Bettie Page, otherwise known as the “Queen of Pinups,” has died. She was 85. Born in Jackson, Tennessee, Betty Mae Page had a hardscrabble childhood that included time spent in an orphanage. As a teenager inspired by her hairdresser mother, Page experimented with different looks and learned to sew, a pair of obsessions that would help her to become a pinup icon. In the 40′s, she began modeling for “camera clubs,” whose members loved taking photos of the wild, strong-willed young woman who wasn’t afraid to strip down and show off her curves for the shutterbugs. In the 50′s, she starred in SM-themed fetish films as a sex kitten with a whip, and her raven hair, abbreviated bangs, and cherubic smile became her trademark. Near the end of the decade, she left modeling amidst a Senate porn inquiry scandal.
In the following years, she married and divorced twice, had a nervous breakdown, attacked a landlady with a knife and was declared not guilty by reason of insanity, entered a mental hospital, and eventually became a devout Christian. In the 80′s, Page’s image reemerged into the spotlight, turning her into an international sex symbol, even though the real Page was living in impoverished obscurity at the time. Even as her identity became ubiquitous, Page shunned the spotlight, stating that she wanted people to remember her as a young beauty.
Earlier this month, while hospitalized with pneumonia, she suffered a heart attack and slipped into a coma. She died last night in a Los Angeles hospital. The notorious Bettie Page will be missed. [The New York Times]