Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Bettie Mae Page

Bettie Mae Page
would have turned 87 years old today

Bettie was the quintessential pin-up, tacked up on walls in military barracks and garages; five decades later, some feminists still hail her as a pioneer of women's liberation. It has been estimated that over 20,000 photographs of Bettie were taken, and new generations of fans still buy copies by the thousands.
On a walk along the beach at Coney Island, an amateur photographer admired the 27-year-old's curvy body and asked her to pose. Nudity didn't bother her, she said, likening it to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Her modeling career took off, and she was the centerfold in the January 1955 issue of then-fledgling Playboy magazine.
In 1951, Bettie fell under the influence of Irving Klaw, a photographer who specialized in S&M. He cut her hair into the dark bangs that became her trademark, and posed her in spiked heels and little else. Bettie began to attain renown as the "Queen of Bondage," known for her bangs, saucy come-hither looks, and controversial sadomasochistic poses. At the time, most of these photos were sold on a lucrative subscription basis, where the customers made specific requests as to the scenes and layouts. She also appeared as a performer in over 50 burlesque films. The photos and films were publicly denounced as perversion. Klaw was later arrested for "conspiracy to distribute obscene material" though the U.S. Mail, and Bettie was called to testify in a private session.

 Believing that her days as a pin-up were over, Bettie retreated from public view, later saying she was hounded by federal agents.  A move to Southern California in 1979 brought more troubles. She was arrested after an altercation with her landlady. Doctors diagnosed her with acute schizophrenia, and she spent 20 months in a state mental hospital in San Bernardino, following by being placed under state supervision for eight years.

Her mysterious disappearance from the public eye only fueled the public's fascination. In fact, for two decades no one was sure where she was, or if she was still alive. She resurfaced in the 1990s after being tracked down for a documentary. She occasionally granted interviews and sold autographs, but refused to allow her picture to be taken in her old age. In a 1993 telephone interview, she told a reporter that she was "penniless and infamous." She later hired a law firm to help her recoup some of the profits being made with her likeness. She spent her final years living in Los Angeles with her brother. After a three-week battle with pneumonia, she suffered a fatal heart attack in December 2008 at the age of 85.


Sea Doll said...

OMG, we both remembered Bettie's birthday today. I blogged the same thing. I love her. She totally inspires me and I know she inspires alot of women out there. Great post!

PoorCollegeStudent said...

Near my apartment there is a bettie page store where there are pictures of celebrities doing "covers" of her photographs and they sell clothes and shoes that are inspired by her. I've been inside once but it's a bit pricey.

Francy said...

Great post! I just love Bettie.


Yes great post. Since his death it's like the "50's party" is ended. She was the segment between our days and the fifties. Still alive, it was like the crazy 50's years weren't finish.

Jessica Cangiano said...

Excellent summary of the life of one of the loveliest and most controversial women of the 50s. I too have always admired Berrie's style, as well as her gumption. She paved the way for many to follow and will continue to be an inspiration for generations to come.

Wishing you a serene & blissful Sunday, sweet heart!
♥ Jessica

lakhsmita indira said...

thinking of you :))
i hope you're feeling better.