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Bettie Page, 1923-2008


Bettie Page has succumbed to complication of a heart attack she suffered last week. Though she had been an actress and, much later in life, a Christian evangelist, she is best known for her career as a pin-up model. Page appeared in Playboy, but her legend is centered around the decidedly lower-rent cheesecake she did with Irving Klaw, including some bondage and discipline photos and “smokers.” These were extremely tame by the standards of our time, which along with the incongruity of Page’s fresh-faced good looks in the mock-sinister context made them icons of naughty fun in later years, as these panels from a Peter Bagge Hate comic from 1992 show:

Like other famous American beauties of her era, she’d had a hard childhood (poor, abused) and much of her post-pinup life was apparently no barrel of laughs either. But though she became reclusive, she seemed to get some pleasure (not to mention cash) from the fans, books and Hollywood movie that paid her tribute in later years. Who knows what she was thinking when she posed, at age 80, for this photo with Anna Nicole Smith and Pamela Anderson at the Playboy 50th Anniversary party? Perhaps that the Lord works in mysterious ways.


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