October 19, 2023 | Kyle Climans

Naughty Facts About Bettie Page, The Original Pin-Up

Long before the Internet, pin-up models pushed the limits of what was taboo and what was acceptable. Posters of attractive men and women would decorate the walls of countless people. The models in these posters could be celebrities like Jim Morrison showing their risqué side, or they were glamor models who made a career out of being pin-up models. But of all the classic models of that time, it was Bettie Page who set the standard and is a by-word for racy pin-ups to this day. You might not know much about her, in which case this is the list for you to catch up on her life and legacy!

1. Welcome To The World

Page was born on April 22, 1923, in Nashville, Tennessee. Her birth name was Betty Mae Page, though she would spell her first name as “Bettie” from when she was a child.


2. You Talk Funny

Speaking of Tennessee, Page spent part of her young adult life trying to suppress her accent. At the time, her southern articulation was considered a serious handicap to finding work in the entertainment industry—this was several decades before Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, obviously.

Bettie Page facts Getty Images

3. Retiring Early

Although she was frequently listed as being 22 during her modeling heyday, Page actually began professional modeling when she was 27. She would quit that line of work just seven years later when she felt that she was getting too old.

Bettie Page factsGetty Images

4. Self-Sufficient

As a teenager, Page and her siblings didn’t have the funds to fuel shopping sprees or regular salon trips, so they made do by learning to sew and doing their own hair and makeup. Page would later use these skills during her days as a pin-up model, fashioning her own clothing and doing her own makeup.

Bettie Page facts The Notorious Bettie Page (2005), HBO Films

5. Immortalized In Space

Page actually has a minor planet named after her! Discovered by astronomers at Catalina Sky Survey in 2005, the planet is called 184784 Bettiepage. Not much is listed about it except that it has a diameter of 3.7 km—we said minor planet, keep in mind.

Bettie Page facts Wikimedia Commons

6. Go-Getter

Page was such a driven and intelligent student during high school that she had the second-highest marks of her grade with a GPA of 97.19! Regrettably, she deemed this a significant setback, as being the top student would have granted her a four-year college scholarship. The reward for second-place was a scholarship to a teacher’s college worth $100.

Bettie Page facts The Notorious Bettie Page (2005), HBO Films

7. The Tame Bettie Page

During her fame as a model, Page appeared in a small number of films. The first feature-length in which Page was featured in was the 1953 burlesque comedy Striporama. Despite a title like that, the film would struggle to get even a PG-13 rating today. Striporama prominently showcases non-exposed stripteases, unique talents, and comedy routines, without any explicit or intimate content.

Bettie Page facts Striporama (1953), Venus Productions

8. Best Foot Forward

Page’s first credited appearance for the screen is the short video titled Teaser Girl in High Heels.

Bettie Page facts Teaser Girl in High Heels (1950), Bettie Page

9. On Second Thought…

In 1944, Page graduated from George Peabody College with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She had originally enrolled at the college with the intention of becoming a teacher, given her previous scholarship. After a year, however, Page decided that she wanted to try acting instead, switching her major the following year.

Bettie Page facts Wikipedia

10. How It Really Started

During the late 1940s, Page entered the world of “camera clubs.” Due to regulations prohibiting the creation of explicit images, clubs were established to facilitate the capture of risqué and sensual photos camouflaged as art. Page had no problem with posing for such pictures, which naturally made her a very popular model amongst these clubs.

Bettie Page factsFlickr, RV1864

11. Royal Couple?

While Page was known as the Queen of Pin-Ups, Irving Klaw was known as the King—although it was more of a nickname he gave himself. To give the man credit, Klaw was a prominent merchandiser dealing in sexploitation and fetishes. He was inspired by the film Striporama to go into movie-making as well, and he would recruit Page for his ventures.

Bettie Page facts Getty Images

12. Family Business

Speaking of Irving Klaw, one of the models who frequently appeared alongside Page in these unusual photographs was none other than Klaw’s sister, Paula.

Bettie Page factsGetty Images

13. How Impartial Of You!

During the 1940s, Page managed to secure a Hollywood screen test. Unfortunately, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. Firstly, the man in charge of evaluating her test had previously tried to ask Page out but was turned down. Perhaps that might have accounted for Page being dolled up to look like Joan Crawford for her screen test despite her features not being complemented by the look. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to know that Page didn’t get a contract from the experience.

Bette Davis FactsGetty Images

14. Tell Us More About Her!

Page has been the subject of several documentaries, which have featured archive footage of her videos or pictures. These include Betty Page: Queen of Constraints, Striptease: The Greatest Exotic Dancers of All Time, and Taboo: The Start of Sensual Cinema.

Pin-up model Bettie Page poses for a portraitMichael Ochs Archives, Gettyimages

15. I’ll Show You!

While it’s safe to say that Page acquired an immense fanbase during her life, she was actually rejected by the founder of Ford Modeling Agency. Eileen Ford didn’t think that Page had it in her to be a runway model, blaming her short height and wide hips for the rejection. It’s safe to say that Page would prove Ford wrong with her lucrative modeling career.

Bettie Page factsWikipedia

16. My Second Choice Was A Mohawk Look

One of the main traits of Page’s iconic appearance was how she would cut her long black hair to leave bangs above her eyes. This was first recommended to her by Jerry Tibbs. Tibbs served as a law enforcement officer in New York and also pursued photography as a hobby. Tibbs and Page made a deal where she would pose for him as a model, and he would provide her with her first pin-up portfolio. During their shoot, Tibbs suggested that bangs would compliment her high forehead. The rest is history.

Bettie Page factsThe Notorious Bettie Page (2005), HBO Films

17. What Are You Looking At?

The first film that Page did with Irving Klaw was called Varietease. Formatted as a documentary, the film once again did not include any explicit content. Of course, being released in 1954, the various burlesque shows were seen as highly risqué and certainly NSFW.

Bettie Page factsVarietease (1954), Irving Klaw Productions

18. Did She Frame Her First Paycheck?

While Page was studying in college, she got her first ever job to support herself. If you’re curious what that job was, it was working as a typist for Alfred Leland Crabb. Crabb was not only the Professor of Education at George Peabody College, he was also a celebrated author specializing in historical novels.

Bettie Page factsThe Notorious Bettie Page (2005), HBO Films

19. Modest Tribute

In 2004, Dutch filmmaker Nico B produced, wrote, and directed a biographical film about Page titled Bettie Page: Dark Angel. Portrayed on screen by Paige Richards, who is known for her roles in mature content, the low-budget film reenacts six of Page's vignettes from the 1950s while loosely following her life during that era.

Bettie Page factsBettie Page: Dark Angel(2004), Nico B.

20. Play It Again, Bettie

Less known among her talents was her musical inclination. Page was able to play the guitar and the piano. Admittedly, the idea of Bettie Page including those skills into her pin-up posters would be a rather bizarre idea, so we can see why we don’t have many pictures of her playing music.

Bettie Page factsThe Notorious Bettie Page (2005), HBO Films

21. Obsessive Attraction

In collaboration with Irving Klaw, Page gained recognition as the pioneering model who specialized in that specific genre often referred to as restraint art. Page and another female model—usually Klaw’s sister, as mentioned earlier—would take turns dominating each other by tying each other up in various positions. Page gained such fame for these tied-up and gagged poses that she was known as the “Queen of Restrained Glamour."

Bettie Page factsGetty Images

22. Secret And Suppressed Desires

Despite the moniker she gained from her images of restraint, Page herself was relatively indifferent about that specific proclivity. When asked about it many years later, Page clarified that she was merely a model working for payment. She refrained from forming any judgments about anyone's interest in physical restraints, but she personally had no unique fondness (no pun intended) for that kind of amusement.

She also noted that even in the 1950s, when individuals in authority were expected to present a morally upright and conservative image, judges and doctors were sending Page and Irving Klaw requests for more pictures depicting restraint.

Bettie Page factsGetty Images

23. Joint Effort

In 2005, screenwriting partners Mary Harron and Guinevere Turner (best known for American Psycho) wrote and produced The Notorious Bettie Page, a biographical film about Page. Starring Gretchen Mol as Page, the film was modestly received, both critically and commercially.

Bettie Page facts

24. Was It A Yearbook Or A Tarot Card?

While studying at Hume-Fogg High School, Page was voted “Girl Most Likely to Succeed.” Frankly, given how things turned out, that was quite an accurate prediction!

Bettie Page factsWikipedia

25. I Do

Page’s first husband was named William E. Neal. They had gone to the same high school, albeit two years apart. They married on February 18, 1943, just before he was deployed for combat in the WWII.

War Machines in History factsWikimedia Commons

26. A Second Home

Being wedded to a service member, Page undertook numerous journeys across the US and further afield. Among her favorite destinations was the island of Haiti. Living in Port-au-Prince, Page developed a sort of kinship for Haitian culture and Haitian people.

Bettie Page factsThe Notorious Bettie Page (2005), HBO Films

27. Guess Who Found God

After her early retirement from pin-up modeling, Page did a complete U-turn by converting to born-again Christianity! Inspired by a multiracial church gathering in Key West, Page would attend classes at three different bible colleges and take part in a Christian retreat.

Bettie Page factsThe Notorious Bettie Page (2005), HBO Films

28. Not The Reason I Expected…

Page was completely serious about her new devotion to Christianity. During the 1960s, she applied to do missionary work overseas. As you might have predicted, Page’s application was rejected. What you probably wouldn’t predict, though, is the reason for Page’s rejection. It allegedly had nothing to do with her previous pin-up modeling; it was because she had been married and divorced several times by that point. Who knew that a divorcee was more offensive than a pin-up model to the Christian church?

Bettie Page factsThe Notorious Bettie Page (2005), HBO Films

29. Is That Me?!

By the 1980s, Page was living in obscurity and poverty, having struggled with schizophrenia and other mental conditions. Little did she know that her work during the 1940s and 50s experienced a major revival. As fetishes of an intimate nature gained prominence in popular discussion, Page's image was utilized for various merchandise, and played a significant role in inspiring underground art movements.

Bettie Page FactsFlickr

30. Farewell

On December 6, 2008, an elderly Page was admitted to a hospital after suffering a heart attack—though some news sources claimed it was due to pneumonia. Page was put on life support until the 11th, when her family relented and let her pass away. She was 85 years old.

Bettie Page factsWikimedia Commons

31. Let’s Go Back To School!

In 1963, Page returned to Peabody College to continue her education. On top of her Bachelor of Arts, Page wanted to complete a master’s degree in education. Unfortunately, Page didn’t finish the program and dropped out of school prematurely.

Bettie Page factsWikimedia Commons

32. As Told By Bettie

One of the definitive documentaries about Page is the 2012 film Bettie Page Reveals All. Directed by Mark Mori, the film is mostly narrated by Page herself, thanks to hours of archived audiotape interviews. The film also features appearances by her contemporaries (Hugh Hefner, Tempest Storm) as well as celebrities Naomi Campbell and Rebecca Romijn.

Bettie Page FactsBettie Page Reveals All, Music Box Films

33. Ironic

Believe it or not, Page would find full-time employment for years working for none other than Rev. Billy Graham. There are a few jokes to be made about the reverend hiring a pin-up model known for risqué themes, but we don't want to invite litigation.

Bettie Page FactsGetty Images

34. Queen B Imitating The Queen Of B(ondage)

In 2009, Beyoncé released her single “Video Phone,” for which she also recruited Lady Gaga as a contributing artist. In the music video for the song, Beyoncé paid tribute to Page through her wardrobe. Beyoncé also adjusted her haircut to include bangs to rival Page’s original look.

Bettie Page FactsGetty Images

35. Missed Opportunity

Though Page was featured on a 1955 centerpiece of the renowned men's magazine, she and the magazine's founder, Hugh Hefner, didn't actually cross paths until close to 40 years later.

Bettie Page facts

36. This Is Getting Serious

During the 1950s, the Kefauver Committee carried out inquiries on underground unauthorized activities in the US. The official designation was the United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Unlawful Activities in Interstate Commerce, but it was commonly abbreviated to Kefauver, named after the chairman's last name. Not only was Estes Kefauver from Page’s home state, he also subpoenaed Page and Irving Klaw on the subject of their photography business.

Bettie Page factsWikipedia

37. Point Of Order!

The process of having to testify before the Kefauver Committee was a distressing subject for Page, who didn’t want to incriminate Irving or Paula Klaw with any testimony. Thankfully, she wasn’t required to give any testimony, but the committee attempted to vilify her work as being not just immoral, but dangerous. In this vein, they endeavored to attribute her images with dominance themes for an unfortunate incident that led to the tragic end of a young man named Kenneth Grimm. Of course, the committee had to concede that there was no proof that Grimm had ever viewed any of Page's photos before his unfortunate asphyxiation accident.

Bettie Page factsThe Notorious Bettie Page (2005), HBO Films

38. The End Of An Era

All in all, the Kefauver Committee was dismissed as being a cheap ploy for some grandstanding to allow Estes Kefauver to further his political career. Despite the failure of Kefauver's committee to decisively act against Page, the hearings did result in a reformation of laws that prohibited the distribution of pictures with themes of restraint and submission through the mail, which was the usual method of distributing Page's images.

Many believe that this was why Page ultimately stepped back from that industry, while also maintaining her separation from the Klaws to avoid additional persecution within the boundaries of the law. According to Paula Klaw, she last heard from Page via a 1956 Christmas card.

Bettie Page factsThe Notorious Bettie Page (2005), HBO Films

39. Helping A Lady Out

Hugh Hefner invited Page to dinner at his mansion in 1993, when Page was still living in poverty, despite the lucrative industry selling her likeness. When Hefner realized the extent of Page’s situation, he introduced her to a new agent who could try and help her secure royalties. Hefner had chosen wisely, as this agent was also in charge of managing the James Dean and Marilyn Monroe estates. Hefner would later attend Page’s funeral, having ensured that she didn’t have any money problems for the rest of her life.

Nicole Kidman factsGetty Images

40. Hard Knock Life

When Page was 10 years old, her parents divorced, forcing her mother to try and care for Page and her five siblings alone. Not only was Page's father inconsistent during parts of Page's childhood, but he also had to spend two years in confinement due to car theft. Things got so stressful for Page’s mother that she sent the 10-year old Page and two sisters to stay in an orphanage for a year.

Bettie Page factsThe Notorious Bettie Page (2005), HBO Films

41. Cruelly Abused

On top of having to help her mother pick up the slack for her deadbeat father, Page was also betrayed by him in the worst way. Beginning when she was 13 years old, Page was sexually abused by her father. Reportedly, he also molested two of her sisters.

Bettie Page factsThe Notorious Bettie Page (2005), HBO Films

42. One Terrible Night

Following the dissolution of her first marriage, Page relocated to New York City in order to chase her dream of becoming an actress. One on occasion, the newly arrived Page was invited to accompany a man to go dancing. As they went along in his car, however, the man brought more friends along for the ride, until they stopped behind a school building. Page narrowly escaped the ensuing assault of an intimate nature, after which she swiftly left New York City for her home in Nashville.

Bettie Page factsThe Notorious Bettie Page (2005), HBO Films

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

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