Friday, December 12, 2008
RIP Bettie Page
I'm sad to find out that 50's pin up queen Bettie Page died. She was 85.
Bettie Page made a living posing for cheesecake photos in the days before Playboy magazine. It was the days when men and women would go to a shop, purchase photographs for their collection. Some pictures dealt with kinky fetishes while others were topless shots. In the era of platinum blonds, Bettie Page was a striking brunette who wore her hair in bangs. Most women can't carry it off, but she did.
Bettie Page had come to New York in hopes of becoming an actress. She posed for pictures for "camera clubs" to make a living in the meantime. Her career as an actress never took off, and she continued to pose for photos until she was 36 years old. At that point she had renewed her Christian faith, moved away from New York and faded into obscurity.
Meanwhile, a cult following developed around Bettie Page during the days of Penthouse and Hustler by adults looking for a more innocent era of tease.
In the early 80's the Late comic book artist, Dave Stevens, created The Rocketeer. He used Bettie Page as inspiration for his character of Betty. His rendition was so beautifully rendered and was my first exposure to the cult of Bettie Page.
Shortly after I saw the publication "Betty Pages" in my local comic store. In 1989, I started working for the publisher Greg Theakston and helped put together the next 4 issues of the publication. This gave me a unique opportunity to see many of the pictures in the Irving Klaw and Bunny Yeager collection of photos. Entertainment Tonight interviewed Theakston to find out what happened to Bettie Page. He had contact with Bettie, but respected her privacy enough to allow her to come out in her own time.
She had first been unaware of the cult phenomenon surrounding her and took some time to come out to the public but was eventually was able to cash in on her fame in the last decade of her life. She embraced her past even with her devout Christianity. And really, look at the innocence on her face even with the bondage shots, she knew what she was doing and never allowed herself to be exploited.
She was savvy enough to not allow contemporary photos of her to be shown in order to preserve her as an icon much like Marilyn Monroe. She relented when she turned 80, and let me say she looked alright. I'm glad she lived in comfort for the last days. We'll miss ya, but we'll have the memories.