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The ultimate girl-next-door, ...
The ultimate girl-next-door, and one of the most popular Playboy centerfolds, Bettie Page challenged the conservative 1950s, posing as a fierce dominatrix, and earning both a cult underground following and a Senate Committee investigation. This book chronicles Page's life and career, telling the incredible story of a woman who has left an indeliable mark on the history of popular culture. 500 photos.
Bettie Page: I am doing very well and looking forward to an interview with barnesandnoble.com. I have come up in the world -- it is my favorite bookstore.
Bettie Page: A pioneer along what lines? They usually refer to me as an instigator for the sexual revolution of the '60s, but I don't know how they can connect me with that. I had sex less in those years in New York than any time in my life. The reason they say that is because I did nudes, bondage, and fetish work.
Bettie Page: All I remember is that the studio was in Brooklyn, and I was only there a couple of times, I don't remember exactly where -- in the downtown area. He was an authority of coloring the pictures and retouching. He would make me look so pretty, and color the background -- it really made me look as well as the other models. Everybody loved to pose with him. My one beef is that he insisted that he stuff my bikini with tissue. I didn't need any more up there, and in the pictures it is not smooth breast lines, and I don't know why he insisted on stuffing the bra with Kleenex. I guess he didn't have any falsies, but I didn't need it at all. I wonder if your mother is the pretty Jewish lady with the pretty blond hair. I felt so sorry for them, they were so nice and in love, but in the early '50s he wasn't allowed to go into restaurants with her, they had to go out all the way up in Harlem. They were such nice people, both of them. He is the one who got me starting to wear bangs -- he told me that I had a long forehead, and it would look good if I got bangs. I went home within the hour and cut me some bangs and have been wearing them since. And it has become a trademark of mine, and I owe it all to him.
Bettie Page: I am happy to tell you that I received the Lord beginning on New Year's Eve 1959, when I went into a little church and was very unhappy about my bad second marriage, and I was going to lie on the sea wall in Key West, and it was like somebody took me by the hand and showed me in the opposite direction, where there was a church. I had to cross the street like somebody was leading me -- I think it was the Lord -- and [the preacher] started on a salvation message, and I could hardly wait for him to speak. His initials were M. E. Wright, which sure was right. There was a lady from Ohio on vacation, and she understood me to receiving the Lord, and I went to born-again bible school. I was going to be a missionary; I thought the Lord wanted that for me to do, and I thought God had disapproved of that part of my life, but once I graduated and went to a mission board, they would not take me because I had been divorced -- being divorced for some is worse than murder. I taught Sunday School. Something I am very proud of is, I led my third husband to the Lord, and his three children, and we had study in the homes, and they all went to church. I was very proud of them receiving Jesus through me.
Bettie Page: Of course -- why not! I even liked the bondage. They have been calling me the Queen of Bondage for many years. I never liked that kind of thing, but I did it with Irving Klaw and his sister Paula. They used to also sell movie-star photos. The thing with them was that you had to do an hour of bondage or you didn't get paid. None of the men were allowed to tie us up but Paul, and he was very gentle. I did have one bad experience; they had me tied spread-eagle to trees in the woods, and my arms were tied up and out and so were my legs, with my feet six inches above the ground -- I thought my sockets were going to fall out. I was in agony, and Irving Klaw later told me that those photos sold better than any of his modeling photos. Me in agony...imagine that. The crazy bondage things I had to do were from people's requests through the mail -- he would later sell the photos. One weird request was a whole leather outfit, a pony outfit for me to wear with a hood that looked like a horse's head -- he covered me, and you wouldn't know who was under that outfit, yet that is what he wanted. We laughed about that. That is what he wanted, and that is what they got.
Bettie Page: I don't know except that many times I imagined that the camera was my boyfriend --smile and make goo-goo eyes, et cetera, which is why some look sexy. But when I tried to look sexy, I thought I looked foolish, not quite Marilyn Monroe.
Bettie Page: Well, my second book. THE REAL BETTIE PAGE dug stuff up in my life, meaning my nervous breakdown after my third husband -- his ex-wife led me to a nervous breakdown, and then I had two relapses when I had two meddling landladies. I had to be in the hospital for some time, and this creep dug up all of this, which I didn't want known, and nobody knew about it -- not any of my close friends and other people, because people look down on you if you have been in a mental institute. And this fiend posing as a fan claimed he was a college student -- I later found out he was a magazine and newspaper reporter posing as a fan -- and he wrote me a lot of questions which he wanted me to answer, then sold it to a magazine, then got a detective to follow me. He has the exact hospital info that could have only been gotten from the office. The doctors told me the records were confidential, and here this monster, Richard Foster, gets all of this info. He claims he is doing me a favor by writing this book, because if he didn't, somebody else would have. He put me in a terrible light. He has photos of two mug shots of me when I had my problems, on the front cover of the book. He ought to be tarred and feathered for putting those on the cover. He is a dirty dog if there ever was one. I don't want to ever see him...I would throw some hot scalding water in his face if I saw him. He has an offer to sell that book, all that stuff. He is liable to do it too. Who knows what he may do with it. That dirty dog, just to make money. He doesn't care what it does to me, but he can make money off of something sensational. Two lies: He claims that when Harry called the police when I started hearing voices -- during the breakdown -- that I tried to kill myself in the back of the police car with a coat hanger. He also claimed I stripped to the police officers when I was getting taken to the police station. I remember everything I did when I was sick, and I certainly did not take my clothes off in front of the police officer. He also mentions that when I was married to Harry that I had a picture of Christ on the wall. I did. He said I stood all the children up in front of the picture with a knife and claimed to have tried to cut them. This did not happen. They would have easily overpowered me if I would have ever done something like that. He is a dirty snake in the grass! He should be put away for digging up all that stuff. And telling so many lies.
Bettie Page: That is my favorite song of about eight songs written about me. He has a refrain where he says, "If I had known you, Bettie Page, I would be a different man than I am today...." I wrote him a little thank-you note asking him what he meant. It is a very pretty song; the words are not senseless. One song repeats one line, "I love Bettie Page," throughout.
Bettie Page: I think everything ever took of me has been published. I did only three movies with Tempest Storm and Lili St. Cyr. (One of the best bodies in the business -- she was trained as a ballet dancer. She had a purple bit across the front of the stage, and she was on a little bench, and she did the most beautiful routine, not the blatant bumps and grinds. She was very elegant.)
Bettie Page: Isn't that nice. Quite a tribute. I wonder what you mean by "that look in my eye." My earliest memory is back when I was six: I saw a horned toad crossing the road, then I saw a house come rolling down the street. That is the only thing I remember about my early years in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Bettie Page: I think they are too skinny. They look like a bag of bones, and it is a shame that they are the role models of these bulimic girls, trying to be that thin. You have to starve yourself to be that way. Back in the '50s, they were 50 pounds heavier. Of course there are some models out there that are okay. Look at Cindy Crawford. I guess the logic with fashion models is, who would want to look at the bag of bones when you can look at the clothes? I also don't understand that I influenced fashions of today in what I wore back in the day -- I have no idea what they are talking about. I wore jeans and an old floppy shirt. I never went into high fashion. I went for what looked good on me, not what the fashion of the day was.
Bettie Page: The only thing I know is that I for 30 years I have used nothing on my face but petroleum jelly that I get at the 99-cent store. It has kept the wrinkles away. It is a very good cream for wounds as well. It moisturizes and is a very good, inexpensive skin cream. Of course, one reason why I look and feel so good is because all my life I had believed in eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. You are what you eat -- I have always lived by that, and it really makes the difference in how you look like. I also take supplements. Now I take bee pollen and other stuff -- you name it, I am taking it.
Bettie Page: I never heard of her, so I can't help you there.
Bettie Page: No, I have been wanting to see it. My friend Dave says it is one of the best movies. I saw "Titanic" recently and sat there enthralled for three hours -- the reality was something! It deserved the 11 Academy Awards, and I thought the acting was just beautiful between that boy and girl. Most recent movies I don't care for, but I like to watch movies on TMC.
Bettie Page: Yes. Sometime in the mid-'50s, I got a call from Johnnie, Howard Hughes's right-hand man. I told him I heard too much about Howard Hughes's reputation with women, and I didn't want to get caught up with that. I did go down, and they took several photos, but nothing ever came of it. Something strange: Bunny Yeager sent me a magazine, and in it there was a layout of Howard Hughes's girls, and I was one of them, and I had never even met the man. I just had a call from his number-one man.
Bettie Page: I was successful in plays in school. I was coeditor of the school newspaper, I was an ROTC sponsor, and was in several plays. One of the biggest disappointments in my life was that I was beat out as valedictorian by a quarter of a point, and I got a one-year scholarship to Peabody. Had I got one quarter point more, then I would have gotten the four-year scholarship to Vanderbilt. I had studied so hard, but what cost me to lose out was that I got one B in high school. I had an art class, and there was a two-hour lab in it, and I was in two plays and I had to skip that lab, and she gave me a B, not an A. Thus I got railroaded out of that scholarship. I lost out on it.
Bettie Page: I would like to say that I will never get over this recent popularity. I don't understand it. Why? Especially with young people. I am very proud, but I don't understand it. I don't want to be photographed in my old age; I feel the same way about the old movie stars. Look at Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Why don't they leave it alone and let it go? It makes me sad to see my favorite movie stars when they are old. We want to remember them when they were young. I feel the same way about me as a model. Nobody wants to see an old, overweight model. I will just not starve myself. I won't give up ice cream, spare ribs, and fried chicken -- my three favorite foods. I am trying to live to 100 and be in good health. Goodnight!