Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bettie Page dies aged 85, December 11

I had no idea my previous post would turn put to be something of an obituary. It was the beautiful Bettie that introduced me to the world of the pin-up. I don't think anyone who has illustrated her has failed to fall in love with her all-at-once innocent and yet alluring image. I think she will be remembered in the same iconographic way was Marilyn Monroe or James Dean.

Ironically enough, the man pretty much responsible for the resurgence of interest in this 50s pin-up queen, Dave Stevens, had passed away earlier this year at the age of 52. I had heard that they were in contact with each and that there was a mutual respect between the two. The world this year has lost both the icon and the artist. They will be missed.

This article on Bettie's passing from the UK Telegraph:

Bettie Page, the Fifties centrefold who died on Thursday at the age of 85, made a career out of reducing men to rubble. But with her all-American physique, Cleopatran tresses, and blithe insouciance about being immortalised in states of undress, she also had an extraordinary effect on her own sex. The "Miss Pin-up Girl of the World", who rose to fame after she posed in 1955 in Hugh Hefner's newly launched Playboy magazine and became one most photographed women of the last century, she achieved that rare feat of being an object of masculine lust no less admired by women.

Her role in the sexual revolution may have been in a minor key compared with the advent of feminism or the contraceptive pill. However, her jaunty up-and-at-'em approach to matters erotic sanctioned the idea that sex was a normal – or, at times, divertingly abnormal – part of the female repertoire.

There was something genuinely radical about her embodiment of a certain joie de vivre. Page herself once observed that: "Young women say I helped them come out of their shells." By her own acknowledgment, she was the girl next door who got the girl next door thinking.

Celebrated modern-day burlesque artist Dita Von Teese, whose own brand of voluptuosity is straight from the school of Page, today told the Telegraph: "With the passing of Bettie, we have lost yet another great 20th century icon. She dared to be different all those decades ago, combining an erotic fetishism and pin-up playfulness with a little wink of the eye. She certainly inspired me, and will be remembered by the world as a daring beauty and style icon for ever."

Page's biography may not offer much by way of liberation, encompassing, as it did, parental abuse, an inability to profit from her own image, and a descent into mental illness. However, her iconography enjoyed a life beyond such squalor.

Images of Page will continue to hold a resonance, whether pouncing in leopard-skin, flashing her magnificent bosom, or, yes, even gagged and bound. Sex, as Page's many incarnations taught Middle America, is curious, complicated and, above all, fun – not least when untrammelled by dogma.

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