'50s Pinup Bettie Page Dies

Tod Hunter
LOS ANGELES — '50s pinup model Bettie Page died Thursday after suffering a heart attack earlier this month. She was 85.

Page was a Playboy Playmate and nude model between 1949 and 1958, when she abruptly retired and moved to Florida. She was contracted by New York-based fetish photographers Irving and Paula Klaw, who shot her most famous pictures including bondage, glamour and nudes, and also shot her in 8mm loops.

"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."

In 1978, after a third divorce, Page plunged into a depression marked by violent mood swings, with one incident involving an attack on her landlady with a knife. A judge found her innocent by reason of insanity but sentenced her to 10 years in a California mental institution.

She was released in 1992 from Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino County to find that she had become a pop-culture icon. With the help of admirers and supporters including Hefner and artist Olivia De Berardinis, Page began to receive a respectable income for her work. She is represented by CMG Worldwide, which has reported that Page's official website, BettiePage.com, has received about 600 million hits over the last five years.

She spent most of her final years living in a one-bedroom apartment in Southern California.

When Page was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times in 2006, she had one request: that her face not be photographed.

"I want to be remembered as I was when I was young and in my golden times," she said. "I want to be remembered as the woman who changed people's perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form."

She is survived by her brother Jack Page of Nashville and sister Joyce Wallace of Blairsville, Ga.