PIN-UP QUEEN BETTIE PAGE DIES
Posted: Fri, Dec 12 2008 - 11:52 AM
When it comes to pop culture icons -- those whose likenesses have generated more revenue since their passing than during their lifetimes -- there is, of course, the holy trinity of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean. Yet, there is another who is arguably even more popular (peruse any Hot Topic store at your local mall to see what I mean), whose image has inspired everything from Xena and The Rocketeer to biopics and pop art.
I'm speaking, of course, about Bettie Page who died yesterday at the age of 85, after a heart attack on December 6th left her in a coma.
BETTIE PAGE SIGNS AUTOGRAPHS
Famous (some would say infamous) for letting amateur photographers take an estimated 20,000 photographs between 1949 and 1957, Bettie Page became the ultimate underground pin-up queen, whose wholesome innocence was contrasted by shocking (at least for its day) depictions of bondage and S&M.
BETTIE PAGE BY OLIVIA
Not surprisingly, Bettie came from an abusive past. Born in Nashville in 1923, the oldest of six children, Bettie and her two sisters were all molested by their father. Her mother didn't help the situation. "All I ever wanted was a mother who paid attention to me," Page later recalled. "She didn't want girls. She thought we were trouble. When I started menstruating at 13, I thought I was dying because she never taught me anything about that."
After high school, Page had brief stints as a high school teacher, a secretary and wife in a short-lived marriage to a violent alcoholic. In 1948, after moving to New York and enrolling in acting classes, Bettie was noticed by a photographer on the beach, who introduced her to camera clubs. She quickly drew the attention of Irving Klaw and his sister, Paula, whose mail-order business specialized in sexy pin-ups, cheesecake photos and bondage poses.
About this period, Page recalled, "I had lost my ambition and desire to succeed and better myself ... but I could make more money in a few hours modeling than I could earn in a week as a secretary."
When she was 35, Bettie chucked it all. A Christian since she was a young girl, she left modeling behind in the late 1950s, rededicated her life to the Lord and became a minister, even serving as a counselor for the Billy Graham Crusade.
All was still not well with the former pin-up girl, however. After two more failed marriages, and a few years in a mental institution, Bettie emerged in the early 1990s to discover that she had become a cultural phenomenon and pop icon. Photos and images from forty years earlier were making a fortune in merchandising. Mystified by this, Bettie said, "I have no idea why I'm the only model who has had so much fame so long after quitting work. When I turned my life over to the Lord Jesus I was ashamed of having posed in the nude. But now, most of the money I've got is because I posed in the nude. So I'm not ashamed of it. But I still don't understand it."
In 2005, director Mary Harron gave us the critically-acclaimed bio-pic The Notorious Bettie Page. Starring Gretchen Moll as Bettie, this film does an admirable job of depicting this woman's weird and wonderful life.
You will be missed, Bettie -- but you will also be remembered.
God bless those Goth kids.
THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE - theatrical trailer
BETTIE PAGE IN HER OWN WORDS
Category: Pop Culture