AKA Betty Mae Page
Birthplace: Kingsport, TN
Location of death: Los Angeles, CA
Cause of death: Pneumonia
Remains: Buried, Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Black-haired bondage pin-up queen
Bettie Page was a Southern girl alone in the big city, who worked as a typist by day and took drama classes in the evening, hoping to overcome her accent to find work as an actress. She just did what she had to do -- and what she liked to do -- to pay the rent. She was always comfortable in her own skin, preferring to be naked at home, so it was easy to pose for some pictures for her boyfriend, an amateur photographer. It was he who suggested she alter her haircut, letting her bangs cover most of her forehead. It became the look she was famous for, along with that fetching smile. She eventually posed for numerous discreet cheesecake shots wearing bikinis or not, and she made most of the swimsuits herself, as she thought the department store styles of the time were not sexy enough.
She appeared in a couple of legitimate off-Broadway plays, and on a few TV shows originating in New York. Through a friend of a friend, she even had a screen test for Twentieth Century Fox in Hollywood, but she left in a huff when it became clear what kind of performance the producer expected. Page never became a successful mainstream actress, but she became famous as a pin-up girl, even before she was Playboy's Miss January 1955. She also made 8mm films involving whips, chains, sadomasochism, and other fetishes, and she appeared in three feature-length burlesque movies, compilations of vaudeville-style song-and-dance, with campy borscht-belt comedians interspersed with striptease.
As Page's photos and films became popular, Senator Estes Kefauver led a Congressional inquiry into so-called smut, eventually forcing the number one distributor of Page's photos to close his business. Any films of Page having sex, however, are fakes. She never participated in any photo or film shoots involving explicit sexual activity. At the height of her fame, she suddenly left New York in 1957. After vanishing from public view, she worked as a teacher and secretary, did office work for Compton's Encyclopedia, and after "a religious conversion" worked as a Christian missionary.
Page's status as an unintentional icon can hardly be overstated. She was the subject of at least half a dozen documentaries, a dramatized film starring Gretchen Mol, and numerous video games. She was the subject of pop songs and a play, and in the "Rocketeer" comic books the hero's girlfriend Betty is based on Page. She was the subject of five non-fiction books, including her authorized biography, Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend, by Karen Essex and James L. Swanson. She described an unflattering and unauthorized biography, The Real Bettie Page by Richard Foster, as "a pack of lies."
With help from Hugh Hefner, Page regained the legal rights to many photographs taken of her decades ago. After retirement, she lived in the Los Angeles area, not making public appearances. When she did talk with reporters, photographs were rarely allowed, as Page said she wanted audiences to remember her as she was.
Father: Walter Roy Page (auto mechanic)
Mother: Edna Mae Pirtle
Brother: Jimmie Page
Husband: Billy Neal (together since high school, b. 1921, m. Feb-1943, div. Nov-1947, remarried and divorced late 1950s)
Husband: Armond Walterson (b. 1913, m. 26-Nov-1958, div.)
Husband: Harry Lear (m. 1967, div. 1972)
High School: Hume-Fogg High School, Nashville, TN (1940)
University: BA, Peabody College for Teachers, Nashville, TN (1944)
Posed Naked for Playboy January 1955
Left at Orphanage (one year)
Raped Nashville, TN
Heart Attack 2-Dec-2008
Cherokee Ancestry Maternal
Risk Factors: Smoking
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Teaserama (1955) · Herself
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