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SO, HER NAME REALLY IS BETTIE PAGE. What could be more suitable for this Betty Boop of the printed page – girlie mags of the 50’s, calendars, record and magazine covers etc. etc.
The dark Marilyn she has been called. Not a particularly profound observation – who could be darker than Marilyn? And, if we stick to the superficial – who could be more cheerful, not to say innocent, in her mischief than Bettie – whether it be swim-suit poses on a public beach or private photo sessions with leather and ropes?
Bettie Page is a woman of integrity, she does not reveal much about what was going on under the surface in this new coffee table book about her life and career, although she has submitted a short preface of her own hand. This is truly a 90’s product, an artifact from this present day, when the paraphernalia of assorted partial sexual drives have become household knowledge. At the same time the book emits the alleged naive charm of easily listenable music and cocktail parties of the 50’s – when cigarettes still were good for you and chronic fatigue syndrome was unheard of – not to mention women’s lib …
A powerful Bettie Page revival is going on right now, that is quite unmistakable. While working on this article, I had only to watch TV for a couple of days to see Bettie’s image flicker by three times: in the George Michael video Fast Love from this year, in the Swedish movie The Summer (“Sommaren”, from 1995), directed by Kristian Petri, and in the John Waters movie Serial Mom from 1994.
Bettie Page never really fit into the stereotype of an American pin-up girl. Her measurements were hardly those of a Jane Mansfield, her lips were to thin, and if you look closely, you may see that she has a slow right eye. There were also something homespun about her bikinis. And they actually were, she designed and sew them herself.
Models came and went in rapid succession at this time. Few of them lasted for more than two or three years. Apart from Bettie, perhaps Diane Webber did. And very few of them appeared in both worlds – over and under the counter.
Text by Karl-Erik Tallmo from The Art Bin