Bettie Page, whose black bangs, curvy figure and naughty-but-nice smile helped make her a legendary pinup queen in the 1950s died at 85. Last week, Page suffered a heart attack and never regained consciousness. Her family agreed to remove life support Thursday.
She became famous for the 4-by-5-inch black-and-white photos taken by amateurs. She was the January 1955 centerfold for the then new Playboy magazine. She also was photographed by Irving Klaw, a short, balding man who became famous for his bondage photos of Page. Klaw and his sister Paula operated Movie Star News, a storefront and catalog company which sold photos of movie stars and pin-ups of burlesque dancers. They also made burlesque films, starring Lili St. Cyr, Tempest Storm and other dancers.
Klaw's pictures drew the attention of Senator Estes Kefauver, who was holding hearings on the mafia. The investigation also exposed the connection between strip clubs and the mafia and examined the connection between pornography and juvenile delinquency. They called Klaw to testify, but he pleaded the Fifth. Bettie Page refused to testify at all, telling the committee privately “that Irving Klaw never did any pornography at all, not even nudes, and that I would say that if they put me on the stand."
Shortly after that, Page retreated from the public. She had a born-again experience and immersed herself in Bible studies. Later her life was marked by depression, violent mood swings and several years in a state mental institution.
In the early '90s, as retro and swing culture boomed, Page became a cult figure. Her image was splashed on playing cards, lunch boxes, action figures, T-shirts and beach towels. In recent years, she had lived in Southern California on the proceeds of her revival.
She occasionally granted interviews as long as her face was not photographed. She told the Los Angeles Times, "I want to be remembered as I was when I was young and in my golden times. ... I want to be remembered as the woman who changed people's perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form."
~ Bettie Page, Queen of Pinups, Dies at 85, The New York Times
~ 1950s pin-up model Bettie Page dead at 85, CNN
~ Bettie Page dies at 85, Los Angeles Times (with a nice photo gallery)
~ Bettie Page, 1950s pin-up queen, dies in L.A., Reuters
~ In Pictures: Bettie Page, BBC
~ 1950s pinup model Bettie Page dies at 85, USA Today
~ Bettie Page, 1950s Pinup Girl, Cult Figure Decades Later, Dies, Bloomberg
~ Bondage Babe Bettie Page Dies at 85, Time
~ The Official Bettie Page site