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EXCLUSIVE: Betty White's note from Tina Fey

White also tells THR about her first Emmy nom in 1952

Most of what I can resurrect about that evening in 1952 was the total shock I felt when I won and Zsa Zsa Gabor lost.

I was nominated for lead actress in a comedy for my show "Life With Elizabeth," a 30-minute comedy about a husband and wife. But back then, in all my wisdom, I decided to make each episode a series of three 10-minute ministories because I was certain a solid half-hour comedy show would never work.
 

On the day of the awards, I spent the morning working on my daytime talk program "The Betty White Show." The Emmys weren't a big thing back then -- more like a little local awards show. So I worked in the morning and went home and got dressed as if I were just going to a dinner.

I had recently split from my second husband, Lane Allen, so I went with Al Jarvis, who worked with me on the talk show. The ceremony was at the Coconut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel. There were no photographers and no red carpet. You just got out of your car and walked into the dinner. It wasn't even an event where people mingled and partied. You came for the awards and left.

Everyone was so sure that Zsa Zsa was going to win for "Bachelor's Haven," I didn't even think twice about winning. I was thrilled beyond words to be nominated and recognized, especially considering I'd been working six days a week -- with no script!

When it came time to announce our category, Zsa Zsa took out her compact and lipstick to freshen up. Just as the presenter was about to announce the winner, she pushed out her chair to get up. And then the presenter announced my name!

Well, I almost fainted right there. And, believe me, Zsa Zsa was just as shocked. That's how sure everyone was that she would win. It was a bit startling, but Zsa Zsa was wonderful about it and offered me congratulations.

There were no speeches then, so I just accepted my award and left. But I was really thrilled to take home that pretty statue. I have my first "golden girl" sitting on top of my dining room hutch alongside all her sisters. I've had to repair her a few times. She keeps dropping the globe she's holding, so she's been soldered back together. She's almost as old as I am.

I've won six Emmys and you never get used to it. I got nominated again this year for outstanding guest star for "Saturday Night Live" and I'm thrilled! My friend Tina Fey is nominated in my category too and she sent me this big bouquet of roses and tulips and a card.

"Dear Betty," it said, "Congratulations on your nomination. Please try to mention my name in your acceptance speech."

Betty White won the Emmy for outstanding guest actress in a comedy series on Aug. 21.