Bettie Page was a pin-up/fetish model from the mid to late fifties. She also participated in very (for that time anyway) risque bondage, fetish videos. I’ve always likened Bette Page to the girl who sat at the back of the class who was just as hot as the popular girl in school every guy wanted to be with, (who at this time was Marilyn Monroe) but every guy would never admit to wanting to be with. But secretly every guy would kill to have time with her privately if they had the chance.
At the height of her popularity, she was probably the most famous and sought after pinup model of her time. With her trademark, “Bette Bangs” that adorned the top of her head and a smile that could melt the heart of coldest the man and a body that could make most men sweat on the coldest day of the year, Bettie was truly an icon of her age, and her image would go on to inspire many models, artists, future burlesque dancers and the like for decades to come.
The first time I was exposed to Bettie was over ten years ago in a Hot Topic store. I had come across a bright red shirt with a stencil-like etching of her on the front. At the bottom of the image, right below her knees as she posed in a cutesy, yet provocative style was her name in bold type: BETTIE PAGE. I don’t know why, but I was drawn to that shirt, to that image, and I knew I had to have it. I still have that shirt to this day and still wear it, though I wear it more around the house then anywhere else. Since then I’ve amassed a grand total of 9 shirts with her visage and I still wear all of them but one, and that’s only because I made the fool mistake of changing out a car battery in that shirt and got some of the water in the battery on it. (for future reference, don’t think that only a couple of drops from a car battery can’t do any real damage to your clothes. Immediately take your shirt or pants off and throw it in the wash, other wise you’ll basically have massive holes wear material used to be)
In the years since I bought that first shirt and added to that collection, I’ve gotten dvds that hold collections of her old movies, the biopic that came out about her four or five years ago (it’s a decent flick by the way) and some books By Olivia De Berardinis that feature Bettie. I don’t know what it was that attracted me to her, but she has become a kind of mascot for me. I have a Bettie Page keychain I carry with me everywhere, and odds are I’ll rock a Bettie shirt at least once a week. Perhaps what attracts me to her is that during her time she was considered something of a type of outcast, not fitting in, but somehow managing to still make an impact in society and have people know her, despite many wishing they would not have. The outcast and not fitting in thing is something I identify with wholeheartedly. Being able to overcome all that, to inspire people long after you’ve done your part in the art that you helped bring to the forefront is something I find very moving and wonderful.
The woman herself was far different from the image she presented. Behind that smile and those raunchy poses was a woman looking for something. In 1958 she walked away from her fame, and what money she had made from the photos and films. She had found God and gave everything up she had spent years building up and working for and would disappear from the public eyes. It wasn’t until a new generation had discovered her that her popularity was resurrected. Bettie herself has said she never thought what she did was shameful, but felt normal. It also beat sitting at a typewriter day in and out. It wasn’t until later in life that Bettie discovered just what kind of impact she had on pop culture, and in her later years, I think she truly understood just how much she meant and still means to people out there. “It makes me feel wonderful that people still care for me… that I have so many fans among young people, who write to me and tell me I have been an inspiration.” Indeed, many of artists in music, on stage and screen, even some models of the “Suicide” variety probably wouldn’t be where they are if Bettie Page hadn’t existed.
Bettie Page died on December 11, 2008, but she left behind a legacy and legion of fans who are continually inspired by the work she had done, by that raven black hair, that beautiful smile, and those innocent eyes that hid behind a vampish sexuality that few have been able to match before or since.