Conroversial 1950’s pin-up model Bettie Page, a style-setter even in the 21st century and the subject of endless male fantasies, has died at age 85. Hospitalized for three weeks for pneumonia, Page suffered a heart attack last week in Los Angeles and never recovered. She never regained consciousness. The family agreed to take her off life support according to her agent, Mark Roesler.
Page helped laid the groundwork for the sexual revolution of the 1960s. She has inspired comic books, two movies (“The Notorious Bettie Page” and “Bettie Page: Dark Angel”), rock song lrics, and numerous books since her heyday in the 1950’s when she posed for photographers. The female lead in the Rocketeer comcis was patterend after her, filmed as The Rocketeer in 1991.
With measurements of 36-24-36-1/2 and short bangs, she was photographed in bikinis and see-through lingerie, appeared as the January 1955 Playboy Playmate. The controversy came from bondage and fetish photos she posed for in an era not noted for sexual openness.
In the 1960’s, Page disappeared from public view, becoming a born-again Christian and dealing with mental illness. In the 1990’s, she resurfaced, but kept a very low profile although she did license Bettie Page-themed collectibles. She permitted no photographs and made no public appearances. “I want to be remembered as I was when I was young and in my golden times,” she said. “I want to be remembered as the woman who changed people’s perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form.”
Born in 1923 in Tennesse, one of six children, Bette was a secretary in October 1950 when she was approached by a photographer to pose for photos.
By 1951, she began posing for bondage and fetish photos for Irving Klaw and his sister. “The only person I did bondage for was Irving Klaw and his sister Paula. Usually they would shoot four or five models every Saturday. He wouldn’t pay for the regular pictures unless we did some bondage. So I did bondage shots to get paid for the other photos.” She described the environment as playful and was always complimentary of the Klaws. Today, the Klaw photos are enthusiastically traded on eBay.
Page became the subject of a Congressional investigation by Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver, although never called to testify, and, at age 35, she decided it was time to withdraw from public life. Her subsequent private life that would become quite troubled with failed marriages and a long battle with schizophrenia.
Page was never apologetic about her work. “God approves of nudity,” she once said. “Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they were naked as jaybirds.”
Bnd.com “1950s pinup model Bettie Page dies in LA at 85” Bob Thomas, AP, http://www.bnd.com/breaking_news/story/575793.html
Internet Movie Database, “Bettie Page” http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0656114/
Newser, “Pin-Up Pioneer Bettie Page Dead” http://www.newser.com/story/45103/pin-up-pioneer-bettie-page-dead-at-85.html