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Betty White brings laughter, love for animals to D.C.

Friday - 5/18/2012, 3:19am  ET

betty white
Actress and animal advocate Betty White greets Uggie the dog, from the Oscar-winning film 'The Artist,' at a Godiva-sponsored Friars Club Roast honoring White, Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at the Sheraton Hotel in New York. At right is comedian Jeff Ross. (AP Photo/Starpix, Marion Curtis)

Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - TV stars come and go, but one woman with an infectious smile has always been there.

Actress Betty White made a special appearance Thursday night at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium.

It was a live interview format, with CBS Radio news correspondent Sam Litzinger asking the questions.

When asked where she learned to act, White's answer drew laughter.

"I didn't. No, I mean it. I never took acting lessons," said White.

In the early days of television, White said she was on-screen five and half hours a day, six days a week with no script.

"It was like going to 'television college.' It was a good learning experience," said White. But joked, "I didn't learn anything, but it was a good learning experience."

Even though she's been in the business for more than six decades, White said she panicked during her recent appearance on Saturday Night Live.

Because of the nature of the show and the many changes made leading up to the live broadcast, White was forced to read cue cards, which she's not a fan of.

White said a man behind the scenes tried to help her through it.

"He said, 'don't look at Tina, look over her head and I'll be back there with the cue cards,' and he says, 'she's doing the same thing so it will look like you're looking at each other'," said White. "I thought, now will you tell me how you can stand next to Tina Fey and not look at her?"

White also spoke of her love for animals, including an elephant.

"After I'd feed her a carrot I'd just pat her tongue," said White. " Well, I found out that was the biggest turn-on that ever happened." She said every elephant she meets loves to get a tongue slap.

White said she had several meetings with Koko, the famous gorilla that knows sign language. Koko has her own name for White: "Lipstick."

White said people don't realize all the good that zoos do.

"There would be so many species today that would be extinct if it weren't for zoos," White said.

Litzinger read a question for White from a member of the audience: "How's it feel being the most captivating woman in every room, everywhere?"

White responded with self-deprecation: "You shouldn't drink this early."

The sold-out show was presented by The Smithsonian Associates, which puts on programs inspired by the Smithsonian's exhibitions, collections and research.

White, who holds the title of "Ambassador To The Animals" at the Los Angeles Zoo, plans a visit Friday to the National Zoo.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)