Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bettie Page by Tiara Calvert

I’m not exactly sure how old I was or even when I first became aware of Betty Page. She is one of those American Icons that has just seemed to always be present, like Coca-Cola, Apple Pie, and Baseball. I do however know that I like many looked at Betty Page (often in the form of an artists renderings, such as Olivia) and marveled at her beauty, the daring outfits and poses and feeling as though I was sneaking a peek at something that just maybe, I wasn’t suppose to see. And of course all the time, wishing I could also be as beautiful and famous someday as that woman whose face, body and style seemed to be found, despite the era, in so many places throughout popular culture. When I heard that Betty Page had passed away I was like many at first shocked and then of course saddened. To be honest I couldn’t have told you if the woman I had seen countless times in my life was still alive up to that point, she was larger then life simply because of her iconic status. And Icons are never supposed to die. Never! I was overjoyed to learn she was not only discovered in New York City while working as a secretary but it had taken place right in Coney Island, maybe where I myself have walked countless times. Maybe she even ate at the very first Nathan’s there, two pieces of American (and Brooklyn) history entwined. Her attitudes and outlook were years ahead of her time and she lived and challenged the social norms of her day so much so that they took an intense personal toll on her. The backlash from some of her more controversial pictures even spawned a senate investigation, no doubt giving those investigating a perfect chance to secretly gawk at the very pictures they pretended to be so outraged by. Church groups and others hounded her and she claimed that FBI Agents would come up to her and display her naked photos to her in attempts to harass her. Eventually the stresses led to her suffering a nervous breakdown and her life was quickly and seemingly forever changed. She had three failed marriages, was institutionalized, arrested twice for assault on landlords, but found innocent for reasons of insanity. She was diagnosed as schizophrenic and eventually came to find religion in her life. She lived the majority of her life quite far from the lens of cameras, preferring to be remembered in her beauty of her youth. Only on occasion would she appear publicly and as mentioned above, much of her longevity can be tied to the artists who never forgot her unique and legendary photos and introduced her time and again to new audiences. Through the years it was after all, her beauty and unmistakable style that continued to span generations and reach new fans all around the world. Who could have guessed that the Suicide Girls would today be claiming to be the new Betty Pages so many years ago? xxx Bettie Mae Page (though listed "Betty" on her birth certificate) born April 22, 1923 in Nashville, Tennessee, is one of the most famous and admired American pin-up models of all time. She appeared in countless men's magazines (including Playboy), mail order photos, ads, paperback and album covers, and a few films and TV shows until 1957, when she withdrew from public life and seemed to vanish. Because of her killer curves, sweet smile, sparkling eyes, and unique, black-banged hairstyle (as well as a penchant for nudity and involvement in controversial bondage photos), her legend grew over the following decades. Images of Bettie have inspired artists, designers, writers, bdsm enthusiasts, and the public at large; some have even credited her with launching the sexual revolution. Her seamless combination of girl-next-door freshness and dangerous sensuality has led to a thriving cult following. In 1992, after decades of mystery, it was finally revealed that Bettie was still alive and had just been living a private life since her "disappearance." She still enjoyed the Bettie fandom and gave occasional interviews, but was rarely photographed, wishing people to remember her as she was in the 1950's. Bettie has been quoted as saying... "It makes me feel wonderful that people still care for me... that I have so many fans among young people, who write to me and tell me I have been an inspiration." As the model who many have argued raised cheesecake to an art, Page combined exuberant, wide-eyed innocence with confident, sometimes aggressive sexuality. VANITY FAIR praised the playfully seductive Page as “our Uber-pin-up.” The NEW YORK TIMES has declared that today “her star shines more brightly than it did in her brief heyday from 1950 to 1957.” PLAYBOY immortalized Page as one of its inaugural cover shots. Bettie create her own style, not worrying what others might think. Bettie Page was a true Fashionista! RIP Bettie, you will be missed but not forgotten by all the Fashionista.

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