Betty White Remembers Her First Emmys – in 1951!
08/23/2014 AT 05:40 PM EDT
"I haven't a clue," White tells PEOPLE of her first time at the ceremony in 1951. "I'm sorry. I should, but I don't have a clue."
But the Hot in Cleveland star – who is nominated this year for hosting Betty White's Off Their Rockers on Lifetime – has no trouble recalling her win for most outstanding female personality, a Los Angeles regional award she won in 1952.
"Zsa Zsa Gabor was also nominated and was at my table. When they came around to our award, Zsa Zsa got her purse out and powdered her nose and put her lipstick on," says White, 92, who was starring in Life with Elizabeth at the time. "I didn't think there was a prayer. I was just interested in seeing how it came out, but they announced my name instead of Zsa Zsa's. I was just in shock. I could not believe it. And I don't think Zsa Zsa could either."
White has been nominated for 21 Primetime Emmy Awards over the years and says the ceremony to be held Monday at the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles will be very different from the small affair she attended at the historic Ambassador Hotel all those years ago.
"It wasn't the lights and fashion it is now," says White. "You still got dressed up and it was still an honor even that early on, but it wasn't the worldwide schmear it is now."
The former Golden Girls and Mary Tyler Moore Show actress says she can't pick her favorite Emmys from the many she's attended, but says she most enjoys watching the show from her seat.
"It is always a lot of fun because you are interested in seeing who is winning in the other categories," says White, who has seven Emmys sitting on a bureau in her Los Angeles home. "That’s the fun of it."
And as for her hopes of continuing to be nominated in the years to come, White is jokingly optimistic.
"The longer I stay around and still get nominated, it comes as a shock," she says. "You can't get rid of me, can you?"