by Mike Lee
Bettina Trice has dated the sexiest man alive. She’s traveled the world, had a world championship whippet and all those things still don’t come close to accurately portraying this unique 81-year-old.
Trice started painting when she was four, copying Dick Tracy out of the paper.
She’s lived her entire life by the philosophy you’re never bored if you’re an artist.
In the 1950s, Trice’s mother entered her in a beauty contest. The shy Oklahoma City girl made it to the stage but then figured out she had another problem.
“They accepted me and that night I said ‘Dear Jesus, what am I going to do. I don’t dance and I don’t sing,’” Trice remembers. “He gave me the message of doing art. I sketched the Mona Lisa in three minutes and would you believe I won.”
Trice went to Central High School growing up and then married
Through the years Trice has run Betty’s Gift Shop and she’s worked for Wolf & Wolf Advertising.
Art is life for Trice and one day she hopes to have her work displayed in an Oklahoma museum.
“It keeps you in touch with God,” she said.
For about a month, when she was still Betty Salmon, she found herself face-to-face with Harry Belafonte – voted at the time the sexiest man alive. She coyly asked for an autograph insisting it was for her sister.
“As I was walking away he asked if I could give him a ride,” Trice said. “We dated for over a month.”
She still remembers the first date when they went to a local restaurant.
“He said ‘I want you to go first because I wouldn’t want to embarrass you,’” Trice said. “I took his hand and told him if we couldn’t go in together I wasn’t going in. We went in and everyone stood up and applauded. Can you believe that in Oklahoma in the 1960s?”
In addition to the artwork that adorns her walls at Emerald Square Assisted Living Center, Trice has vacation photos of her and her husband in China and Italy. She spent a month touring China and visited the Great Wall. She’s dined at the luxury Hotel Cipriani in Venice, drinking wine with peaches for breakfast.
Her destinations have also included Japan, Europe and Mexico.
Trice and her husband – who owned Trice Electronics – had three children and plenty of grandchildren and great grandchildren have followed.
Those who may have dined at Sussy’s Italian Restaurant in Oklahoma City may remember the hand-painted mugs owner Jack Sussy used to give out. The Chicago native commissioned Trice to paint some 5,000 cups, each different.
“The waitresses didn’t like me very much because every time they came in they wanted to use their cup,” Trice said. “He finally put in some lazy susans. They didn’t think that was very funny.”
From time to time she gets approached by Emerald Square residents about painting self portraits or portraits of their animals.
She’s happy to oblige, painting almost every day.
Several of the paintings that hang on her wall are of her whippets.
During her life, Trice also became certified to teach tennis lessons. Her and husband built the first indoor tennis court in Oklahoma City.