||I consider Bettie Page to be the icon of 1950’s sensuality. A very attractive lady who always looked like she knew what she wanted and was in control. Even ‘in control’ when she was bound and gagged for a variety of 'bondage' photo sessions. That ability is the essence of real femininity - doing what may appear very submissive to others but knowing you can enjoy the experience without fear.
Bettie Mae was born to parents Roy and Edna Page in Nashville, Tennessee on 22nd of April 1923. She showed no signs of early stardom, just a normal little girl in a normal family waiting to attend a normal school. The road she later followed was more by circumstance than intention, as is so often the case. Her first apparent intention was to be a singer, which turned to movie star then a desire for the stage. Only Broadway would do for Bettie but would she get there? As I have said the future usually occurs by accident more than design. She set out to be an actress, but as with that desire today most young people struggle for years and do jobs hardly connected with their intended profession.
|Bettie turned into a model pupil at Peabody College joining in 1940 with the star singer intention. Her schooling was through a ‘Daughters of the American Revolution’ scholarship, which provided the opportunity for her to shine on stage. She was known as a ‘trier’ and put her all into each activity. At that age she was showing the confidence that has shone through her whole career. Graduating in 1944 Bettie tried her hand as an English teacher which lasted a very short while. As opposed to ability it was circumstances that altered her direction. Having tried to land a contract for a movie and failed she moved with her sister to San Francisco. It was thereafter she married and moved to Pittsburgh but the call of stardom was too great and the marriage dissolved.
|1948 found Bettie moving towards her intended goal when she moved to New York with Manhattan’s Broadway within literal reach. Getting her foot on the stage boards was slightly harder and modelling/acting classes started. As nothing in life is free she had to pay for those lessons the only way a good looking girl can - modelling. The late 1940’s were not known for the more liberal attitudes of today and Bettie had a few close calls with the law. Although a lovely model with great talent the modelling consisted of attending camera clubs where she would pose both interior and exterior shots. Popularity of such ‘clubs’ can lead to notoriety and the law was always mindful of such activities. Probably only due to the puritanical nature of those who complain of everything because they have nothing better to do. It was hard for the law to ignore anyway when over fifty photographers would attend these sessions. And who knows whether they all had film in camera and art in mind! The clubs were there for the furtherance of the art and offered popular models, expert advice and studio facilities. The closest Bettie came to arrest for ‘nuisance’ was with the Concord Camera Club founded by a Jamaican Jazz bandleader called Cass Carr. Thankfully Bettie won through.
||An entrepreneur called Robert Harrison then came into Bettie’s life. He had realised the potential for ‘girlie magazines’ during the Second World War and evidence was their popularity with American troops. Nothing too risqué appeared by modern standards. Being scantily clad was quite sufficient and made a change in later years for those who bought openly as opposed to from ‘under the counter’. Having started with ‘Beauty Parade’ Harrison moved onto create ‘Eyeful’, ‘Titter’ and ‘Wink’. The contents were always scantily clad models and most were in poses showing a ‘naughty’ girl with face pulling or garments more in keeping with Burlesque. This was how Betty appeared and thankfully for me moved on to better things. If you ever find a copy of the aforementioned publications buy immediately, seal in an envelope and keep hidden while you negotiate some amazing prices.|
|Bettie moved on to work with the brother and sister team of Irving and Paula Klaw who had originally run a bookstore in 30’s Manhattan. They knew stars brought in more money than ordinary book selling so concentrated on photographs which sold throughout the world. Producing ‘Movie Star News’ and ‘Cartoon and Model Parade’ would have been enough for many people but again they spotted a niche. Many customers showed greater than normal interest in mild S&M with spanking and bondage. The Fetish period began. Difficulty in obtaining such prints led to the Klaws taking their own. Photographer Paula Klaw was Bettie’s ‘star maker’ particularly when the Klaw’s expanded into films and comics.
Within one year of starting work with the Klaw’s Bettie became their top model. She had appeared firstly in 1952 and popularity turned her into a celebrity in 1953. That naughty girl who knew what life was about had managed to convey those attributes through the camera lens. Even though she was far from teenage years her ability to looking knowing and innocent at the same time meant she was worth a great deal. Bondage pictures, spanking, stripping etc. were all taken of Bettie and are now worth tremendous amounts to collectors
||When Irving Klaw moved onto movie production Bettie appeared in his three films. ‘Strip-o-rama’ (1953), ‘Varietease’(1954) and ‘Teasearama’(1955). Bettie had still continued her acting classes but it appeared the films of Klaws were as far as she would go. Their popularity is the same today as it was in the 1950’s. Bettie also continued to work for camera-clubs. This is when her nude work became most prolific. Whatever Bettie did she always remained that knowledgeable girl and never a girl being used.
Betty did get to Hollywood and was well known across America as a model. She would model in Hollywood for swimsuit pictures when visiting her sister. Bettie also made it to Florida which resulted in her working with the wonderful photographer Miss Bunny Yeager (as in ‘Bunny’ Girls). Bunny’s work made Bettie Page ‘Playboy’s’ centrefold in January 1955’s issue thanks to Hugh Hefner’s knowledge of beauty.
By 1957 Bettie Page was well known, well-liked and everything should have been getting better and better. Once again the puritans come along and put their views forward. This time the FBI was involved in Betty’s decision to ‘drop-out’ altogether. Irving Klaw’s publications were caught up investigations to identify the new youth culture. Remember this was a time for ‘The Wild One’s’ and American adults wondered what their kids had turned into.
|Crackdowns and opposition to everything considered unwholesome caused Klaw to come to the laws attention. Feeling she did not wish to be branded alongside those who suggested and directed her career Bettie Page went into history as a great talent who finished at the top
BETTIE PAGE LINKS
Bettie Pages - Total information
Bettie Page, The Life of a Pin-Up Legend
Bettie Page, Queen of Hearts
Movie Star News presents The Irving Klaw Classic Collection
Bettie Page Confidential
The Real Bettie Page: The Truth About the Queen of the Pinups
Betty Page: Queen of Pin-up
Betty Page Postcard Book