Bettie Page, born April 22, 1923 in Nashville, Tennessee, lived a full life as a pin up model. She became famous during the 1950's and appeared in Playboy Magazine.
Betty Mae Page was the second of six children for Walter Roy Page and Edna Mae Pirtle. Her parents divorced in 1933, when Bettie was only 10 years old. She spent most of her time caring for her younger siblings.
Her father was put in prison when she was 13 years old. She and two of her siblings spent a year in an orphanage while her mother worked two jobs—one doing laundry every night, and doing hair during the day.
Her teen years were spent dressing up and putting on makeup to act like her favorite Hollywood stars. Little did she know her makeup skills would prove so profitable in the future, as she was able to do her own hair and makeup for her modeling acts.
Bettie was an excellent student. She was voted “Most Likely to Succeed,” and graduated High School as the salutatorian of her class, with a scholarship. She enrolled into George Peabody College. She had hoped to become a teacher, but started acting the following fall, and decided she wanted to become a movie star. She received her Bachelor's of Arts from Peabody in 1944.
Her Modeling Career
After her divorce, Bettie worked in San Fransisco and Haiti, but later moved to New York City in hopes of finding a job as an actress. She worked as a secretary to support herself while she continued to look for work.
In 1950, she met a police officer named Jerry Tibbs. He had an interest in photography and she agreed to let him photograph her. Tibbs put together her first portfolio.
During the 1940's, “camera clubs” were a legal front for the production of nude photography and pornography. Page became a hit in these clubs because she had little inhibition when it came to her poses. She became well known in the erotic industry and her photos appeared in men's magazines such as W ink, Titter, and Eyefull .
From 1952 to 1957, she worked with photographer Irving Klaw. With him, she posed for mail order catalogs in bondage and sadomasochistic poses. She was also used in short, silent films where she would act out fetishes to please Klaw's clients. She became the first famous bondage model as a result of her work with Klaw, though none of his films or photos showed any nudity.
Bettie Page turned out to be one of the very first women to receive the “Playmate of the Month” title. Her appearance in the magazine published in the January 1955 issue. The magazine was only two years old at the time.
In 1955, she also won the title of “Most Beautiful Pin Up Girl in the World.” She became known as “The Dark Angel” and “The Queen of Curves.”
Making Her Comeback
Page made a comeback in the 1980's she claimed to not have been aware of at the time. Publishing company Eros Publishing, published A Nostalgic Look at Bettie Page. Other companies published other books containing an assortment of her photos from the 1950's to the 1970's, causing a resurgence in her fan base.
Several biographical specials and interviews were done throughout the 1980's and early '90's.
Bettie starred in three films during the 1950's: Striporama (1953), Varietease (1954) and Teaserama (1955.) She was featured in Irving Klaw's Bondage Classics Vol. I and II released in 1984. All of her films have been re-issued on DVD.
Her Love Life
In 1943, she married a man named Billy Neal. Shortly after they were married, Billy was drafted into the Navy, causing Bettie to move about the world for the next two years, living in places such as Miami and Haiti. When she returned to the United States in 1947, she filed for divorce.
She married two other times, and both of these marriages failed. Her love life was fairly lonely. She claimed in an interview with Real Life, she had less attention during her modeling career than at any other point in her life and didn't do much dating at the time.
Page was hospitalized on December 6, 2008. Some claim she suffered from a heart attack, and others say she suffered from pneumonia. A friend of the family's mentioned she was in a coma. She passed away on December 11, 2008 when her family discontinued life support, but still today is known as one of the most famous pin up models to ever exist.
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