- Bettie Page
Infobox Playboy Playmate
name = Bettie Page
issue = January 1955
birthdate = birth date and age|mf=yes|1923|4|22
bust = 36"
waist = 23"
hips = 35"
height = 5 ft 5½ in (1.66
m) [http://www.bettiepage.com/about/facts.html Official website facts page] Accessed Jan 5, 2008.]
weight = convert|128|lb|kg stlb|abbr=on
preceded = Terry Ryan
Bettie Mae Page (born Betty Mae Page April 22, 1923 in
Nashville, Tennessee) is a former American model who became famous in the 1950s for her fetish modeling and pin-up photos. While she faded into obscurity in the 1960s after her conversion to Christianity, she experienced a resurgence of popularity in the 1980s and now has a significant cult following.
Page was born in
Nashville, Tennessee, the second child of Walter Roy Page and Edna Mae Pirtle. [http://www.bettiepage.com/about/bio.html Official website biography] Accessed April 4, 2007.] During Bettie's early years, the Page family traveled around the country in search of economic stability. At a young age, Bettie had to face the responsibilities of caring for her younger siblings. Her parents divorced when Betty was 10 years old. Following the divorce, Page and her sister lived in an orphanage for a year. During this time, Bettie's mother worked two jobs, one as a hairdresser during the day and washed laundry at night. As a teenager, Bettie and her sisters tried different makeup styles and hairdos imitating their favorite movie stars. Bettie also learned to sew. These skills proved useful years later for her pin-up photography when Bettie did her own makeup and hair and made her own bikinis and costumes. A strong student and debate team member at Hume-Fogg High School, Bettie was voted "Most Likely to Succeed."
Salutatorianof her class, on June 6, 1940, Bettie Page graduated from high school with a scholarship and enrolled at George Peabody College with the intention of becoming a teacher. However, the next fall she began studying acting, hoping to become a movie star. At the same time, she began her first job, typing for author Alfred Leland Crab. Page graduated from Peabody with a Bachelor of Artsdegree in 1944. In 1943, she married high school classmate Billy Neal in a simple court house ceremony shortly before he was drafted into the Navy for service in World War II. [ [http://www.playboy.com/arts-entertainment/features/bettiepage/interview/02.html StarHub ] ] For the next few years, Bettie moved from San Francisco to Nashville to Miami and to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she felt a special affinity with the country and its culture. In November 1947, while back in the United States, Bettie filed for divorce from Neal.
Following her divorce, Page worked briefly in San Francisco, and in Haiti. She moved to New York City, where she intended to find work as an
actress. In the meantime, she supported herself working as a secretary. In 1950, while walking along the Coney Island, New York City shore, Bettie met Jerry Tibbs, a police officer with an interest in photography. Bettie was a willing model, and Tibbs took pictures of Bettie and put together her first pinup portfolio.
In the late 1940s, men formed what were known as camera clubs as a means of circumventing legal restrictions on the production of nude photos. These clubs existed ostensibly to promote artistic photography, but many were merely fronts for the production of erotica. When Page entered the field of glamour photography she did so as a popular camera club model, working initially with photographer
Cass Carr. Her lack of inhibition in posing made her a hit. Her name and image became quickly known in the erotic photography industry, and in 1951 her image appeared in men's magazines with names like "Wink", "Titter", "Eyefull" and "Beauty Parade."
From 1952 through 1957 she posed for photographer
Irving Klawfor mail-order photographs with pin-up, bondage or sadomasochistic themes, making her the first famous bondage model. Klaw also used Page in dozens of short black-and-white 8mm and 16mm "specialty" films which catered to specific requests from his clientele. These silent featurettes showed women clad in lingerie and high heels acting out fetishistic scenarios of abduction, domination, and slave-training with bondage, spanking, and elaborate leather costumes and restraints. Page alternated between playing a stern dominatrix and a helpless victim bound hand and foot. Klaw also produced a line of still photos taken during these sessions. Some have become iconic images, such as his highest-selling photo of Page gagged and bound in a web of ropes from the "Leopard Bikini Bound" film. Although these underground features had the same crude style and clandestine distribution as the pornographic "stag" films of the time, Klaw's all-female films (and still photos) never featured any nudity or sexual content.
In 1953 she took acting classes at the renowned Herbert Berghoff Studios, which led to several roles on stage and television. She appeared on "
The United States Steel Hour" and the " The Jackie Gleason Show". Her off-Broadway productions included "Time is a Thief" and "Sunday Costs Five Pesos." Also in 1953, Page acted and danced in the feature-length burlesque revue film "Striporama" by Jerald Intrator. She was given a brief speaking role, the only time her voice has been captured on film. She then appeared in two more burlesque films by Irving Klaw ("Teaserama" and "Varietease"). These featured exotic dance routines and vignettes by Page and well-known striptease artists Lili St. Cyrand Tempest Storm. All three films were mildly risque, but none showed any nudity or overtly salacious content.
In 1954, during one of her annual pilgrimages to
Miami, Florida, Page met photographers Jan Caldwell, H. W. Hannauand Bunny Yeager. At that time Page was the top pin-up model in New York. Yeager, a former model and aspiring photographer, signed Page for a photo session at the now closed African wildlife park Africa USA in Boca Raton, Florida. The "Jungle Bettie" photographs from this shoot are among her most celebrated. They include nude shots with a pair of cheetahs named Mojah and Mbili. The leopard skin patterned "Jungle Girl" outfit she wore was made, along with much of her lingerie, by Bettie herself. A large collection of the Yeager photos, and Klaw's, were published in the book "Bettie Page Confidential" (St. Martin's Press, 1994).
After Yeager sent shots of Page to "
Playboy" founder Hugh Hefner, he selected one to use as the Playmate of the Month centerfold in the January 1955 issue of the two-year-old magazine. The famous photo shows Page, wearing only a Santa hat, kneeling before a Christmas tree holding an ornament and playfully winking at the camera. In 1955, Bettie won the title "Miss Pinup Girl of the World."
While pin-up and glamour models frequently have careers measured in months, Page was in demand for several years, continuing to model until 1957. Although she frequently posed in the nude, she never appeared in scenes with explicit sexual content. The reasons reported for her departure from pin-up, glamour, and fetish modeling vary. Some reports mention the "Kefauver Hearings" of the
Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency(after a young man apparently died during a session of bondage which was rumored to be inspired by the infamous Bettie Page), which ended Irving Klaw's bondage and S&M mail-order photography business. In fact, the United States Congresscalled her to testify to explain the photos in which she appeared. While she was excused from appearing before the committee, the print negatives of many of her photos were destroyed by court order. For many years after, the negatives that survived were illegal to print. [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0656114/bio Internet Movie Database: Bettie Page] ]
However, the most obvious reason for ending her modeling career was her conversion to
Christianitywhile living in Key West Florida in 1959 [ [http://www.playboy.com/arts-entertainment/features/bettiepage/interview/04.html StarHub ] ] in combination with the 1957 trials, after which she severed all contact with her prior life. For many years, the last generally known facts of her life were the divorce from Armond Walterson in the early 1960s and that she was working for a Christian organization. Page even attended a Biblecollege, Biola Universityin Los Angeles, then worked briefly as a Christian missionary.
The Bettie Page revival
In 1976, Eros Publishing Co. published "A Nostalgic Look at Bettie Page", a mixture of photos from the 1950s. Between 1978 and 1980, Belier Press published four volumes of "Betty Page: Private Peeks", reprinting pictures from the private camera club sessions, which reintroduced Page to a new but small cult following. [http://www.cultsirens.com/page/page.htm Cult Sirens: Bettie Page ] ] In 1983, London Enterprises released "In Praise of Bettie Page - A Nostalgic Collector's Item", reprinting camera club photos and an old
cat fightphoto shoot.
In the early 1980s, comic book talent
Dave Stevensbased the female love interest of his hero Cliff Secord (alias " The Rocketeer") on Page. In 1987, Greg Theakstonstarted a fanzinecalled "The Betty Pages" and recounted tales of her life, particularly the camera club days. For the next seven years, the magazine sparked a worldwide interest in Page. Women dyed their hair and cut it into bangs in an attempt to emulate the "Dark Angel." The media caught wind of the Bettie movement and wrote numerous articles about her, more often than not with the help of Theakston. Since almost all of her photos were in the public domain, opportunists launched related products and cashed in on the burgeoning craze.
In the mid 1990s, "
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" produced a segment on Page, as did " Entertainment Tonight". Page, who was living in a group homein Los Angeles, was astounded when she saw the "E.T." piece, having had no idea that she had suddenly become famous again. "The Betty Pages" editor, Greg Theakston, contacted her and did an extensive interview for "The Betty Page Annuals" V.2.
Shortly after, Page signed with Chicago-based agent James Swanson. Three years later, nearly penniless and failing to receive any
royalties, Page fired Swanson and signed with Curtis Management Group, a company which also represented the James Deanand Marilyn Monroeestates. She then began collecting payments which ensured her financial security.
Jim Silkemade a large format comicfeaturing her likeness, Dark Horse Comicspublished a comic based on her fictional adventures in the 1990s. Eros Comicspublished several Bettie Page titles, the most popular being the tongue-in-cheek "Tor Love Bettie" which suggested a romance between Page and wrestler-turned- Ed Woodfilm actor, Tor Johnson.
E!: Entertainment Television's "E! True Hollywood Story" aired a feature on Page entitled, "Bettie Page: From Pinup to Sex Queen". [ [http://www.tv.com/e!-true-hollywood-story/bettie-page-from-pinup-to-sex-queen/episode/215589/summary.html E! True Hollywood Story: Bettie Page: From Pinup to Sex Queen - TV.com ] ]
Most, if not all, of Page's existing films have been reissued on DVD, such as "Bettie Page: Varietease/Teaserama" as well as a collection of five shorts called "Betty Page in Bondage". In 1984 London Enterprises, a producer of S&M films, added music and narration to 28 of Klaw's silent fetish movies for the two-volume video "Irving Klaw Bondage Classics". Page appears in half of these featurettes. In 2005 both volumes were released on a single DVD by Cult Epics as "Bettie Page: Bondage Queen." A compilation of her burlesque dancing performances from "Striporama", "Varietease" and "Teaserama" plus 6 black-and-white dancing and cat-fight shorts are on the Cult Epics DVD release "Bettie Page: Pin Up Queen." The DVD "100 Girls by Bunny Yeager" (also by Cult Epics) is a documentary with behind-the-scenes footage on Yeager's photo sessions with Page and other pin-up models.
In 2004, Cult Epics produced the biographical film "Bettie Page Dark Angel". This low-budget straight-to-disc biopic centers on the 1953-1957 Irving Klaw period, faithfully recreating six lost fetish films she did for Klaw. Model Paige Richards plays the title role. Another biographical movie, "
The Notorious Bettie Page", was released in 2005 and shown in theaters in 2006, and is based on the story of Bettie Page from the mid-1930s through the late-1950s. It stars actress Gretchen Molas the adult Page. Bonus footage added to the DVD release includes rare color film of Page playfully undressing and striking various nude poses for the camera.
In 2006, Bettie Page and
Halo Guitarscollaborated to produce a limited edition of custom guitars, released at the 2007 Winter NAMMshow in southern California. The total run of one hundred guitars were hand-made by luthierWaylon Ford, painted by the artist Pamelina H., and signed by Bettie Page. [ [http://www.haloguitars.com/bettie.html HALO Custom Guitars, Inc. - The finest custom guitars this side of the PECOS ] ]
The years out of the spotlight
New Year's Eve1958, during one of her regular visits to Key West, Florida, Page attended a service at what is now The Key West Temple Baptist Church. She found herself drawn to the multiracialenvironment and started to attend on a regular basis. She would in time attend three bible colleges, including the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, Multnomah School of the Bibleand, briefly, a Christian retreat known as "Bibletown," part of the Boca Raton Community Church, Boca Raton, Florida. During the 1960s she attempted to become a Christian missionary in Africa but was rejected for having had a divorce. Over the next few years she worked for various Christian organizations before settling in Nashville in 1963. She briefly remarried Billy Neal, her first husband, who helped her to gain entrance into missionary work, however, the two divorced again shortly thereafter. Bettie returned to her beloved Florida in 1967, and married again, to Harry Lear, but this marriage also ended in divorce in 1972. Leaving Florida, she moved to Los Angeles with her brother sometime in the late 1970s and lived a quiet life unaware of the cult that built around her during the 1980s. This renewed attention raised the question among her new fans of what happened to Bettie after the 1950s. The 1990s edition of the popular "Book of Lists" [cite book |last = Wallechinsky |first = David |coauthors = Amy Wallace |authorlink = David Wallechinsky |title = The People's Almanac Presents the Book of Lists - the '90s Edition |publisher = Little Brown & Co |year = 1993 |isbn = 978-0316920797 ] included Page in a list of once-famous celebrities who had seemingly vanished from the public eye.
The question of what Page did in the obscure years after modeling was answered in part with the publication of an official biography in 1996, "Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-up Legend." [cite book |last = Essex |first = Karen |coauthors = James L. Swanson |title = Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend |year = 1996 |publisher = General Publishing Group |location = Los Angeles |isbn = 1-881649-62-8 ] Her biography described a woman who dealt head-on with adversity, always looking forward, never looking back.
Another biography, "The Real Bettie Page: The Truth about the Queen of Pinups" [cite book |last = Foster |first = Richard |title = The Real Bettie Page: The Truth About the Queen of the Pinups |year = 1997 |publisher = Carol Publishing Group/Birch Lane Press |isbn = 1-55972-432-3 ] written by Richard Foster and published in 1997, told a less happy tale. Foster's book immediately provoked attacks from her fans, including Hefner and
Harlan Ellison, as well as a statement from Page that it was "full of lies," because they were not pleased that the book revealed a Los Angeles County Sheriff's police report that stated that she suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and, at age 56, had stabbed her elderly landlords on the afternoon of April 19, 1979 in an unprovoked attack during a fit of insanity [cite book |last = Foster |first = Richard |title = The Real Bettie Page: The Truth About the Queen of the Pinups, |year = 1997 |publisher = Carol Publishing Group/Birch Lane Press |isbn = 1-55972-432-3 ; pages 120-132] . However, Steve Brewster, founder of The Bettie Scouts of America fan club, has stated that it is not as unsympathetic as the book's reputation makes it to be. Brewster adds that he also read the chapter about her business dealings with Swanson, and stated that Page was pleased with that part of her story.
In a 1993 telephone interview with "
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" she told Robin Leachthat she had no knowledge of her resurgence, telling him that she was "penniless and infamous." In a late-1990s interview, Page stated she would not allow any current pictures of her to be shown because of concerns about her weight. In 2003, however, she changed her mind and allowed a publicity picture to be taken of her for the August 2003 edition of " Playboy". In 2006, the " Los Angeles Times" ran an article headlined "A Golden Age for a Pinup", covering an autographing session at her current publicity company, CMG Worldwide. Once again, she declined to be photographed, saying that she would rather be remembered as she was.
In 1996, Bettie Page did grant an exclusive one-on-one TV interview to entertainment reporter Tim Estiloz for a short-lived NBC morning magazine program "Real Life". The interview was granted as part of Page's participation in publicizing her biography, "Bettie Page: The Life Of A Pin-Up Legend". The interview featured her voice reminiscing about her career and relating anecdotes about her personal life, as well as photos from Bettie's personal collection. At Page's request, her face was not shown during the interview. The video of the interview was broadcast only once, but recently resurfaced on YouTube under the title, "REAL Bettie Page TV Interview - Her Life In Her OWN Words." [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0Ynlp7sxZs]
Within the last few years, she has hired a law firm to help her recoup some of the profits being made with her likeness. She has also been plagued with ill health in the last few years, with many fans sending her messages of hope and good luck.
Irving Klaw Bondage Classics, Volume I" (London Enterprises, 1984)
Irving Klaw Bondage Classics, Volume II" (London Enterprises, 1984)
*"" (Cult Epics, 2005)
*"" (Cult Epics, 2005)
*"100 Girls by Bunny Yeager" (Cult Epics, 2005)
*2004 - ""
*2005 - "
The Notorious Bettie Page"
In popular culture
* In one of his numerous fictional back-page biographical sketches, Harlan Ellison claimed to be "writing a biography of Bettie Page for young adults".
* Alternative country band
BR5-49recorded an ode to Page named "Bettie, Bettie" on their 1996 debut EP "Live From Robert's".
* Indie rocker Paul Spencer wrote a song entitled "Bettie Page," which appears on his 2005 debut album "The Whole Shebang". The song includes the lyric "Locks the world in a cage, she's kinky like Bettie Page," paying tribute to Page's notorious risqué photographs.
* Heavy metal/industrial band, Bile's song "Betty Page" (from the album
Sex Reflex) references the model in the line "Her hair's blacker than Betty Page".
* Swing band Royal Crown Revue has a song entitled "Port-Au-Prince (Travels with Bettie Page)" from their album "The Contender"
* In the 2005 video game "
Destroy All Humans!", using the basis of a 1950's science fiction story, a comment spoken when scanning a male human's mind refers to Bettie Page
* In the
Drake Bellsong "Fallen For You", there is a line " Buddy Hollyglasses on a Bettie Page negative".
* In the Spanish
magazine" El Jueves", the main character in the comic strip "Clara de Noche" is inspired by Bettie Page.
DC Comicsvillainess Poison Ivy was drawn, in her early appearances, to resemble Bettie Page.
* The punk band
Turbonegroreleased a song on the b-side of the Denim Demonsingle entitled "(I Fucked) Betty Page".
* [http://www.bettiepage.com Official Site of Bettie Page]
* [http://www.fullyarticulated.com/Bettie2.html Who Is the Real Bettie Page?]
* [http://www.grrl.com/betty.html The Bettie Page - Grrl.com Gallery and News]
* [http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-bettie11mar11,0,4194244.story?page=1&coll=la-home-headlines A Golden Age for a Pinup]
* [http://thebettiepage.com thebettiepage.com - Web guide to Bettie Page]
* [http://www.ctv.es/USERS/fjvidal/ARCHIVES.HTM Bettie Photos]
* [http://www.rbeditions.com/ViewPage.asp?id=76 The Bettie Page Collection] (Paintings)
* [http://bettieville.com/bp/bettie.shtml Dave's Bettie Page Page - a Tribute and Guide]
* [http://www.cultsirens.com/page/page.htm Cult Sirens: Bettie Page]
* [http://www.pollystaffle.com/pollies/BettiePage.shtml Bettie Page - Polly Staffle Hall of Fame]
* [http://www.playboy.com/arts-entertainment/features/bettiepage/interview/index.html Playboy interview (January 1998) My Story: The Missing Years]
* [http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5338552 Audio interview with "The Notorious Bettie Page" director Mary Harron] from "Fresh Air" program, April 12, 2006
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0Ynlp7sxZs 1996 Bettie Page TV Interview - Her Life In Her Own Words ] with entertainment reporter Tim Estiloz
* [http://www.irvingklaw.com Irving Klaw Fan Site]
* [http://dir.yahoo.com/thespark/8898/the-most-wholesome-sex-symbol-of-them-all The Spark Blog: The Most Wholesome Sex Symbol of Them All]
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