05 Apr Bettie Page. The Icon
This is the story of Bettie page. The Icon
The story of Bettie Page is one mixed with grandeur and sadness. From the peak of her fame in the late 1950s, named pin-up girl of the year and centrefold for playboy magazine. To her mental health problems and failed marriages. Page was the original pin-up girl and poster child of S&M.
Her style went on to influence many in the scene. Some would even argue that Dita Von Teese is Page’s predecessor. Her famous bangs, black locks and corsets have become a stable in the world of S&M.
Bettie Page started out as a New York secretary but was soon noticed by off duty police officer and keen photographer Jerry Tibbs. Page quickly became a hit with local photographers and underground pornographers. Her liberal attitude towards nudity and posing made her highly prized among avid porn collectors.
The popularity of her work begins to soar and she was soon featuring in men’s magazines across the country. Some of her more notable work was produced with New York-based photographer Irving Klaw. Klaws worked with some of the biggest burlesque and fetish models of the era and was soon shooting bondage scenes with Page. A shoot from the early 1950s with Klaws produced one of her highest selling photos to date. A series of stills depicting Bettie bound and gagged went on to ensure her as a fetish icon. Other photographers including Jan Caldwell and Bunny Yeager soon began shooting Page, who was at the time making a serious name for herself in the world of pin-up girls.
Her charismatic personality and staggering curves caught the attention of many in the industry and she was soon known as the “dark angel” and “queen of bondage”
Her famous hourglass figure and large bust also caught the attention of Playboy editor and owner Hugh Hefner. Hefner was eager to have Page feature on the still-developing magazine.
Playboy issue January 1955 went on to have Page feature as the centrefold. Page sat daringly and suggestively under a Christmas tree winking and smiling at the camera.
Soon after Bettie had posed for Playboy her career began tapering off, on Bettie’s own accord. It is not clearly known why she decided to postpone her career, most point to the fact that she had become heavily involved in Christianity and even applied to become a Christian missionary in Africa during the 1960s.
On New Years Eve 1958, during one of her visits to Florida, Page attended a service at what is now known as the Key West Temple Baptist Church. She found herself drawn to the environment and started to attend on a regular basis. She would eventually go onto attend three bible colleges in total.
During the 1950s she dated Richard Arbib but then went onto marry Armond Walterson in 1958. The marriage lasted five years before ending in divorce in 1963. Bettie went onto have a string of failed marriages throughout the 60s and 70s.
It’s not known if the marriage worries or a string other events including the evaporation of her once blossoming career eventually lead to her being diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1979 after an incidence involving her landlady.
Page went onto to live her life obscured from the public eye throughout the ’80s and was unaware that she was beginning to gain a cult following on from her work and as 50’s pin-up model.
Books and merchandise were beginning to spawn a growing interest in her early work and her famous bangs and corsets were making a revival worldwide.
Bettie, unaware of the resurgence had not earned a single cent from the fortune that was being made. It wasn’t until after signing with Curtis Management Group, that she finally started to see some of the royalties begin made off her memorabilia.
Bettie remained mostly hidden from the camera and rarely made public appearances during the later stages of her life. Stating “she would rather be remembered as she was”
In a 1998 interview with Playboy, she commented on her career:
“I never thought it was shameful. I felt normal. It’s just that it was much better than pounding a typewriter eight hours a day, which gets monotonous”.
On December 6, 2008, Bettie was hospitalized in a critical condition. Bettie had suffered a heart attack. it was also claimed that she had been suffering from pneumonia at the time. After several days her family agreed to discontinue the life support, and she passed away on December 11, 2008
In 2011 Bettie Page’s estate was listed in Forbes in the top earnings for dead celebrities, earning $6 million. in 2014 her estate was again listed at earning an estimated $10 million in 2013.