|Dec 6 2008
85 year-old former pin-up queen Bettie Page was hospitalized in Los Angeles this week after a heart attack and is critically ill. Page rose to fame as an erotic model during the 1950s, posing for scores of magazines, and appearing in more than fifty short films. She worked extensively with sister and brother publicity team Paula and Irving Klaw, who sold Page’s material from their firm Movie Star News. In 1955, Irving Klaw came under investigation during the U.S. Senate’s Kefauver Hearings, which were a politically motivated attempt to draw a link between pornography and juvenile delinquency. Under pressure, Klaw shuttered Movie Star News, and Page’s modeling career ended.
Page dropped from public view, spent time as Christian missionary, and married twice more (she had wed and divorced twice already). In 1979, Hollywood’s Belier Press reprinted some Page photos from private camera club sessions for which she had posed in 1950. The shots rekindled interest in Page, and in time a full-blown web-cult formed. In 2005 a motion picture entitled The Notorious Bettie Page was released by HBO with Gretchen Mol in the lead role. The film received wide acclaim, and further cemented Page’s legacy.
As one of the first mainstream nude models, Page is credited with helping usher in the women’s movement. At that time frank depictions of female nudity were considered empowering, and Page’s popularity, as well as her special gift for embodying nudity as a natural state, dovetailed with the movement’s goals. Photographer and fellow pin-up Bunny Yeager, who shot the Modern Sunbathing & Hygiene cover above, offered an opinion in 1956 about Page’s appeal: “The first thing I noticed was that for some reason when she’s nude she doesn’t seem naked. [snip] Bettie’s attitude toward her lovely, healthy body is the essence of nudism.”
Today, millions of fans are hoping health returns to Miss Page.