SHE WAS ARGUABLY THE THE MOST FAMOUS PIN-UP QUEEN OF THE 50'S...and all-time ! Her name was BETTIE PAGE and, though her career spanned only a few years, she left an indelible mark in the minds and hearts of all who saw her.
If you've been to a Rod & Custom Car Show of almost any kind in the last 15 years or so, you've probably witnessed a "Bettie Look-Alike Contest" ! Car mags sometimes run "Bettie Of The Month" photos of Bettie-wannabe's, and, how many out there reading this have gotten a "Bettie" tat ? Hey, although it wasn't planned, a former girlfriend of mine actually resembled Bettie in many ways !
Betty was born April 23, 1923, in Nashville, Tennessee, and, in a career that went from 1950 to 1957, was featured in hundreds of magazines, photos, films, and, various miscellaneous items. Betty was so versatile and photographic that she could do any kind of photo shoots and look perfectly natural and "at home" in the situation. And, with her fresh-faced "girl next door" looks, both men and women enjoyed Bettie's work. (In reality, you wished she was the girl who lived next door to you !)
In fact, during the seven years of her pin-up career, the number of magazine covers that Bettie appeared on would probably rival those of iconic MARILYN MONROE !
BUT, as fast as her star had risen - even gaining more notoriety by appearing as the Playboy Playmate in the January, 1955 issue of Playboy-Bettie vanished from the eye of the public and wouldn't surface again till the early-90's.
The resurgence of Bettie's career was partially due to the artwork of DAVE STEVENS. Dave incoporated the character of "Betty" in his comic book series of "The Rocketeer", and with that exposure Bettie Page once again re-gained the popularity that she deserved...and it continues to this very day.
Bettie passed away on December 11, 2008...exactly nine months after her friend Dave Stevens. She was 85.
(Read Dave Steven's Story below to find the full Dave-Bettie Connection.)
SPECIAL NOTE: The three photos of Bettie showcased above are among my all-time favorites !
1. "BIKINI BETTIE" at the Top of the Page is just perfect. Coy, cute, mild-cheesecake, but still modest.
2. The black-and-white "BETTIE IN THE WHITE BLOUSE" is one of the most beautiful photos of Bettie that you'll ever see ! Wholesome, classy, the All-American Girl personified. The woman was drop-dead gorgeous !!
3. And, "BETTIE ON THE BOAT" is a priceless, sweet, candid photo showing Bettie's wonderful smile, warmth, and, playfullness.
R.I.P. Bettie, I loved you. JK
(Above photos courtesy of The Official Bettie Page Website: http://www.bettiepage.com/index.html)
DAVE STEVENS: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT BETTIE PAGE "BACK TO LIFE"...
DAVE STEVENS WAS ONE of the most prolific and respected comic book artists of truly amazing "fantasy, art deco, & good girl" art that ever put a pen to paper. His professional career began in 1975 and continued until his untimely death - from complications of leukemia - in 2008.
Dave was born July 29, 1955, in Lynwood, California, and grew up in Portland, Oregon. Like many of us he loved the Sci-Fi Serials of the 30's & 40's: Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Commando Cody, all helped form his artistic vision. Also, the Pulp Fiction Heroes like Doc Savage and the Shadow added fuel to the fire when he created "The Rocketeer", alias, Cliff Secord.
IN THE STORY, which first appeared in Pacific Comics "Starslayer"#2 in 1982, Cliff Secord finds a mysterious rocket pack which gives him the ability to fly. After some intial problems with the unit, he transforms himself into his alter-ego "The Rocketeer" to fight crime. The storyline is set in 1938, and Cliff's girl friend is named Betty. That his "Betty" looked like the original Bettie Page was no coincidence !
Dave was great admirer of BETTIE PAGE and her 1950's glamour and pin-up photos & films, so much so that when he created Cliff's girlfriend, Bettie Page was whom she was modeled after. The result was two-fold: His artwork in the Rocketeer Series, featuring his pin-ups and his version of Bettie, helped propel the series comics to record sales. In turn, it sparked a renewed interest in the real Bettie Page...and brought her legions of new fans, plus, a renewal of her and her image to those who remember her from the 50's.
IN SHORT, Bettie Page was once again a "hot property" and spawned a merchandise bonanaza which included photos, video cassettes, DVD's, t-shirts, art work, playing cards, refrigerator magnets, auto air fresheners, jackets, shirts, and, anything else you can name. At the same time Rod & Custom car owners/fans & show promoters also got on the Bettie Band Wagon: Bettie Look-Alike Contests, Bettie-Of-The-Month Pix in many of your favorite Rod & Custom Mags, and, car-guy girlfriends sporting "Bettie Bangs" & hairdo's ! Face it: Ya can't run away from Bettie !
Now, with all of the above happening, Dave Stevens sought to find out where the real Bettie Page was...but, nobody knew ! It was a major mystery !
Finally, Dave was able to track her down through her brother, and wanted her to be able to share in the profits of the usage of her image which had reached WorldWide proportions. He not only saw to it that she got cashflow from those who were profiting from all of her merch, but he became a friend to her taking her to Dr.'s appointments, grocery stores, etc.
And, thus, he fullfilled his quest to see that this once-beautiful idol of his was helped in her later years...when she really needed help.
SADLY, Dave Stevens passed away at the age of 52 on March 11, 2008...nine months before Bettie's death.
Visit the Dave Stevens Website: http://www.davestevens.com/
(Above photo of Dave Stevens courtesy of theoriginal owner/copyright holder; "Rocketeer Adventure Mag." cover pic from my personal collection; Bettie Page photo courtesy of the Official Bettie Page Website.)
"THE ROCKETEER" : THE MOVIE...
BEING THE CREATIVE, VISUALLY-ARTISTIC, professional that he was, Dave Stevens had always envisioned "The Rocketeer" as being a project that he would like to have made into a motion picture. But, those plans had to be put on hold while the stories were being written for the comic-trade.
Finally, after the major success of the Rocketeer comics, magazines, and, compilation books, both it - and Dave - had become well-known, and Dave had hoped to go forward with turning it into a film. He originally had thought of it as a low-budget project done in black & white...like the serials of the 30's & 40's that he loved. However, when studios were approached they were not enamored of the character,or the project, and a number of rejections followed.
The last studio that was contacted was Disney and they agreed to sign-up for the project...with one contingency: It had to be a "live action" format, and the "Betty" character had to be toned-down so that the film could be "family oriented". Plus, since Bettie Page was a living character, the studio didn't want to worry about name clearance & royalties. So, the name of Cliff's girlfriend was changed to "Jenny".
Also, being a Disney film, Disney wanted to merchandise the property to the fullest extent: toys, games, books, trade cards, apparel, glasses, cups, action figures...well, you get the picture. (No pun intended !)
The film ended up with a very good cast. Billy Campbell as "Cliff"; Jennifer Connelly as "Jenny"; Timothy Dalton as "Neville Sinclair"; Alan Arkin as "Peevy"; Terry O'Quinn as "Howard Hughes", and, a supporting cast that was just fine.
The quality of the sets, special effects, locations, etc., were as good as could be, and the color, costumes, and, 1930's atmosphere that permeated the film made it great to watch. But, since Dave's original vision of the project had been diluted - making it more of a "kiddie" film than the serialesque quality that it really needed to succeed-the film did not do well at the box office, and Disney stopped promotion of it after a short time.
IN RETROSPECT, I had always liked Dave's stories & characters just as they were. It's a shame Jeffrey Katzenberg, then head of Walt Disney Productions, didn't share the same vision...he would have probably been more pleased with the results of keeping the project true to Dave's original concept. And, could have ended up with a major hit.
(Read the Interview with Dave Steven's at the link listed below for more complete info on both Dave, and "The Rocketeer".)
(Above Left: The Rocketeer Collection of the original comic book series, the Eclipse Edition; Above Center: Beautiful Jennifer Connelly as "Jenny"; Above Right: The Rocketeer Movie Poster showing Billy Campbell as "Cliff", Jennifer Connelly as "Jenny", and,Timothy Dalton as "Neville Sinclair". Both film photos, C & R, courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.)
Here's a great Interview with Dave from Comic Book Artist Magazine #15 that has much info on The Rocketeer and Dave's feelings on the film and it's production done by Jon B. Cooke & transcribed by Sam Gafford: http://twomorrows.com/comicbookartist/articles/15stevens.html
ON A PERSONAL NOTE...
FROM OCTOBER 1, 1985, UNTIL OCTOBER 1, 1992, I owned & ran "All-American Comics & Collectibles" in St. Louis, Missouri. It was located in the General Grant Shopping Center at 8450 Watson Road.
I took care of the shop-in addition to my daily Radio Airshifts at the stations I was working at-everyday during that period of time. Carrying Comics, Collectibles, Comic Character Toys, Robots, Disneyana, Golden Age Radio Shows, Classic Video Cassettes, Magazines...and many other forms of items that reached a varied group of customers over those seven years.
When I opened the store, "The Rocketeer" had already been established and when each & every new issue that Dave cranked-out came in it was not only a solid-seller...they usually sold out completely !
IT WAS AT THAT TIME that my personal love of Bettie Page was fully-developed, because the many, many items that came into the store bearing her likeness, again, would sell-out as fast as I stocked 'em.
Being the buyer, as well as the owner, I started keeping many of the best "Bettie" magazines, books, etc., for my personal collection and was overwhelmed at how versitle she was in all of her modeling "characters": Pin-up's, classy, sexy...whatever you wanted Bettie supplied.
Her beautiful face, coal-black hair, trademark bangs, and, a sensuous body like no other at the time, made her the star-and the legend-that she became. Yes, I loved Bettie, and, as I mentioned in the "Bettie" Section above on this Page, one of my girlfriends actually could have been a "Bettie-Of-The-Month" !
I was shocked by the death of Dave Stevens at such an early age, as I truly admired his art, his craftsmanship, and, the style of his writing. He was one of the finest, and most creative, of his generation.
And, I was truly saddened by Bettie's death. Even though she was 85 at the time, as long as she was alive she could know about those of us who respected & cared for her...but now we were left without that "living" link to her past, and ours. JK
(Above "All-American Comics" photo from my Personal Archive; Bettie Page photo courtesy of the Official Bettie Page Website.)
"THE NOTORIUS BETTIE PAGE" : THE MOVIE...
HOT ON THE HEELS OF BETTIE PAGE'S POPULARITY, a 1999 book by Richard Foster surfaced: "The Real Bettie Page...The Truth About the Queen of the Pinups", Citadel Press. It was not very flattering and focused on some of Bettie's problems before & after her career.
What Mary Harron, and, Guinevere Turner accomplished when they wrote the script for the film, entitled "The Notorius Bettie Page", was to downplay some of what had been printed before about much of Bettie's past that was written for pure sensationalism.
MARY HARRON directed the film and perfectly cast GRETCHEN MOL as "Bettie". Gretchen made Bettie believable, sensative, vulnerable, sexy, and, everything she was supposed to be. Being a major fan of the original Bettie Page, I greeted my viewing it with much apprehension: a "bad" Bettie would have ruined the entire project. However, my fears were unfounded, for as I stated earlier, Gretchen Mol's portrayal of the legendary Bettie was near-perfect. And she looked beautiful !
Although the film never was widely successful, and didn't attain any great Box Office bucks, it has achieved a cult following due to its iconic subject and her WorldWide fame. And, yes, I would recommend it...if you haven't already seen it.
HERE'S A REVIEW of the film by J. Hailey that read's as follows and pretty well sums it up:
"Portrait of an American innocent. In 1955, Bettie Page (1923-2008 ) waits to testify before a Senate subcommittee investigating the effects of pornographic material on American adolescents and juveniles. In flashbacks, we see her childhood in Tennessee, a brief marriage, and her going to New York City in 1949. There she takes acting lessons, models for photos, and acts in short films for adults, earning the nickname, "The Pin-Up Queen of the Universe." We see her relationship with merchants Irving and Paula Klaw, photographers John Willie and Bunny Yeager, boyfriends, and the public. Through it all, she is wholesome, sporting, and forthright - Eve before the fall. "
(Shown Above : "The Notorius Bettie Page" movie poster; Shown here: Gretchen Mol as "Bettie Page". Both photos courtesy of Picturehouse Films.)