Jamie McCarthy/WireImage; Charles Sykes/Rex USA
Stephen M. Silverman
August 27, 2010 02:55 PM

Now that she’s sealed a deal for two books to be published next year, Betty White is already polishing up her byline with a signed piece in the Hollywood Reporter, reminiscing about her first Emmy win – in 1952.

“The Emmys weren’t a big thing back then – more like a little local awards show,” writes White, 88. Compared to current ceremony – the 62nd annual Emmys will air live on NBC Sunday at 8 p.m. ET – in the early days, “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.”

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Nominated as best comedic actress for her early domestic sitcom, Life with Elizabeth – a sort of I Love Lucy wannabe – White was certain she’d lose to perceived frontrunner Zsa Zsa Gabor, who even took out her compact to freshen up to give her speech. Only White won.

“I almost fainted right there,” White recalls. “And, believe me, Zsa Zsa was just as shocked but Zsa Zsa was wonderful about it and offered me congratulations.”

No Speeches Back Then

At the ceremony, which was held at the now long-gone Coconut Grove nightclub, “There were no speeches then, so I just accepted my award and left,” says White.

Since then, “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,” she says. Better yet, last Saturday at the Creative Arts Emmys ceremony, White, 88, won for her SNL turn.

When she was nominated, she also received the congratulations from one of the celebrated alumni of that show (and a nominee in the same category), Tina Fey – who, White says, “sent me this big bouquet of roses and tulips and a card.”

Its message: “Dear Betty, Congratulations on your nomination. Please try to mention my name in your acceptance speech.”

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