LOS ANGELES – Bettie Page, the pinup queen whose saucy photos helped usher in the sexual revolution of the 1960s, has died. She was 85.
Page, whose later life was marked by depression, violent mood swings and several years in a state mental institution, died Thursday night at Los Angeles’ Kindred Hospital, where she had been on life support since suffering a heart attack Dec. 2, according to her agent, Mark Roesler.
A cult figure, Page was most famous for the estimated 20,000 4-by-5-inch black-and-white glossy photographs taken by amateur shutterbugs from 1949 to 1957. The photos showed her in high heels and bikinis or negligees, bondage apparel – or nothing at all.
Decades later, those images inspired biographies, comic books, fan clubs, Web sites, commercial products – Bettie Page playing cards, dress-up magnet sets, action figures, Zippo lighters, shot glasses – and, in 2005, a film about her life and times, “The Notorious Bettie Page.”
“The origins of what captures the imagination and creates a particular celebrity are sometimes difficult to define,” Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner said Thursday night. “Bettie Page was one of Playboy magazine’s early playmates, and she became an iconic figure, influencing notions of beauty and fashion. Then she disappeared. … Many years later, Bettie resurfaced, and we became friends. Her passing is very sad.”
A religious woman in her later life, Page was mystified by her influence on modern popular culture. “I have no idea why I’m the only model who has had so much fame so long after quitting work,” she said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2006.
She had one request for that interview: that her face not be photographed.
“I want to be remembered,” she said, “as I was when I was young and in my golden times. … I want to be remembered as the woman who changed people’s perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form.”