Friday, December 12, 2008

Bettie Page, 1923-2008

Bettie Page died yesterday. I suppose there’s not much I can say, except that I liked her as an icon, and that her look appealed to my personal aesthetic and I think defines a certain major axis/image of beauty in our culture. I have previously already written a “tribute” of sorts to her — my poem “Bettie Page” is published online in Free Verse and can be read here.

It’s interesting that Page’s death has made so much news, since she was or at least seemed to me to be such an underground or subcultural figure. News stories mention that she appeared in Playboy and that she helped lay the groundwork for “the sexual revolution.” From what I have read, the Playboy appearance came about not because she specifically posed for the magazine, but because Hefner later received pictures of Page and liked them. Her centerfold depicted her in a Santa hat. They certainly didn’t use any of her dominatrix poses.

The photo currently being used on CNN and elsewhere shows Page on a sunny beach — a nice picture to be sure, but far from the darker image she usually portrayed and which is her signature style. Given that that is possibly the only one most people will see of her, it seems as if the media is trying to whitewash her, or to portray her something like a brunette Marilyn Monroe, which is really doing her a disservice. Don’t get me wrong, Marilyn Monroe was great, but Bettie Page was completely different and completely original.

As far as the “sexual revolution” stuff, yes she was known as a pin-up in the 50s, but she didn’t really resurface as an icon until the 80s or so, and then in a very underground, non-mainstream kind of way. She herself didn’t seem to want the spotlight at all, though in 2006 she did say in an LA Times interview: “I want to be remembered as the woman who changed people’s perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form.” In any case, I guess it’s good to see her getting her due in her time of death, even if the media wants to pretend they were there all along.


Anonymous said...

I type this with one hand , Mike. Hope you are well.Liam MacSheoinin

Celia Pleete said...

Lovely tribute to an amazing icon.

Teppichfesser Press said...

I think it is about time a respectable bush came back into prominence. Honestly, there is something to be said for a woman looking like a GROWN UP PERSON! stupid internet.

Anonymous said...

Whom would ever say --after the last eight years- that bush should be brought back? But I agree ! As the poet said : Enow with the shaved arbustos ! Trimming is alright , however. Liam M.