April 22, 1923 - December 11, 2008
was NEVER notorious."
Bettie Page was the epitome of a model "comfortable in her own skin" and
became the most famous pin-up of the post-World War II era - a fitting
outcome for a Nashville teen that was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" in high
Mae Page was born April 22, 1923, the 2nd of Walter and Edna Page's six children. Her parents had a tumultuous
relationship plagued by financial instability, and when Bettie was 10 years old, they divorced. Bettie's father, Walter, molested all three of his
daughters. Bettie stated that the abuse began when she was age 13. He was
eventually imprisoned for car theft. Edna tried to provide for the brood,
working as a hairdresser and laundress - but eventually had to send Bettie
and her two sisters to live in an orphanage for a year for their best interest.
Bettie grew into
a lovely, bright teenager who learned to cook and sew at local community
centers. She graduated as a straight A student, 2nd in her high school graduation class, and won a $100 scholarship to Nashville's
George Peabody College where she earned her BA degree in 1944. Despite her love
of theater arts, she first chose the more practical career of teaching. Bettie
soon found her boy students uncontrollable and promptly left teaching for
married a high school classmate named Billy Neal - who was drafted into
the Navy for WWII. Bettie spent the next few years moving to San Francisco and
Miami and Port-au-Prince, Haiti and eventually divorced her husband in November
Bettie moved to
New York City and supported herself as a secretary. In 1950, while walking along
Coney Island shore, Bettie was approached by a police officer and amateur
photographer named Jerry Tibbs. He started Bettie's pinup portfolio. Bettie
soon became a popular camera club model with her naughty-but-nice, girl
next door looks and lack of inhibition. She reportedly posed for 20,000
photos, often in her home-sewn bikinis and lingerie.
Bettie never thought nudity was wrong. She was
fond of the phrase, "naked as a jaybird, just like Adam and Eve in the
Garden of Eden."
photographers Irving and Paula Klaw handed Bettie a whip and let her act out
playful bondage scenarios on film, while Bunny Yeager cast her as a jungle vixen
in a leopard skin swimsuit. With her trademark black bangs, gleeful smile, and
36-23-36 curves - Bettie was soon featured in many skin mags including Wink and Titter as well as in bondage/fetish 8mm and 16mm films. Her
big break came as the Playboy Centerfold for January 1955, in which she acted as
a sexy Santa and decorated a Christmas tree. Bettie made various appearances in
Off-Broadway productions and even appeared on The Jackie Gleason Show.
By 1957, the
pressures of a Senate investigation of pornography along with her own increased
depression made Bettie abandon modeling and she left New York for good. In 1958,
she became drawn to Christian studies at Baptist Colleges, moving from Key
West, Florida to Los Angeles, CA and Portland, Oregon. By 1979, after several
years of failed marriages, charity work and biblical studies, Bettie was on the
verge of a nervous breakdown. In Southern California, Bettie had an altercation
with her landlady and was diagnosed with acute schizophrenia leading
her to 20 months in a state mental hospital. After a second assault (with a
bread knife) on a neighbor, Bettie was placed under state supervision for 8
years. She was released in 1992 from Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino
While Bettie was
wrestling with her personal demons and being treated for her violent mood swings
in the 1980s, a cult following was building around her old 1950s (public domain)
pinup shots. Coffee table book Bettie retrospectives and The Betty Pages fanzine caught on with a new generation, and young women were now dyeing
their hair black and wearing bangs to emulate Bettie's sexy, confidant style.
By the early 1990s, The Bettie Page revival was now a cultural phenomenon.
described Page's appeal as "a combination of wholesome innocence and
fetish-oriented poses that is at once retro and very modern."
In 1993, Entertainment
Tonight produced a segment on the (she's alive!) mysterious Bettie
Page who was then living in an LA group home. She appeared in shadow for an
exclusive NBC TV interview on Real Life. E! produced a 2-hour bio
profile of Bettie in 1998. Hugh Hefner came to Bettie's aid, providing
legal counsel to ensure Bettie's peace of mind. Bettie signed with CMG
licensing (who repped Marilyn Monroe and James Dean's images) and became
financially secure for the rest of her life. Bettie (age 80) made a rare
personal appearance with Hef at Playboy's 50th anniversary party in 2003but mainly chose to live quietly in Los Angeles
until her death. Hefner saw to it that Bettie got everything she needed,
in her later years.
2005, a bio film The Notorious Bettie Page starring Gretchen Mol
was released. My pal Christine Davistold me, "Anyone who knew anything about Bettie knew that
she HATED the word, "notorious." She always said she liked the
movie, and said Gretchen Mol did a good job and was prettier than she was, but
was very upset that they called it The Notorious Bettie Page. She said "I was NEVER notorious!!"
Bettie Page spent
most of her final years in a this apartment building.
Hey, you could too!
She would be holed up in her
bedroom flat, reading the Bible, listening to wholesome music, and watching
old movies on television - her favorite was Dark Victory with
Bettie Page enjoyed catching up on diet and exercise regimens or
sometimes perusing secondhand clothing stores. In 2006, she told the press: "I
have no idea why I'm the only model who has had so much fame so long after
quitting work." Wouldn't it be wonderful to stumble on the 1950's
sunbathing by this pool?
I'll bet no one in this
building had any idea such greatness was in their midst. This is Bettie's
One of her last photo
shoots was covered for an article in the LA Times, regarding the resurgence of her
popularity. She would only allow her hands to be shown.
At the end, Bettie was living
in a residential
care facility in Chatsworth, probably unbeknownst to her, and was recovering
from a bout with pneumonia when she suffered a heart attack.
It was December 2, 2008. She
was paralyzed from the waist down, and on feeding tubes. She eventually
fell into a coma and was taken to the Kindred Hospital
where she was placed on life support.
Bettie Page, the former "Girl
with the Perfect Figure," who preferred to be remembered by fans "as I
was when I was young and in my golden times," died on Thursday, December
11, 2008 at age 85. She was survived by her brother Jack Page of Nashville, TN
and sister Joyce Wallace of Blairsville, GA.
Her death was
reported by her agent, Mark Roesler, on her website. Roesler said in a statement that "She would have certainly
been humbled by and amazed by the overwhelming outpouring of concern, prayers,
flowers and letters that have been received in the past 2 weeks."
Hugh Hefner gave the
press this quote: "Bettie Page was one of Playboy magazine's early
Playmates, and she became an iconic figure, influencing notions of beauty and
fashion. Then she disappeared. Many years later, Bettie resurfaced and we became
friends. Her passing is very sad."
A memorial service was held in the chapel at Westwood Memorial Park.
Hef's secretary, wiped tears, as did Hef. His #1 girlfriend Crystal, who is 23,
acted appropriately but the 18-year-old twins giggled and shrugged when anyone tried to interview
Schuler from Crystal Cathedral spoke, and said that Bettie loved to go to the
Easter services there."
Devazquez, had been a Playboy Playmate in the 80s, and was a friend to
Bettie. She visited her in the hospital after her stroke. She said she and
Ronn (Moss, her husband who plays Ridge on The Bold and The Beautiful)
were on their way to a party and were dressed in formal wear. She asked Bettie,
"don't you think Ronn looks good in his tuxedo?" to which Bettie
replied, "Ronn ALWAYS looks good." It was funny because Devon said it
with a slurred voice, like someone with a stroke would speak."
attendees include stripper Tempest Storm,
pumper Leon Isaac Kennedy, 3 of Bettie's nieces, and Mark
Roesler (pictured above with Anna Nicole Smith and Pamela Anderson) of CMG, the company who peed a circle around Bettie in her last
years. To be fair, they made sure Bettie was financially comfortable...
while retaining exclusive rights to the Bettie Page gravy train and forbidding her to sign autographs to genuine fans for free.
memorial booklet was inscribed with a verse from
was not trying to be shocking,
to be a pioneer.
wasn't trying to change society,
to be ahead of my time.
didn't think of myself as liberated,
I don't believe that
did anything important.
was just myself.
didn't know any other way to be,
any other way to live."
was not embalmed, and her cremated final remains were laid to rest at Westwood
Memorial Cemetery. They obviously went for the full size box burial.
In the photograph above, the mullet haired guy on the
very left is Steve Brewster, her long time fan club president and good friend.
The short dark haired guy is someone who lives in the apartment complex on
Balboa and was her neighbor until she was moved to the residential treatment
home (which is only a few blocks from the apartment). They had been neighbors
for years, and he used to help her with chores, took out her trash and stuff. He
said one day out of the blue she told him she was "the" Bettie Page
and he was astounded at how really famous she was. The guy leading the
pack is Mark Roesler.
is buried next to Sam the Butcher.
Someone fast-tracked her tombstone, because it was laid (heh) within 2 weeks.
There are now a few Bettie Page shops around the country, the first of
which was in Vegas.
These stores specialize in all
things Bettie. Here is my friend CC with the bad-ass
Death Hag tattoo (done by Kat Von D herself!),
displaying fantastically slutty
Snap it off and move on!
Findadeath friend Dave Smith sent this terrific
tribute to Bettie, on his wife. Eventually, tiny Death Hag Briar emerged
from here on 03/30/09.
One of the
last times Steve Brewster, her fan club president, spoke to her, she told
him she was going to "kick the bucket" soon, and wanted her fans to
remember these three things:
1. You are
what you eat. 2. Master your emotions. 3. Don't let your past poison your
by Mark Langlois. Special
thanks to Christine Davis, Karen Fogerty and Mike Steen.
see her mailbox?
is a trailer for a smoker with Tempest and Bettie.