Passings: Bettie Page

Bettie PageLast weekend began with an AP news item that Bettie Page, the 85-year-old iconic pinup model, had been hospitalized after a number of strokes and was in intensive care. I’ve been checking for updates all week, avoiding the practice of some major newspapers of writing about her life in the past tense until she passed away. She apparently never regained consciousness, which can be a blessing.

Bettie Page’s face and figure are so well-known that, I bet, anyone who doesn’t recognize her name will recognize her photo. Even her hairstyle was iconic. She began her career in somewhat more innocent days: an amateur photographer saw her on the beach and asked to take her picture. Her gaze into the camera was usually direct and always playful, even when the subject matter grew a little more. . .intense. She made the suggestiveness of her photos seem like fun, and while that contributed to her popularity, some of the photos made her a target of a congressional investigation. She grew older, got married, had some troubled years and disappeared from the public eye. A renewed appreciation in the past couple decades gave her a well-deserved revival, although she no longer wanted to be photographed, saying that she wanted to be remembered as she was. I have no doubt that she will be.

From all accounts, Bettie Page never lost the earthy nature apparent in her smile. She claimed to be “born again” but didn’t regret her earlier life, glad to have played a role in changing society’s feelings about nudity. I’m one of many fans — more so of her bikini photos than any of the infamous bondage stuff. She just always seemed nice. I know how weird that sounds, but she seemed nice and seemed like she was having fun. I hope she was.

RIP Ms. Page.

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