How can you mention pin up models without the Empress of Pinups and Sex Goddess, Bettie Page. In the fifties, she was the on the cover of many pin up, fetish, heath and fitness magazines. Posing in lingerie, bikini, nude, or in fetish gear. She also appeared in Striporama and Varietease a couple of ‘specialist’ video which sound naughtier than they are but are actually quite harmless.
In an era of easily accessible pornography, scantilty clan women, and of course many men’s magazine’s that are hardly shy about what is in their pages. It is hard to imagine how daring these pictures were and the fact that a woman can pose such things like rubber gags and be tied up and still hold her head up high and be diginified. Page was in many ways ahead of her time. A woman who did not see sex and nudity as something to be ashamed of nor that spanking was such a hideous sin. Simply put without Page there would be no Pamela Anderson, Dita Von Teese or Carmen Electra. While she fell into modelling by chance (she was noticed by an off duty policeman who dabbled in photography), she is radiant in front of the camera and very comfortable with or without clothes. She was perfectly at ease being the good girl frolicking on the beach laughing and smiling, and being the leather bound whip carrying bad girl. She was also one of the first models to pose for a men’s magazine called Playboy.
As you maybe wondering how was she able to pose for such explicit and risqué pictures and not be penalised by the conservative sexual politics of the times. Well technically the photographs were ‘indecent’ even though she was never photographed with a man or in an overt sexual manner nude, that made no difference. Specialist bookshops that sold her pictures were raided by the police and her biggest employers Irvin and Paula Klaw were forced out of business from all the pressure from the authorities. They were forced to destroy many of the original reels (most of the surviving pictures we have of her were saved by Paula who was meant to have gotten rid of them). Without her employers and the general harassment for what was essentially a few naughty pictures, Page packed her bags and left it all behind. For many years it was a certifiable mystery what Page did and where she went; was she dead? Was she living in Haiti? Etc. Now it turns out that she became a born again Christian and lived in Miami. Thanks to the passage of time, another generation of perverts found their father’s stash of magazines and Page’s appeal was rediscovered. Now in places like Camden Market you can buy items with Bettie’s image on it, there is even a label called Bettie Page.
Think Madonna’s conical bra was her own design? Wrong, both she and Jean Paul Gaultier were taking inspiration from Page’s fetish work forty years previously. If you have ever wondered why so many ‘alternative’ women sport short fringes? Thats Page again. Dita Von Teese is a huge fan on Page’s if you look at her early modelling pictures you will see her sporting the short fringe and wearing very similar underwear, corsets etc. Once you start seeking Page out you will soon realise that she is EVERYWHERE, and deservedly so.