And, of course, the smile. It was the smile that could break your heart. The oft-told Betty Page story is peculiar—a morality tale with no discernible moral, not much plot, and a leading character who is at best elusive. The known facts of the story have been reexamined, rehashed, and recycled for three decades, mostly by die-hard fans such as myself who used the memory of her or the images of her or the memory of the images of her to fuel our fantasies.
The story itself is banal: She came, she failed utterly to achieve her dream, she split. And yet. An estimated half a million pictures were taken of her by almost every professional and amateur photographer in New York—including the renowned Weegee, who once climbed into a bathtub with her to get a shot, tried to cop a feel, and got smacked.
She left her cheesecake competition in the dust, appearing countless times on the covers and in the pages of every major and minor girlie magazine in the world. She was twenty-five years old. She rented an apartment in a converted brownstone on West 46th Street and worked as a typist for a company on Wall Street. She worked out in a gym every day. She carried a brick in her purse to bash any would-be molester.
We came to New York by the thousands—starry-eyed kids drunk with ambition and movie-magazine success stories. We lived in rent-controlled apartments, waiting for that big break, working in restaurants, driving cabs, moving furniture, hawking Bibles door-to-door, playing chess for money in Washington Square, stealing.
We made the rounds, surely the most demeaning, ego-busting, humiliating method of seeking employment ever invented. We lied about our credits, our ages, and our heights. Her look, including her jet black hair and trademark bangs, has influenced many artists. She was also one of the earliest Playmates of the Month for Playboy magazine. Following her divorce, Page worked briefly in San Francisco, and in Haiti.
Bettie Page | Bettie | Bettie page, Bettie page photos, Irving klaw
She moved to New York City, where she hoped to find work as an actress. In the meantime, she supported herself by working as a secretary. In , while walking along the Coney Island shore, she met Jerry Tibbs, a police officer with an interest in photography. She was a willing model, and Tibbs took pictures of her and put together her first pinup portfolio. In the late s, what were known as camera clubs were formed as a means of circumventing legal restrictions on the production of nude photos.
These clubs existed ostensibly to promote artistic photography, but many were merely fronts for the making of pornography. Page entered the field of glamour photography as a popular camera club model, working initially with photographer Cass Carr. Her lack of inhibition in posing made her a hit. Her name and image became quickly known in the erotic photography industry, and in , her image appeared in men's magazines with names like Wink, Titter, Eyefull and Beauty Parade.
From through , she posed for photographer Irving Klaw for mail-order photographs with pin-up, bondage or sadomasochistic themes, making her the first famous bondage model. Klaw also used Page in dozens of short black-and-white 8mm and 16mm "specialty" films which catered to specific requests from his clientele.
These silent featurettes showed women clad in lingerie and high heels acting out fetishistic scenarios of abduction, domination, and slave-training with bondage, spanking, and elaborate leather costumes and restraints. Lightnin' Hopkins. Alan Govenar. All the Available Light. Yona Zeldis McDonough. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Paul Brody. Ode to Uke. Arthur Ravenscrag III. Louis Armstrong. David Stricklin. Would You Rather? The Big Book. Justin Heimberg. William Jervis. This Was Burlesque. Joseph DiMona.
ISBN 13: 9780312109400
Gary Giddins. Extra Extremely Extreme Edition.
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