Tribute to Bettie Page: Queen of Kink

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I awoke this morning to the sad news that Bettie Page passed away last night.  I went to post my latest film review at Viviane’s Sex Carnival, and there it was posted in Viviane’s news: Bettie Page dies at age 85 (re-posted from LA Times).

To me and many others, Bettie Page was the epitome of the Fetish Pin-up, the retro Queen of Bondage Kink, and the 50s embodiment of the Femme Fatale: a strong, sexy woman who flaunts her sexual prowess and power.

Bettie Page was the first female icon I identified with in my late teens, and I admired her beauty, her playfulness, her positive sexual persona, and of course the amazing kinky photographs she took with Irving Klaw.  When I got into fetish photography myself, the first person I wanted to recreate was Bettie Page.

The following images I took back in 2003 with my friend and model Suspiria.  It was our tribute to Bettie Page [Fatale Femmes Photography]

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Bettie Page is a pop icon and has been praised as an “Uber-pin-up” (Vainity Fair), “the ultimate sex goddess” (TVGuide), and “the model of the century, yet she remains one of its best kept secrets” (Playboy).

Her life and Career

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Born on April 22, 1923 in Nashville, Tennessee, Bettie began imitating early “picture shows” of actresses she’d see, trying to pose like them.  In 1947 she was “discovered” by amateur photographer Jerry Tibbs who recommended she adopt her trademark black bangs and shot her first pin-up portfolio.  She quickly got noticed and soon was being shot by many photographers for cheesecake magazines such as WINK, BARE, GAZE, and BEAUTY PARADE.  Her images by many renowned photographers including acclaimed fashion photographer Bunny Yeager were plastered everywhere and soon attracted international attention and notoriety.

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Later, Bettie began taking acting lessons and appeared in three burlesque films: STRIP-O-RAMA (1953), VARIETEASE (1954), and TEASERAMA (1955).  She also performed on camera in countless 8 and 16mm “film loops” exhibited in peep shows and sold through the mail that were staged and produced by brother-and-sister team: Irving and Paula Klaw.  It was through Irving Klaw that Bettie gained the notoriety as a bondage queen and was eventually subpoenaed to appear in court, because her provocative images violated sexual taboos resulting in the destruction of thousands of her photographs.

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By 1958, at age 32 Bettie suddenly vanished, and her true whereabouts became a mystery.  Some believed she had died, but it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that the truth was revealed.  Bettie Page had become a born-again Christian and was a recluse in hiding.  It was during this time, after three failed marriages that Bettie suffered violent mood swings, and mental break-down and was institutionalized as a paranoid schizophrenic.  After an argument with her landlady Bettie attacked her with a knife and was found innocent by reason of insanity then sentenced to 10 years in a California mental institution.

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In 1992, Bettie was released and was living in quiet seclusion when she discovered her enormous niche market popularity, thanks to Hugh Hefner and began marketing her brand and opened her website: www.bettiepage.com.

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Bettie Page died last night of pneumonia at a Los Angeles area hospital at the age of 85 after suffering a heart attack one week ago from which she never regained consciousness.

Bettie Page will be remembered as a woman in charge of her own sexuality who helped revolutionize fetish, positive sexuality, and as the cult underground Queen of Kink, forever immortalized as a pop icon who is not soon to be forgotten.

Bio and Images sourced from: www.BettiePage.com

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21 Responses

  1. Great post. The thing I found most interesting about the LA Times article was the fact that she felt so much shame for so many years and that she didn’t really profit financially from her photos until late in life.

  2. admin says:

    Yes. That is a very sad element to the story. Too bad that she had to go through all that during her life and not be able to embrace her sexuality and beauty as the rest of the world has. A lot of that had to do with the censorship and destruction of her work, which essentially destroyed her self-esteem and made her feel guilty about what she had done I think. That was the puritan attitudes at the time as well. But, the same could be said of Marilyn Monroe, as far as unhappiness goes. Being idolized is not always a good thing for the people involved.

  3. SinfullyAnon says:

    She was absolutely beautiful..
    and way, way, ahead of the times..

    Thank you,
    for posting this.

    (It’s definitely a top Sugar
    for this week~jus’ guessin.)

    ~x~SinfullyAnon.

  4. admin says:

    Thank you so much for your kind comments! I idolize Bettie and tried to pick out some of my favorite images of her. Glad you enjoyed the tribute! 🙂

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