Bettie Page: Queen of Hearts

“With deep personal sadness I must announce that my dear friend and client Bettie Page passed away at 6:41pm PST this evening in a Los Angeles hospital. She died peacefully but had never regained consciousness after suffering a heart attack nine days ago.

“She captured the imagination of a generation of men and women with her free spirit and unabashed sensuality. She is the embodiment of beauty.”

Statement by Mark Roesler, business agent for Bettie Page from BettiePage.Com

What is it about Bettie Page that has captured so many? I’m not sure when my affinity with her began, only that it was some time in high school. I can’t pinpoint the first place I saw her or how I heard of her, I’m honestly not sure, but once I did I was hooked. There’s something about that sultry innocence, the light mischievousness, it just rubbed me the right way. Me and everyone else.

I own multiple tshirts with her on it (or renditions of her by Olivia), multiple posters, a few books, and dozens of pictures saved on my computer. I have been drawn to her for years. I even have a tattoo of her on my right thigh that I got three and a half years ago. I remember going to see The Notorious Bettie Page the next year with my then roommate and in some ways being annoyed that my cult-hit of a pin-up crush was now shared with everyone. I used to have people ask me “Who’s that?” when I would wear one of my many Bettie Page shirts, now I get “Have you seen the movie?”

Now, my own elitist ideals aside, what is it that has attracted us to her for so long? She definitely portrays something that others since her have not had, but what is that? I honestly can’t describe why I am so intrigued and attracted by and to her.

As the model who many have argued raised cheesecake to an art, Page combined exuberant, wide-eyed innocence with confident, sometimes aggressive sexuality. VANITY FAIR praised the playfully seductive Page as “our Uber-pin-up.” The NEW YORK TIMES has declared that today “her star shines more brightly than it did in her brief heyday from 1950 to 1957.” PLAYBOY immortalized Page as one of its inaugural centerfolds and recently named her “the model of the century, yet she remains one of its best kept secrets.” In a recent poll, Bettie Page was voted the “ultimate sex goddess,” outscoring others such as Marilyn Monroe. BettiePage.Com [Emphasis mine].

Going back to my post on Mae West and Marlene Dietrich the first part of the quote had to do with Marilyn Monroe’s non-threatening sexuality, unlike the other two. I believe Page offered us a glimpse of a mixture of threatening and non-threatening sexual ideas, which appeals immensely to our sexually schizophrenic madonna/whore-addicted culture.

As above, she was a combination of “exuberant, wide-eyed innocence with confident, sometimes aggressive sexuality.” Essentially portraying the perfect madonna/whore. Someone sweet and innocent enough to bring home to mama, yet aggressive, confident, kinky, and sexually charged enough to want to keep in your bed. The epitome of US American sexual desires.

It’s amazing that someone who was modeling for such a short amount of time could have such a long-lasting effect on the world. She will be missed.