden Girls” and other shows. It also includes clips from what turned out to be her final interview, and features appearances from friends and former co-stars, including Ryan Reynolds.