Saturday, December 13, 2008

1950s pinup model Bettie Page dies in LA at 85

From the AP via Google:

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.

Page was placed on life support last week after suffering a heart attack in Los Angeles and never regained consciousness, said her agent, Mark Roesler. He said he and Page's family agreed to remove life support. Before the heart attack, Page had been hospitalized for three weeks with pneumonia.

"She captured the imagination of a generation of men and women with her free spirit and unabashed sensuality," Roesler said. "She is the embodiment of beauty."

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.

More here.

So Bettie Page first came to my attention at some point early in my college career, 1986 or '87. There was a lot of attention being paid to her in the comic book world at the time, lots of icons around the comic shop, lunchboxes and stickers and whatnot--I think there was even a retro comic of some sort where the artist straight-up copied her image for its leading lady. Her kitchy housewife mid-century sensuality combined with a sort of pre-goth dark sensibility adding up to a date with what one might imagine Doris Day's older slutty sister might have been like was necessarily something I would dig. How could I not immediately lust for Bettie Page?

But I think she was somehow etched into my psyche many years earlier, when I was a very little boy sneaking naughty glimpses of my Dad's 1960s era Playboy collection. I don't at all remember actually seeing Bettie on those pages, although it's possible--my father claims to have had issues dating back to the fifties at that point. But I suppose that whole pre-feminist, domestic, early sexual revolution vibe I saw in my pop's dirty mags somehow set the stage for what I would later in life understand as alluring. Or so I think. I mean, who really knows why they think something is sexually attractive?

After all, the goth kids claimed Bettie as a sex symbol, too. I think they were too young to be looking at the same Playboys I was looking at, so what's their deal? At any rate, when I was teaching, it was always an opportunity to bond with eyeliner-wearing dark-hearted students whenever they flashed a Bettie Page image or two in class--one of them gave me a Bettie in bondage Christmas card one year.

She was great. Here are some fully clothed pics:

God, I just love her bangs.