Bettie Page (born Betty Mae Page in Nashville Tennessee)
(April 22, 1923 – December 11, 2008 Los Angeles California)
Bettie Page, the raven-haired pin-up girl whose naughty-but-nice romps
with whips, garters and high heels titillated young men and schoolboys in the 1950s, has died, aged 85. She had been in a coma after a heart attack on Dec. 2.
Her career, which some have said laid the foundations for the sexual revolution in America in the 1960s, started almost by accident when she was age 27 and she discovered posing for amateur photographers in provocative poses and risque attire could make her more money than being a secretary.
Page's fame was set after she met Irving Klaw and his sister, Paula, who had a Manhattan mail order business offering risque pictures. Years later, she became one of the first Playboy centrefolds, including a spread in January 1955 with her winking under a Santa hat.
On hearing of her death, the magazine's founder and a friend of Page in recent years, Hugh Hefner, said: "The origins of what captures the imagination and creates a particular celebrity are sometimes difficult to define. Bettie Page was one of Playboy magazine's early Playmates. 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... Her passing is very sad."
Page disappeared for decades at the end of the 1950s, experiencing a number of broken marriages and, for many years, devoting herself to Christianity.
She suffered bouts of depression and ill health but was rediscovered in the late 1980s. She would occasionally make public appearances to sign photographs of herself.
According to her agents at CMG Worldwide, Page's official website, www.BettiePage.com, has received about 600 million hits over the last five years.
Page was mystified by her influence on modern popular culture. "I have no idea why I'm the only model who has had so much fame so long after quitting work," she said in an interview with The Times in 2006.
She had one request for interviews: that her face not be photographed.
"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. I want to be remembered as I was when I was young and in my golden times. . . . I want to be remembered as the woman who changed people's perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form."
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.
Page featured in the 1998 documentary Bettie Page: Pinup Queen while Paige Richards portrayed her in Bettie Page: Dark Angel (2004) and Gretchen Mol had the titular role in The Notorious Bettie Page (2005).
She is survived by her brother Jack Page of Nashville and sister Joyce Wallace of Blairsville, Ga.