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Bettie Page – The Queen of Pinups

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It doesn’t matter if you know her or not. Because she was much more than a beautiful pinup model, she was simply the best.

But since you are reading that, you definitely do know her. And you probably admire her.

Bettie May Page was born on April 22, 1923 in Nashville, Tennessee and was the second child of six children. Bettie has been a legend during her modeling days until the day of her mysterious disappearance from the limelight in the 1960s, when it was said to have suffered from severe mental problems. Nice and naughty, shy and daring, simple and exotic, Bettie shone with freshness never before seen in the modeling industry. With her deep blue eyes and coal black hair with signature short bangs, Page became more than a model—she was a living icon. Without elaborate outfits or costumes, Bettie produced some of the most beautiful shots to ever grace the covers of hundreds of magazines.

Her modelling career started in 1950, when during a walk in Coney Island, Bettie met Jerry Tibbs, a police officer with an interest in photography. Tibbs took pictures of Bettie and put together the first book of the pinup. After that, she began to pose for photos that include issues of sadomasochism and bondage. This will make later of the first famous bondage model.

Tibbs introduced Bettie to numerous other photographers including Cass Carr who organized outdoor photographic sessions. In a few months, Bettie’s modeling career had taken off. Camera clubs led to posing for various magazines such as Wink, Impressive, Titter and Beauty Parade. But it was not until published photos in magazines Robert Harrison that Bettie became a pinup star beyond compare. In 1955, Bettie won the title “Miss Pinup Girl of the World.” In January 1955 was the centerfold in Playboy Issue January. He was even named the “Girl with the perfect shape,” with photographs displayed on everything from record albums to playing cards. While living and working in New York, Bettie often returned to Florida. During these trips south, often posed for photographers Jan Caldwell, H.W. Hannau, and Bunny Yeager who often shot Bettie outdoors, at sea, and the beach.

Three films have been created about her life: 2004’s Bettie Page: Dark Angel starring Paige Richards and 2005’s The Notorious Bettie Page, with Gretchen Mol. Bettie Page Reveals All is a documentary of the 1950’s American pop culture, the so-called “Dark Angel,” which chronicles the behind-the-scenes story of her rise as a cult icon and for the first time fully reveals the story of her mysterious appearance at the height of her career in 1957. In this movie, it is revealed the real woman behind the iconic image.

The legendary pin-up girl, who died at the age of 85 in December 2008, made Hugh Hefner of Playboy talking about “ideal combination of provocation and beauty. Bettie Page was revolutionary,” states the founder of the legendary male magazine, who chose Page as Playmate of the Month in 1955 itself, however, moderate and modest as they were, refuses such characterizations: “I simply did my job and I enjoyed every moment of it”. In the film, Mori elaborates on her turbulent childhood, with the same passing a short time in an orphanage, and her dreams for film career. She reveals the unknown life of the 40 years of the enigmatic isolation through interviews that were recorded by director Mark Mori in 1996 and 1999, the film refers to the time spent in a psychiatric clinic where the genetic predisposition for schizophrenia made unexpectedly emerged. “He had accumulated to such an extent that my mind snapped,” tells Page about the glorious career and sudden withdrawal from public life.

“The all Bettie Page phenomenon developed when she was off screen” explains Hefner on the documentary. The particularly spicy trailer for the puritanical morals of the time, made police go after her photographs and despite the fact that the same cooperated with the FBI, this has not prevented the prosecuting authorities to draw the court for her sexy pin-up images. The judge forced photographers to destroy the negatives of the half-naked photographs, but the same, however, strongly denies to do the same. ” I am not indecent and I will not claim to be guilty about it! I will then be to blame for disturbing the public peace” said Page at trial.” Like anyone else ever, Bettie Page embodies the American battle between sexual liberation and sexual oppression, between censorship and freedom of expression, between the unacceptable and the famous” states director Mori.

The dark-haired girl from Nashville has become a living legend, a modern image, and a symbol of beauty and femininity that exceeds normal standards. She actually helped the liberation of sexual morals, serving as a model for young girls to have contact with their sexuality and get rid of the repressive puritanism of the era. In the heart of the fans, Bettie will forever remain the queen of pinups.

Photography: Irving Klaw, Bunny Yeager.

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