LOS ANGELES - To hear Jeff Witjas of APA tell it, the iconic Betty White was a dream client.
Witjas represented the legend for two decades as her manager and publicist. I spoke with Witjas on Monday, January 17 on what would’ve been Betty's 100th birthday.
White passed away New Year’s Eve, a few weeks shy of her milestone birthday. Calling her actual birthday a bittersweet day, Witjas said, "I will cherish the time I had with Betty, 21 years. It was a great, great time. No downside to anything we ever did. I’m blessed to have been on a journey in life with her."
Witjas met FOX 11 in Marina Del Rey on an overcast Monday, carrying a box filled with personal photos and mementos from their time together. The rain clouds had just cleared; the sun peeked through.
He described White as a naturally upbeat person, "She almost always had that positive side. She didn’t want to be negative. She turned a negative into a positive."
By the time Witjas took over as her manager and publicist, Betty White had already been a household name for decades. She had appeared in several classic hit television shows like the Mary Tyler Moore Show and the Golden Girls. But despite that enormous success, Betty White had no intention of retiring or slowing down in her eighth decade of life. She loved to work, to make people laugh.
He said from time to time, early in their partnership, White would send him clippings from the trade paper, Variety, suggesting future projects for herself. But Jeff added, "Betty was always respectful."
Witjas seemed to take pride in pointing out new types of projects White took on after he came on board. Neither did Betty shy away from difficult projects.
"She always delivered no matter the challenge. She appeared on Monday Night Football."
Her popularity cut straight through generations. He marveled at White’s appeal. Betty was invited to the White House Correspondent’s Dinner by journalist Katie Couric — where the biggest media stars in the world wanted only one thing — a selfie with Betty White.
"Everyone wanted a picture with Betty. That was a moment she always enjoyed," he said.
And yet she was not focused on herself, she was humble according to her agent. Betty White described herself this way, "I’m the luckiest old broad alive."
Witjas expanded, "She never took anything for granted. She worked at doing the right thing everyday. You never heard a bad thing about Betty."