VJ Schmitt: Tea with Betty White

Back in my LA days — late 80’s early 90’s — while working an agent trainee at the William Morris Agency, I had the unexpected pleasure of having tea with Ms. White in her home.

I was working dispatch, driving all over delivering scripts, picking up scripts and pretty much anything else, from latest reviews to ice cream for our clients. It was a way for newbies to get the lay of the land — to get familiar with the Who’s Who of clients, actors, producers, directors, and so on.

One afternoon, after a grueling day rushing about, Betty White’s house was next. A beautiful home, understated and homey, like its occupant.

There I stood, ringing the doorbell, dressed in a suit with tie — more later on that — and expecting an assistant to answer the door.

But it was Ms. White herself, brightly welcoming me in.

This was not how it worked — we were to say little, drop off the package, get a signature and go, as “ghostlike” as possible.

But she insisted, and in I went.

She called her agent and said I would be delayed.

She was more than I could have imagined. Funny, kind, generous of spirit and darn smart!

She wanted to know what it was like to be a part of the very first women to be a trainee. She asked about the tie. I recalled the day in the mail room when my male colleagues razzed us and complained that, if we wanted to be “equal.” we needed to follow all protocol, including the tie! Thanks to Annie Hall ties were fashionable for women so no worries here! It would take more than that to get me to quit!

We spoke about pressing our noses to the glass ceiling, art, Hollywood — but mainly I listened.

She was remarkable, and I am forever blessed for my brief encounter with her.

Here’s to you Betty! The first genuinely kind, brilliant woman I met amongst the sharks.


Houston-based professional artist VJ Schmitt is the owner of VJ Schmitt Studios and Brilliant Edges, LLC.

Art by VJ Schmitt

For Audere’s cartoon tribute to Betty White, see “Sue Ann Nivens’ Final Wish”