Bells and whistles would go off on social media whenever she was trending — which was often — spurring brief intervals of panic and premature grief before it turned out she was perfectly OK.
To repeat: it’s not a shock that she died. But you don’t have to be shocked to be deeply hurt by a loss — which for those of us of a certain age, is especially poignant.
From the start, her effervescent personality balanced with a crafty sense of humor that arose at unexpected intervals made her a natural for both situation comedies and the ad-libbed variety show.
By the 1970s, White’s stature as TV’s most charming guest was entrenched and her career took an unexpected, yet brilliant turn when she joined the regular cast of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” as the duplicitous and lascivious “Happy Homemaker” Sue Ann Nivens. The role offered White a wicked, witty turnabout on her heretofore warm-and-bubbly TV image while broadening the range of roles she was offered in years to come.
No matter how much you tally the awesome number of credits White collected, you’re still left wondering how she lasted so long and in so many different contexts.
A simple answer may come from recognizing White’s penchant for constant, diligent work. Another may come in her innate sense of when and how to adjust to the medium she all but embodied. She knew when it was time to juice up her image to keep up with the more socially permissive 1970s and 1980s without going overboard. When she found she could get added laughs as a bawdy, salty “old lady,” White took up the persona with unbridled joy that was shared by her expanding fan base.
In short: timing, always the first and best quality in comedic acting, was the principal quality of White’s durability. If things were too bland, add a little spice without overdoing it. If she was on too many things at once, step back for a while until your inner image maker tells you it’s time to let the networks and cable channels know you’re up for anything.
And she was, almost to the very end.
Nothing left to add except to thank her for being a friend, right?
More than that.
For being there.