Goodbye Queen of Curves:
Bettie Page Dies Dec. 11, 2008
Words: Bonnie Burton
I've worshiped pin-up icon Bettie Page ever since I laid eyes on her (or at least a magazine cover of her) in a comic book store my freshman year of college. The comic book store owner had seen me walk by the store for months and finally urged me to come in so he could show me the cover of a fanzine called The Betty Pages. He thought I looked aa lot like her and I was completely dumbfounded by the compliment. I became obsessed with this black-banged beauty from the start. Who was she? What became of her?
I spent all of my college years researching her life. This was long before she came out of seclusion and no one really knew what had happened to one of the most famous models that ever lived. I wrote my first published work of freelance journalism "I Was a Teenage Betty" about my search for her and how famous she had become. In the process, I ended being one of the last people to speak to Bettie's photographer Paula Klaw.
I entered Bettie Page look-a-like contests, collected photos of Bettie from her heyday, as well as comics, vintage magazine covers and anything she happened to be mentioned in. During the early age of Web sites in the early '90s, I created The Bettie Page so I could compile my photo, comic, magazine, art and other Bettie collections, as well as news, articles and essays, all in one spot for other Page fans to check out. It was one of the first Bettie Page fan sites to exist online, and it brought me closer together with other fans who wanted to know more about the mysterious icon. I was a bonafide Bettie Page fan, and proud of it! (Still am.)
As the years passed by, her popularity continued to grow. We all had our own theories why a pin-up from the '50s could continue to leave such a last impression of fans decades later. In the Richard Foster's book The Real Bettie Page, I explained my own ideas of her continued fame:
"I'm a Bettie fan for the mere fact that she's gorgeous. No other model has been photographed more than her, and for good reason: She's the best there is. I love Bettie because she sort of brought innocence back to sex. When you mention pinup models and men's magazines to most people, they think you're talking about porn or smut. With Bettie, you aren't embarrassed to appreciate looking at her, whether she's being spanked, trying on stockings, or playing in the buff on the beach. She makes sex seem okay instead of a sin. I think a lot of older fans left over from the 1950s appreciated that quality in her when she was in magazines like Playboy. She made you feel at ease with your sexuality, and most of all, she had fun with it."
Bettie Page influenced everything from my desire write about people who do extraordinary things with their lives, to the way I wore my hair, to the self-confidence I gained in living by her example -- having fun with life, calling the shots and being my own person. She was one of the first models to do weight training, be a vegetarian and do such a wide range of modeling genres (from beach bunny to bondage queen).
Bettie Page had an incredibly difficult childhood and adult life, yet managed to bring a smile to millions of fans every time she graced us with her presence -- whether it be in photos, comics, magazine covers or even the campy mini-films she made to entertain us all. Without her, I never would have been so passionate about journalism, I never would have started my site Grrl.com (which began as the Bettie Page fan site) and I never would have met many of my friends I still have today.
It's difficult to explain to others why I feel about Bettie the way I do. She helped me decide who I was and who I wanted to be as a young woman. Her life inspired me to do my own thing and not care what others thought. I hope that my appreciation and dedication to her life helps other discover who she is and why she's so incredible. I never had the honor of meeting her face to face, but she had a profound effect on my life and I will never forget her.
Rest in peace, Bettie Page. Rest in peace.
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