“She (Betty Page) had a saucy innocence that is both contemporary and provocative, and also nostalgic."
Bettie Mae Page was born in Nashville, and one of six children. As a child she was sexually molested by her father and after he sent to jail her mother could not cope and Betty and two sisters were sent to an orphanage. When she left school she completed an arts degree with Peabody College in Nashville before starting her modeling career in San Francisco then New York.
Her combination of girl-next-door freshness and dangerous sensuality made Betty, one of the most famous ‘pin up girls’ dubbed, the Queen of Curves. Her egg timer figure (36-32-35), sweet smile, sparkling blue grey eyes, and a unique jet black hairstyle (due to her high forehead) set the scene for the sexual revolution. Daringly (for the time) she appeared in bondage pose and her images not just satisfied her eager fans but also creatively influenced many of today’s artists, designers, writers and filmmakers.
As part of her contract, Betty was required to do several bondage or fetish shots for all of her shoots. For the setups she made her own daring outfits and when bondage was required the ropes and chains were done by her friend Paula. Betty has reported she enjoyed all of the modeling she did, including the bondage scenes (as well as spanking, wrestling, whipping, dressing up in a leather pony costume, etc.), and did not feel exploited. It seems the Dark Angel was not a real-life bondage queen, and had great fun posing for the pictures.
She was a model to many of the creative photographers of the fifties. Her image appeared everywhere and she posed for Playboy as Miss January 1955. The photographs were taken by Bunny Yeager and featured Betty winking at the camera wearing only a Santa hat as she decorated a Christmas tree. Playboy founder Hugh Hefner described it as "a milestone in the history of the magazine.” Betty Page also had a Hollywood screen test, but refused the casting couch, rejecting overtures from studio executives including Howard Hughes. As a result she never appeared in legitimate movies but did guest on TV shows such as "The Jackie Gleason Show." (The Seinfeld of it’s time). Her modeling career lasted from 1950 to 1957, after which she completely disappeared. In interviews later Betty told of becoming a Christian and studying the bible at various bible colleges. Despite self exile she enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in the 1980s, as a new generation of fans became obsessed with her legacy. In 1992, the TV programe Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous found her, living with her brother. Despite the moneys paid for her photographs, she never earned a penny more than the standard $10 an hour, modeling fee.
In her later life when interviewed she refused to have her picture taken, wanting to remain, on film anyway, forever young. As was her innocence Betty remained agog at her apparent popularity and influence on others.
Celebrity look-a-likes include Demi Moore, Lucy Lawless (TV's "Xena: Warrior Princess.") and even Madonna. Betty’s features regularly featured in numerous comic books based on her various personas. In the eighties her character appeared in the Dave Stevens comic "The Rocketeer." Later when it was made into a movie, Betty Page fan clubs and websites proliferated thereafter and Betty Page made a good living signing memorabilia at conventions. Sadly Betty Page, iconoclast and one of America's most photographed pin-up girls died from pneumonia in Los Angeles in 2008. She was 85.
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