Saturday, 1 February 2014

Smouldering Sirens: Bettie Page

In which G.M. Norton explores the fascinating and mysterious 1950s pin-up model, Bettie Page.


Deciding its ruddy well about time I escorted another exquisite little filly into the Smouldering Sirens boudoir, I instantly thought of a lady who has teased men and women for more than sixty years – the one and only Bettie Page.

People go potty over a pin-up and I am no exception to the rule, dear reader. Especially one that has the feminine wiles of Miss Page.

Despite my admiration of Bettie over the years, I must confess to knowing very little about her.

Blessed with a magnificent moniker, Bettie Page sadly had a less than magnificent childhood. In fact, it was absolutely rotten. Her parents divorced when she was just ten years old, her pitiful excuse for a father did something that no man should ever do and poor Bettie later lived in an orphanage.

Despite being dropped in a glass full of cream, Bettie adopted supreme super-mouse qualities and churned the cream into butter. Climbing out, she graduated from college with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1944.

Deciding that a career as a teacher was not for her and having divorced her abusive high school ‘sweetheart’, Bettie eventually found herself in New York City. Dreaming of becoming a film star, she enrolled in acting classes while working as a secretary. That is, until she was spotted by police officer and amateur photographer, Jerry Tibbs, who introduced her to camera clubs. He put together her first portfolio and her career as a pin-up was launched.
Page quickly became a sought-after model, attracting the attention of Irving Klaw, who operated a mail-order business specialising in rather risqué cheesecake and bondage poses.

Her most professional photographs were taken in 1954 by fashion photographer Bunny Yeager. They included the celebrated ‘Jungle Bettie’ shots, where she ably modelled a home-made animal print bikini, while posing with cheetahs. 

Yeager also took the daguerreotype of Bettie in nothing but a Father Christmas hat while winking at the camera. This graced the centrefold of the January 1955 issue of the then adolescent Playboy magazine.
The Norton of Morton Modesty Protector - available to buy today
In 1957 and at the height of her career, Bettie made the bold decision to hang up her suspender belt and quit modelling for good. Aged 35, she quietly moved to Florida with her new husband before exchanging him for God, who she found hiding behind a bush.

Adopting Christ-like behaviour, Bettie has experienced something of a resurrection over the years. Devout followers in the 70s and 80s resulted in a surge in popularity, with new generations continuing to discover the dark-haired goddess to this day. Sadly, Bettie passed away in 2008 but there is no doubt that she will always be remembered.

Bestowed many titles such as ‘The Queen of Pin-up’ and my favourite, ‘The Tease of Tennessee’, it really is no surprise that this rather dreamy wench was, and still is so adored and ingrained in the subconscious. Her trademark dark bangs fringe hairstyle, inhibitive poses and natural curves certainly play a helping hand. For me though, it is the way her fun-loving personality somehow comes across so vividly in the photographs.

I do hope Bettie found peace before passing away.

G.M. Norton
Protagonist of ‘Norton of Morton’

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