About Betty Mae Page
With locks as dark as midnight and a smile as bright as day, Bettie Page was much more than a beautiful pinup model, she was simply the best. A legend as much today as during her modeling days, every facet of Bettie's life and personality captures the interest and devotion of the thousands of fans that followed her career until the day of her mysterious disappearance.
Bettie's numerous contradictions undoubtedly added to her charismatic personality. Nice and naughty, shy and daring, simple and exotic, Bettie shone with a freshness never before seen in the modeling industry. Without elaborate props, costumes, or set-dressings, Bettie produced some of the most beautiful shots to ever grace the covers of hundreds of magazines. Bettie's smoothly tanned skin, deep blue eyes and coal-black hair with her trademark bangs, were enough inspiration to spark the imagination of even the least experienced photographers. Her "girl next door" look and innocent smile only complemented that explosive combination of features.
Born on April 22, 1923, in Nashville, Tennessee, Bettie was the second of Walter Roy Page and Edna Mae Pirtle's six children. During Bettie's early years, the Page family traveled around the country in search of economic stability. At a tender age, Bettie had to face the responsibilities of caring for her younger siblings as well as helping her mother with the house chores.
Soon, problems between Bettie's parents led to a divorce, which only worsened the family's financial situation. In order to support her family, Edna worked as a hairdresser during the day and washed laundry at night. When Bettie was only 10 years old, her mother placed her and her two sisters in an orphanage while she worked and saved money.
As a teenager, Bettie and her sisters spent countless hours trying different makeup styles and hairdos imitating their favorite movie stars. At the local community centers, Bettie learned to cook and sew, the latter, a skill that proved particularly useful years later when Bettie made her own bikinis and costumes. In these centers, a young Bettie sought refuge from her home and found enough peace and tranquillity to do homework and study. It was her hard work and determination that kept Bettie at the top of her class during her high school years. As a student, she was a member and program director of the Dramatics Club, secretary treasurer of the Student Council, coeditor of the schoolâ€™s newspaper and yearbook; she was even voted "Most Likely to Succeed."
As the Salutatorian of her class, Bettie won a $100 scholarship to Peabody College where she studied education while dreaming of becoming an actress. In February 1943, Bettie married her boyfriend of two years, Billy Neal. After earning her Bachelor of Arts degree from Peabody College, Bettie moved to San Francisco to be with Billy. It was in San Francisco that Bettie got her first modeling job at a local furrier where Bettie modeled fur coats for clients.
For the next few years, the free-spirited Bettie traveled from San Francisco to Nashville to Miami, even to Portau-Prince, Haiti, where she fell in love with the country and its culture. Back in the United States, in November 1947, Bettie filed for divorce from Billy and moved to New York. In 1950, during a walk along the Coney Island shore, Bettie met Jerry Tibbs, a police officer with an interest in photography. Tibbs took pictures of Bettie and put together her first pinup portfolio. Little did Bettie know how much her life was about to change.
Tibbs introduced Bettie to numerous other photographers including Cass Carr who organized outdoor photographic sessions, which Bettie intensely enjoyed. In a matter of months, Bettieâ€™s modeling career had taken off. Camera clubs led to posing for various magazines such as Wink, Eyeful, Titter, and Beauty Parade. But it wasnâ€™t until her photographs were published in Robert Harrisonâ€™s magazines that Bettie became a pinup star beyond comparison. In 1955, Bettie won the title "Miss Pinup Girl of the World." In January 1955, she was the centerfold in Playboyâ€™s January issue. She was even named the "Girl with the Perfect Figure," with her photographs appearing in everything from record albums to playing cards.
In 1953, Bettie auditioned for an apprenticeship at Sea Cliff Summer Theater in Long Island where she studied acting under the tutelage of Herbert Berghoff. With Berghoffâ€™s encouragement, Bettie secured several roles in various New York productions as well as various television appearances. Her off-Broadway productions included Time is a Thief and Sunday Costs Five Pesos. Bettie even appeared in the Jackie Gleason show.
While living and working in New York, Bettie often returned to Florida. During these trips south, she frequently posed for photographers Jan Caldwell, H.W. Hannau, and Bunny Yeager who often featured Bettie outdoors, in boats, and at the beach.
In 1957, Bettie left New York for good and moved to Florida, her modeling career would end at the top of its popularity. On November 26, 1958, Bettie married her second husband, Armond Walterson. During the following months, Bettie tried numerous jobs, and she traveled to numerous states including California, Tennessee, Illinois, and Oregon. In 1963, Bettie divorced Armond. She would later marry Harry Lear, a marriage that also ended in divorce.
Through the 1980s and the 1990s, Bettie Page re-surged as a modeling icon. The media, intrigued by her mysterious disappearance launched a countrywide search for Bettie. Comic books soon featured characters that resembled Bettie, contemporary artists such as Olivia, Dave Stevens, and Robert Blue immortalized their idol with their powerful images. Today, Bettie is enjoying her private life with her family.
Bettie's undeniable influence is present still today in fashion, films, and magazines just to name a few. The dark-haired girl from Nashville has become a living legend, a modern icon, a symbol of beauty and femininity that transcends ordinary standards. In the heart of her adoring fans, Bettie will forever remain the queen of pinup.
She was an American model who became famous in the 1950s for her fetish modeling and pin-up photos. She has often been called the "Queen of Pinups". Her look, including her jet black hair and trademark bangs, has influenced many artists.
She was also "Miss January 1955" one of the earliest Playmates of the Month for Playboy magazine. "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," Playboy founder Hugh Hefner told the Associated Press.
Her later life was marked by depression, violent mood swings and several years in a state psychiatric hospital.In 1959, she converted to Christianity, and later worked for Billy Graham. After years of obscurity, she experienced a resurgence of popularity in the 1980s.
Page was born Betty Mae Page in Nashville, Tennessee, 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. After her father, whom Page would accuse of molesting her starting at age 13, was imprisoned,[ Page and her two sisters 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. During her early years, the Page family traveled around the country in search of economic stability.
A good student and debate team member at Hume-Fogg High School, she was voted "Most Likely to Succeed". On June 6, 1940, Page graduated as the salutatorian of her high school class with a scholarship. She 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 got her first job, typing for author Alfred Leland Crabb. 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 World War II. For the next few years, she 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, back in the United States, she filed for divorce.
Years out of the spotlight:
Photographer Sam Menning was the last person to photograph a pin-up of Page before her retirement.
On New Year's Eve 1958, during one of her regular visits to Key West, Florida Page attended a service at what is now the Key West Temple Baptist Church. She found herself drawn to the multiracial environment and started to attend on a regular basis. She would in time attend three bible colleges, including the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon and, briefly, a Christian retreat known as "Bibletown", part of the Boca Raton Community Church, Boca Raton, Florida.
She dated industrial designer Richard Arbib in the 1950s. She then married Armond Walterson in 1958. They divorced in 1963.
During the 1960s, she attempted to become a Christian missionary in Africa, but was rejected for having had a divorce. Over the next few years she worked for various Christian organizations before settling in Nashville in 1963. She worked full time for Rev. Billy Graham.
She briefly remarried Billy Neal, her first husband, who helped her to gain entrance into missionary work; however, the two divorced again shortly thereafter. She returned to Florida in 1967, and married again, to Harry Lear, but this marriage also ended in divorce in 1972.
She moved to Southern California in 1979. There she had a nervous breakdown and had an altercation with her landlady. The doctors that examined her diagnosed her with acute schizophrenia, and she spent 20 months in a state mental hospital in San Bernardino, California. After a fight with another landlord she was arrested for assault, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity and placed under state supervision for eight years. She was released in 1992 from Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino County.
A cult following was built around her during the 1980s, of which she was unaware. This renewed attention was focused on her pinup and lingerie modeling rather than those depicting paraphilias, and she gained a certain public redemption and popular status as an icon of erotica from a bygone era. This attention also raised the question among her new fans of what happened to her after the 1950s. The 1990s edition of the popular Book of Lists included Page in a list of once-famous celebrities who had seemingly vanished from the public eye.
* Striporama (1953)
* Varietease (1954)
* Teaserama (1955)
* Irving Klaw Bondage Classics, Volume I (London Enterprises, 1984)
* Irving Klaw Bondage Classics, Volume II (London Enterprises, 1984)
* Bettie Page: Pin Up Queen (Cult Epics, 2005)
* Bettie Page: Bondage Queen (Cult Epics, 2005)
* 100 Girls by Bunny Yeager (Cult Epics, 2005)
* Bizarro Sex Loops, Volume 4 (Something Weird Video, 2007)
* Bizarro Sex Loops, Volume 20 (Something Weird Video, 2008)
Fan site: http://bettiepage.com/
Bettie Page's Timeline
April 22, 1923
Nashville, TN, USA
February 15, 1943
November 26, 1958
February 14, 1967
December 11, 2008
Los Angeles, CA, USA
Friday, December 12, 2008
LOS ANGELES — Bettie Page, the 1950s secretary-turned-model whose controversial photographs in skimpy attire or none at all helped set the stage for the 1960s sexual revolution, died Thursday. She was 85.
Ms. Page suffered a heart attack last week in Los Angeles and never regained consciousness, said her agent, Mark Roesler. Before the heart attack, Ms. Page had been hospitalized for three weeks with pneumonia.
Ms. Page, who was also known as Betty, attracted national attention with magazine photographs of her sensuous figure in bikinis and see-through lingerie that were quickly tacked up on walls in military barracks, garages and elsewhere, where they remained for years.
Her photos included a centerfold in the January 1955 issue of then-fledgling Playboy magazine, as well as controversial sadomasochistic poses.
The latter helped contribute to her mysterious disappearance from the public eye, which lasted decades and included years during which she battled mental illness and became a born-again Christian.
After resurfacing in the 1990s, she occasionally granted interviews but refused to allow her picture to be taken.
"I don’t want to be photographed in my old age," she told an interviewer in 1998. "I feel the same way with old movie stars. . . . It makes me sad. We want to remember them when they were young."
The 21st century indeed had people remembering her just as she was. She became the subject of songs, biographies, Web sites, comic books, movies and documentaries. A new generation of fans bought thousands of copies of her photos, and some feminists hailed her as a pioneer of women’s liberation.
Gretchen Mol portrayed her in 2005’s The Notorious Bettie Page and Paige Richards had the role in 2004’s Bettie Page: Dark Angel. Ms. Page herself took part in the 1998 documentary Betty Page: Pinup Queen.
Her career began one day in October 1950 when she took a respite from her job as a secretary in a New York office for a walk along the beach at Coney Island. An amateur photographer named Jerry Tibbs admired the 27-year-old’s figure and asked her to pose.
In 1951, Ms. Page fell under the influence of a photographer and his sister who specialized in S&M. They cut her hair into the dark bangs that became her signature and posed her in spiked heels and little else. Moralists denounced the photos as perversion, and Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, Ms. Page’s home state, launched a congressional investigation.
Ms. Page quickly retreated from public view. She moved to Florida in 1957 and married a much younger man, as an early marriage to her high school sweetheart had ended in divorce.
Her second marriage also failed, as did a third, and she suffered a nervous breakdown.
In 1959, she was lying on a sea wall in Key West when she saw a church with a white neon cross on top. She walked inside and became a born-again Christian.
After attending Bible school, she wanted to serve as a missionary but was turned down because she had been divorced. Instead, she worked full-time for evangelist Billy Graham’s ministry.
A move to Southern California in 1979 brought more troubles.
She was arrested after an altercation with her landlady, and doctors who examined her determined she had acute schizophrenia. She spent 20 months in a state mental hospital in San Bernardino.
Born April 22, 1923, in Nashville, Ms. Page said she grew up in a family so poor "we were lucky to get an orange in our Christmas stockings."
The family included three boys and three girls, and Ms. Page said her father molested all of the girls. After the Pages moved to Houston, her father decided to return to Tennessee and stole a police car for the trip. He was sent to prison, and for a time Ms. Page lived in an orphanage.
In her teens she acted in high school plays, going on to study drama in New York and win a screen test from 20th Century Fox before her modeling career took off.
Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Nashville, Tennessee, United States