As soon as her legion of fans spotted Betty White on the patio of Bacchanalia in West Midtown Saturday night, they began sprinting across the courtyard to meet her.
The 88-year-old iconic Emmy winner is in town shooting a Hallmark Hall of Fame TV movie with Jennifer Love Hewitt.
But on Saturday night, White was celebrating her fifth anniversary as spokeswoman for The Lifeline Program, a company that specializes in assisting seniors in transforming existing life insurance policies into life settlements.
White told us that offering struggling seniors financial stability in tough times has been rewarding for her.
“It’s wonderful to be able to represent something you believe in so whole-heartedly yourself,” White explained. “The economic downturn has not been kind to seniors. We have to remember not to panic and just take every positive step we can. I think sometimes we get so busy talking about the negatives, we forget to appreciate the good stuff in life.”
Clutching her purse and dressed in a red jacket and black blouse, White graciously moved table to table to greet guests on the patio.
Hollywood actresses half her age hope for half as much work as White has played in just the past year.
White can currently be seen in the feature film “You Again,” she shot 10 episodes of the TV Land sitcom “Hot in Cleveland,” a pair of guest shots on the NBC sitcom “Community,” a guest role on the ABC comedy “The Middle” and an Emmy-winning turn on “Saturday Night Live.”
So what was it about the script for “The Lost Valentine” that convinced her to accept the role of a World War II widow whose husband went missing in action 60 years ago?
“It’s just a beautiful script,” White told us. “I’m usually associated with comedy. But this is a very dramatic work. I don’t get a chance to do that type of role very often. I’m enjoying it thoroughly.”
White says the Hallmark production is reminiscent of her decades-long romance and marriage to “Password” game show host Allen Ludden who she lost to cancer in 1981. She has never remarried.
“It wasn’t so much the woman but the love story,” White replied wistfully. “My beloved Allen Ludden and I had a love story that never stopped. When my agent sent me the script, he said ‘Read this script. It will remind you very much of Betty and Allen.’ And it does.”
As “Glee” Emmy winner Jane Lynch prepared for her inaugural guest hosting job on “Saturday Night Live,” White offered a few insights into the gig.
“I fought it tooth and nail!” she said laughing. “My agent said, ‘You’ve got to do it.’ It’s scary. It’s very scary. But it’s a wonderful experience. And the most supportive group. I think [‘SNL’ executive producer] Lorne Michaels is a genius. And they treat you with such love and support you have to have a good time. You just can’t help yourself!”