Page suffered a heart attack last week in Los Angeles
and never regained consciousness. She had been
hospitalised for three weeks with pneumonia before
the heart attack, according to her agent Mark Roesler.
Roesler said in a statement: “With deep personal
sadness I must announce that my dear friend and client
Bettie Page passed away at 6.41pm Pst this evening in
a Los Angeles hospital.
“She died peacefully but had never regained
consciousness after suffering a heart attack nine days
Page’s trademark curvy figure and raven hair made her
a fixture in men’s magazines in the 1950s, and the icon
found a cult following that lasted long after her
The star also landed parts in dozens of silent fetish
films in which she often played a dominatrix, but the
aspiring actress only had one small speaking role in the
1953 movie Striporama.
saying: “I think that she was a remarkable lady, an iconic figure in pop culture who influenced sexuality, taste in fashion, someone who
had a tremendous impact on our society. She was a very dear person.”
Page faded into obscurity in the 1960s after converting to Christianity and serving as a Baptist missionary in Angola, she experienced a
resurgence of popularity in the 1980s and had a significant cult following. Her look, including her jet black hair and trademark bangs,
has been iconic within the rockabilly subculture and has influenced many artists.
1923, the second child of Walter Roy Page and Edna Mae Pirtle. At a
young age, Page had to face the responsibilities of caring for her
younger siblings. Her parents divorced when she was 10 years old.
Following the divorce, Page and her sister lived in an orphanage for a
year. During this time, Page’s mother worked two jobs, one as a
hairdresser during the day and washing laundry at night. As a teenager,
Page and her sisters tried different makeup styles and hairdos imitating
their favorite movie stars. She also learned to sew. These skills proved
useful years later for her pin-up photography when Page did her own
makeup and hair and made her own bikinis and costumes. A strong
student and debate team member at Hume-Fogg High School, she was
voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” During her early years, the Page
family traveled around the country in search of economic stability.As the
salutatorian of her class, on June 6, 1940, Bettie Page graduated from
high school with a scholarship and enrolled at George Peabody College
with the intention of becoming a teacher. However, the next fall she
began studying acting, hoping to become a movie star. At the same
time, she began her first job, typing for author Alfred Leland Crab.
Page graduated from Peabody with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1944.
In 1943, she married high school classmate Billy Neal in a simple
courthouse ceremony shortly before he was drafted into the Navy for
service in World War II.For the next few years, Bettie moved from San
Francisco to Nashville to Miami and to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where
she felt a special affinity with the country and its culture. In November
1947, while back in the United States, Bettie filed for divorce from
work as an actress. In the meantime, she supported herself by working as a secretary. In 1950, while walking along the Coney Island
shore, Bettie met Jerry Tibbs, a police officer with an interest in photography. Bettie was a willing model, and Tibbs took pictures of
her and put together her first pinup portfolio.
In the late 1940s, what were known as camera clubs were formed as a means of circumventing legal restrictions on the production of
nude photos. These clubs existed ostensibly to promote artistic photography, but many were merely fronts for the making of erotica.
Page entered the field of glamour photography as a popular camera club model, working initially with photographer Cass Carr. Her
lack of inhibition in posing made her a hit. Her name and image became quickly known in the erotic photography industry, and in
1951, her image appeared in men’s magazines with names like Wink, Titter, Eyefull and Beauty Parade.
Irving Klaw for mail-order photographs with pin-up,
bondage or sadomasochistic themes, making her the
first famous bondage model. Klaw also used Page in
dozens of short black-and-white 8mm and 16mm
“specialty” films which catered to specific requests
from his clientele. These silent featurettes showed
women clad in lingerie and high heels acting out
fetishistic scenarios of abduction, domination, and
slave-training with bondage, spanking, and elaborate
leather costumes and restraints. Page alternated
between playing a stern dominatrix and a helpless
victim bound hand and foot. Klaw also produced a line
of still photos taken during these sessions. Some have
become iconic images, such as his highest-selling photo
of Page shown gagged and bound in a web of ropes
from the Leopard Bikini Bound film. Although these
underground features had the same crude style and
clandestine distribution as the pornographic “stag” films
of the time, Klaw’s all-female films (and still photos)
never featured any nudity or sexual content.
In 1953, Page took acting classes at the renowned
Herbert Berghoff Studios, which led to several roles
on stage and television. She appeared on The United
States Steel Hour and the The Jackie Gleason Show.
Her off-Broadway productions included Time is a
Thief and Sunday Costs Five Pesos. Also in 1953,
Page acted and danced in the feature-length burlesque
revue film Striporama by Jerald Intrator. She was
given a brief speaking role, the only time her voice has
been captured on film.
vignettes by Page and well-known striptease artists Lili St. Cyr and Tempest Storm. All three films were mildly risque, but none
showed any nudity or overtly salacious content.
In 1954, during one of her annual pilgrimages to Miami, Florida, Page met photographers Jan Caldwell, H. W. Hannau and Bunny
Yeager. At that time, Page was the top pin-up model in New York. Yeager, a former model and aspiring photographer, signed Page
for a photo session at the now-closed wildlife park Africa USA in Boca Raton, Florida. The Jungle Bettie photographs from this shoot
are among her most celebrated. They include nude shots with a pair of cheetahs named Mojah and Mbili. The leopard skin patterned
Jungle Girl outfit she wore was made, along with much of her lingerie, by Bettie herself. A large collection of the Yeager photos, and
Klaw’s, were published in the book Bettie Page Confidential (St. Martin’s Press, 1994).
Hefner, he selected one to use as the Playmate of the
Month centerfold in the January 1955 issue of the
two-year-old magazine. The famous photo shows Page,
wearing only a Santa hat, kneeling before a Christmas tree
holding an ornament and playfully winking at the camera. In
1955, Bettie won the title “Miss Pinup Girl of the World.”
She also became known as “The Queen of Curves” and
“The Dark Angel”.
While pin-up and glamour models frequently have careers
measured in months, Page was in demand for several
years, continuing to model until 1957. Although she
frequently posed in the nude, she never appeared in scenes
with explicit sexual content. The reasons reported for her
departure from modeling vary. Some reports mention the
Kefauver Hearings of the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile
Delinquency (after a young man apparently died during a
session of bondage which was rumored to be inspired by
Page), which ended Irving Klaw’s bondage and S&M
mail-order photography business. In fact, the United States
Congress called her to testify to explain the photos in which
she appeared. While she was excused from appearing
before the committee, the print negatives of many of her
photos were destroyed by court order. For many years
after, the negatives that survived were illegal to print.
However, the most obvious reason for ending her modeling
career was her conversion to Christianity while living in
Key West, Florida in 1959 in combination with the 1957
trials, after which she severed all contact with her prior life.
Source: Dark Horse Comics
It’s hard to get sad news at the end of a long workday. That’s how I felt last night when I hopped online to wrap up one more issue
from my crazy day, and the news on my homepage told me Bettie Page had died.
I don’t know Bettie — never even had the chance to speak with her. But I’ve been fortunate to work with modern pinup master Jim
Silke, whose great affection and admiration for the real person behind the sex object in his portraits of legendary beauties like Bettie
Page bring a tangible sweetness to his otherwise deeply sexy work.
of a woman I’ve looked at in hundreds of pictures —
in photographs, paintings, and comic-book
caricatures. And in the five years I’ve been Jim’s
editor, I’ve fallen in love with her in much the same
way Jim did long ago when he first saw her.
Here’s what Jim wrote about Bettie’s influence over
how he came to understand drawing women, from his
2004 book, Pin-Up: The Illegitimate Art:
“The right model will not only inform and inspire you,
but also inform and instruct you, and keep you real.
Bettie Page first taught Silke that lesson back in the
fifties. As he pointed out in his book, Bettie Page:
Queen of Hearts, he drew her a lot back then when
he was studying the female anatomy because Bettie’s
anatomy was so well defined. But in drawing her over
and over, he eventually came to see that her main
attraction was her attitude, her animated joy, her
personality and character. ‘They were as important,
actually more important, than her physical perfection.’
Jim-who wrote that book in the second person, in
case that was a little confusing-spoke with a measure
of sadness in his voice when I called him this morning.
That emotion reflects his affection not only for the
gorgeous girl whose playful smile caught his heart so
long ago, but also for the great artist Dave Stevens.
his wonderful Rocketeer comics — and the movie that followed — that helped bring Bettie into the hearts and fantasies of a new
generation. Jim and Dave were two peas in a pod when it came both to their incredible skill as artists, and also their uniquely charming
approach to capturing the spirit of any person or character whose image became a part of their respective oeuvres. Especially the sexy
While I sit here writing this with the same heavy heart that many of you probably share this morning, I’m also reminding myself to think
of Bettie in the way that she always wanted her fans to see her. Bettie dropped out of the limelight decades ago and pursued a very
different kind of life than the one that brought her some degree of both fame and infamy.
After retiring from her life as an icon of glamour and sensual expression, Bettie hid from the attention of fans and cameras for years,
apparently cultivating her own privacy and wanting fans to remember her as the light hearted beauty whose passion for life is captured
in all of those amazing images of her. Knowing that she wished her adoring fans to remember her that way, I know I’ll try to steer my
own thoughts away from sadness today. Instead I’ll think of her as the amazing source of inspiration she remains for all of us slightly
naughty girls and boys who treasure the impact she had on contemporary culture.
And, especially in a city like the one I live in — Portland, Oregon — we can all look forward to the glimpses of Bettie we are treated to
every day in the women who will continue to emulate her style, the men who worship every image of her, and this knowledge she
brought to everyone who loved her: it’s always sexier when you smile.
We love you, Bettie.
long battle with leukemia. Many of you may not recognize the name, but you certainly would
recognize his work. Stevens began his career in the early 1970’s as an illustrator for Tarzan
comics, before he got his big break drawing storyboards for Hanna-Barbera cartoons.
While at Hanna-Barbera, Stevens worked on both the Super Friends and the Godzilla
Power Hour. Although I think it would be a little too harsh to blame him for either Godzilla’s
eye lasers or Godzooky.
In 1982, Stevens would come up with the idea for his own comic book called The
Rocketeer. The comic would center around a stunt pilot named Cliff Secord, who discovers
a jet pack and dons an old movie robot-looking helmet while he battles bad guys in 1930s
Southern California. Steven’s inspiration for the series came from old movie and radio
serials, which he thought would be a good contrast to modern pulp heroes.
The success of The Rocketeer comic book caught the eye of the creative people at Disney,
who turned the story into a live action movie in 1991. The film starred Billy Campbell as
Secord, Timothy Dalton, and a young Jennifer Connelly playing Jenny Blake, the main
character’s girlfriend, a character Stevens modeled after 1950s pin-up icon Bettie Page for
the comics artwork.
Steven’s love for Bettie Page didn’t end with Jenny Blake. He would almost single handily
start a revival for the famous pin-up queen when he produced a series of illustrations
featuring the icon. Interesting enough is the fact that Stevens would discover that Page was
living just a few miles from his home. Even more interesting was the fact that it was widely
believed that Page had passed away years earlier. The two became very good friends.
The work of Dave Stephens will have a lasting impact on pop culture for decades to come.