Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rant #657: Sorry, Olive Oyl, It's Popeye and Betty Today

OK, so who is older, the character of Popeye or actress and show business icon Betty White?

Both celebrate birthdays today, but who is older than who?

The records say that the character of Popeye debuted in a cartoon strip called Thimble Theater on this date in 1929.

Popeye, Olive Oyl, Wimpy, Bluto (or Brutus) and the rest of the gang were so popular, they were pulled out of that strip and they took on a life of their own.

Popeye the Sailor has been around in various incarnations since the Depression. He has continued in comic strips, comic books, cartoons, and even the movies--the ill-fated live action film starring Robin Williams. He even hawks a Spinach brand and even though he isn't directly credited, you know where the Popeyes chicken chain got its name from.

Even though he smokes that pipe, he has become an icon, and has enabled mothers to point to him when their kids don't want to eat their spinach. "Don't you want to be like Popeye?" they have said to their kids for generations.

While the response from the kids probably wasn't, "Well blow me down," Popeye has had an impact on culture.

Betty White was born on this date in 1922, and has seemingly been on our entertainment radar for generations, too.

Starting out as a model--her image was reportedly used on topless strip cards in the 1940s--she has reinvented herself time and time again.

She was one of TV's earliest stars, working in sitcoms before they were even known by that term.

She continued to ply her trade in this genre and married game show host Allen Ludden of "Password" fame.

For years, she was in her husband's shadow, as his game show became a national obsession. She, herself, appeared on the show numerous times, setting the tone for much of her career in the 1960s and 1970s as the perennial game show celebrity contestant.

But as she was appearing on game shows like "The Match Game" and "Password," she as also carving out her niche in several other areas.

She was the first celebrity that I can ever remember that came out for animal rights, and she has always been a major supporter of such organizations.

And she also played the recurring role of Sue Ann Nivens on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," which cemented her in the minds of sitcom fans forever.

Her husband died, and she never remarried, but White continued to work, appearing on numerous sitcoms and movies.

But a few years ago, due to her appearance in a memorable Super Bowl ad, her name started to shine again. She became the most sought after octogenarian in show business history.

Today, at 90, she leads the ensemble cast of the incredibly successful "Hot in Cleveland" show, and doesn't show her age at all.

So we now know who is older--Betty White is!

But long live both her and Popeye.

To steal a line from the Sailor man, "They're both strong to the finish ... ."

Toot toot!

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