Bettie Page

Bettie Page

Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, USA
Death 11 Dec 2008 (aged 85)
Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Burial Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA
Memorial ID 32128419 · View Source
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Model, American Folk Figure. Called variously the "Queen of Pinups," the "Queen of Curves," and the "Dark Angel," she was the subject of thousands of photographs during and shortly after the Korean War years. Raised in Nashville, Tennessee, in a large and ultimately broken family in which she was molested by her father while her mother worked at two jobs, she was nevertheless a good student, graduating as salutatorian of her high school class in 1940. In 1943 she married for the first of several times and in 1944 graduated from George Peabody College. Bettie drifted for a time, working odd jobs in San Francisco, Miami, Haiti, and finally New York. Spotted on Coney Island in 1950 by photographer (and New York City Policeman) Jerry Tibbs, she posed for her first professional photos. Cass Carr took a large number of images which quickly became popular in such publications as "Wink," "Titter," and "Eyefull"; between 1952 and 1957 Bettie was the subject of later controversial bondage and sadomasochism themed photographs and short films (with such titles as "Leopard Bikini Bound") produced and sold via mail order by Irving Klaw. In 1953 acting lessons led to some film, television, and stage work, with "Striporama" providing the only movie preservation of her voice. During a 1954 Miami vacation Bettie met model and photographer Bunny Yeager setting the stage for her best remembered work; posing with and without leopard skins (she always made her own costumes and did her own hair and make up) at Florida's now defunct Africa USA theme park, she gained a large audience. Wearing a Santa hat and nothing else she was "Playboy" magazine's Miss January 1955; she continued to model up thru 1957, and while she often posed nude the images were never sexually explicit. During the late 1950s she gave behind the scenes help to the F.B.I. and to Estes Kefauver's Senate Committee investigating the mail order pornography industry, though she was never made to testify in public. Bettie dropped from view in 1957, moving to Florida where she became a born-again Christian on New Year's Eve 1958; she attended three different Bible colleges and worked for several Christian organizations including that of Dr. Billy Graham. Her personal life remained troubled, with hospitalizations for psychiatric problems and more failed marriages, including a second try with her first husband Billy Neal. Gradually in the early 1980s collections of her photos appeared, a popular comic book character was built around her, and a fan magazine called "The Betty Pages" gained good circulation. By the early 1990s Bettie was broke and living in a shelter, for a time completely unaware that others were making money off of her. After one agent failed to assist her she hired the Curtis Management Group and finally began collecting some royalties. An "official" 1996 biography entitled "Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-up Legend" told her story, then Richard Foster's 1997 "The Real Bettie Page: The Truth About the Queen of Pinups" told the darker side of it; Bettie gave a few interviews and appeared at occasional autograph sessions, though she repeatedly declined to be photographed. In 2005 she was portrayed by Gretchen Mol in "The Notorious Bettie Page"; multiple DVDs have been released of her films including those done for Klaw and her image continues to be marketed worldwide. At her death from heart disease litigation over the rights to her legacy was ongoing. In a 1998 "Playboy" interview she said of her time before the camera: "I never thought it was shameful. I felt normal. It's just that it was much better than pounding a typewriter eight hours a day, which gets monotonous."

Bio by: Bob Hufford

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bob Hufford
  • Added: 11 Dec 2008
  • Find a Grave Memorial 32128419
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Bettie Page (22 Apr 1923–11 Dec 2008), Find a Grave Memorial no. 32128419, citing Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .