Oh, Bettie Page! How you’ve inspired countless, women to cut their bangs and put a flower in their hair! We can all agree, Ms. Page is THE pin-up, Queen. She was one of 6 children, born to a Memphis, Tennessee, to a single mother. Page & her sisters frequently found themselves in orphanages, growing up. The father was kicked out, after Bettie claims he molested her . This didn’t deter Page..she didn’t wallow in a “woe is me”, attitude. Instead, she graduated top of her class, at Peabody College. Like many smart women, we become dumb around men. Bettie married Billy Neal, in 1943, her high school sweetheart, when she was only, 20. Page put her career on hold, for 6 years and tried to be a doting, wife. Page filed for divorce, in 1949. Penniless and her college degree already old as dirt, Bettie moved to NYC to become an actress. Instead, she found herself working as a secretary. Bettie took a fateful walk, alone along the boardwalk in, Coney Island. A police officer approached her, not with handcuffs, but with a camera. Officer Tibbs was persuasive and Betyie a willing, participant. Together they put Bettie’s “pin-up portfolio”, together. In the late ’40’ “camera clubs” were all the rage for men seeking more than a peek at ladies’ ankles. “Camera Clubs” (a place for “artistic” photography”) were in reality, a front for pornography (it was illegal, at the time). Bettie, down on her luck, lost her inhibitions…and like she applied herself at college, she applied her self, in exhibition photography. Page’s name & image became wildly popular, in the camera club, circles and in underground, men’s magazines. 1952-1957, Bettie posed for mail-order photographs with pin-up, bondage or sadomasochistic themes, making her the first famous bondage model. She also appeared in dozens of 8 & 16mm “specialty” films. In these silent features, Bettie was either a tied-up, victim or a stern, dominatrix. Her costumes consisted of leather suits, high heels & lacy lingerie. These are the iconic images, we know today. Her photos were VERY, provocative & enticing…something different & forbidden… Throughout the ’50’s, Bettie appeared on TV, on stage, and was a Playboy favorite, then she magically, disappeared. In 1958, she converted to Christianity. Bettie attended 3 Bible colleges. During the 1960s, she worked for various Christian organizations before settling in Nashville in 1963. She worked full-time and traveled for Rev. Billy Graham.
Bettie appears again in 1979, suffering a mental-breakdown and spent 20months in California’s state hospital, diagnosed with schizophrenia. A cult following started in 1980’s, surrounding Page and she was redeemed, in the spotlight. But, Bettie was unaware of this. She was penniless and infamous. In 1996, she granted an interview that featured her reminiscing about her career and her personal life, as well as photos from her personal collection. At Page’s request, her face was not shown. The interview was broadcast only once. Bettie passed away in, 2008 but, she’s still seen everywhere, in pop culture. “The Notorious Bettie Page” was released in 2005, a good biopic, of Bettie’s life, loves, fame, and struggles. Without Bettie, we wouldn’t have Madonna, Rhianna, or the many modern pin-ups, like Dita Von Teese. She is a true, pop icon.