Ladies, we lost a powerful and under appreciated icon last week. Bettie Page died at the age of 85 in Los Angeles, and sexually liberated women all over the world bow their heads in reverence and sorrow...or at least they should. If it were not for women like Bettie, we would no doubt be bereft of so many of the sexual freedoms that too many of us take for granted everyday. Certainly we cannot overlook prior feminist icons such as Mae West, Mary Wollstonecraft, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony (yes I do put Bettie and Mae in the same category as the suffragists) as well as countless other women who would not feign an existence without the freedom to pursue their basic human rights and passions, and Betty brought us a gift all her own. She brought us leopard print lingerie and S&M (yee haw!) and did it with fierce femininity, sexuality, and grace proving that these qualities in a woman are not mutually exclusive.
You should know the whole story, but I'm not here to regurgitate Wikipedia (Google it, bitches) but let's get the basics, shall we? A dumb broad?...Hardly. Salutatorian of her High School class voted most likely to succeed and a college graduate, Betty could have manned a typewriter (or run her own company for that matter if the times would have allowed), however she didn't feel like sitting down all day grazing on a steady diet of monotony. She preferred something a little more...stimulating. Appearing as one of the first Playmates of the Month for Playboy in 1955 and named Miss Pin-Up Of The World that same year, Bettie made her mark fast, doing things her way.
Starting late and retiring from her relatively short career in entertainment she pursued a life with the church, working everywhere from missions across the world to the offices of Billy Graham, she refuses to be photographed (clever girl) wishing to be remembered as she was. Suffering from mental illness in her later years and living in a group home in poverty and obscurity well into the 1980's revival of her iconic fame, she spent much of her later years trying to regain some of the profits made from her work (of which she was largely unaware).
Any woman that wonders how her life is effected by Bettie Page's career need look no further than her saucy underwear drawer. Would my thong be riding up my ass as I type without her penchant for sexy under-things? Would there be a Fredrick's Of Hollywood or Victoria's Secret if Bettie hadn't been sewing all her own lingerie together?...doubtful. A versatile beauty, she was both a Lady and the Dark Mistress as all women have the power to be, though few have the courage to find the delicate balance between the two.
Consider the careers of Deta Von Tesse, Jenna Jameson, Pamela Anderson and Madonna for that matter. Would we have the Suicide Girls or such a healthy Burlesque revival? Would we be able to make fun of the conical Jean Paul Gaultier designed boobs or enjoy Jenna's Porn Star Brand vibrators without Bettie's popularity? Maybe it sounds crazy to you, but really, if Bettie hadn't been such a triple threat of hot, smart and sexual who knows if anyone else with even half the charisma would have come along soon enough to inspire both men and women to explore their own sexual fantasies?
The very name Bettie (or Betty), became both a pronoun and an adjective, embodying the very essence of smokin' hotness in the western vernacular. She has proven, like Marilyn, to be a lasting icon and an eternal sex symbol inspiring artists of all ages and backgrounds to imitate, re-create,decorate and educate.
Timeless and powerful, thank you Bettie for being the hot hero for dark haired beauties across the world. For rising above negative ideologies, countless hardships and for being more comfortable naked than most anything else.