Bettie Page is one of the most famous pinup models of all time, but the model surprisingly left her career behind at the height of her fame. Many have wondered why Bettie left her lucrative pinup career behind, and we now know the answer! Join Facts Verse as we finally know why Bettie Page quite her pinup career.
Bettie Page Had a Tough Childhood
Though Bettie Page would rise to become one of history’s preeminent pinup models over the course of her lifetime, she came from humble beginnings. The future star was born in Kingsport, Tennessee, on April 22, 1923. Bettie’s mother and father had six children, and she was the second. However, her father didn’t make a whole lot of money. Because of this, the large family unit was constantly struggling for survival. Bettie’s father worked as a mechanic, and he and Betty’s mother would divorce when the girl was only 10 years old. After the divorce, Bettie and her siblings were forced to live in an orphanage for a period of time.
Bettie wasn’t forced to come of age in an orphanage, as her father eventually came back for her and her sisters. However, this seemingly happy ending to the young Bettie Page’s orphanage saga came with a caveat. Though she no longer had to live in an orphanage, she would have to endure sexual abuse from her father as soon as she started living with him again. Miraculously, Bettie was able to excel at her schoolwork despite the trouble that she was having at home. Over the course of her high-school career at Hume-Fogg High School in Nashville, Bettie not only got good marks, but also became her class’s homecoming queen.
It was during Bettie’s high-school years that she met the man who would go on to become her first husband. That man was named Billy Neal. Sadly, Bettie and Billy were only married from 1943 to 1947. During her marriage to Billy, Bettie worked as a schoolteacher for a short period of time before deciding that she wanted to head out to Hollywood and try to become a star. Apparently, the future pinup model had a pretty hard time getting her students to pay attention.
Bettie Couldn’t Cut It in Hollywood
Upon her and her first husband’s move to California, Bettie worked as a secretary while searching out opportunities to appear on the screen. When Bettie finally managed to secure herself a screen test, she ended up failing it miserably. Later, Bettie would blame her failed screen test on the fact that she wasn’t willing to sleep around with the producers. While still living in California, Bettie divorced first husband Billy Neal. Shortly afterwards, she moved to New York City and decided to give up on becoming a star.
Ironically, it would be in New York City that Bettie Page would first receive her welcoming into the entertainment industry. One day, the future pinup model was exercising on the beach when a man named Jerry Tibbs spotted her. Jerry worked as a cop by day, but his true passion was photography. He saw the perfect subject in Bettie. Always one to be the center of attention, Bettie allowed herself to be photographed by the man. The photos ended up gaining some traction, appearing in magazines such as Flirt and Wink. In 1955, Bettie Page would appear in a Playboy centerfold that would make her the star she aspired to be.
Bettie’s 1955 Playboy pictures caught the attention of a man named Irving Klaw. Irving Klaw was a giant in the pinup industry, but he had a rather unique distribution model. Instead of sharing his work through magazines that could be sold in stores, Irving shared his work via the mail. This meant that the man could get away with selling material that was a good deal more risqué than the average material was during the time period. In particular, Irving Klaw made a name for himself as an early purveyor of BDSM photos.
Irving Klaw believed that Bettie Page would be a perfect fit for his BDSM-themed work, and the pinup mogul went about tracking down the model as soon as he saw her picture. Bettie agreed to work for the man, and the work that she did with him rocketed the both of them into higher stratospheres of success than ever before. Sadly, the massive amounts of attention that the pair’s BDSM-themed work was getting came with a caveat. Soon, a politician would come out of the woodwork and try to put an end to Irving’s distribution of cutting-edge pornography. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Bettie’s Time on the BDSM Scene Ended in a Big Way
Bettie Page found a massive amount of success modeling for Irving Klaw, and Irving Klaw’s pornography business was booming thanks to his new pinup model! However, this happy period would soon come to an end for the two pornography legends. One day, the BDSM-themed pictures that Irving was distributing caught the eye of a notable senator. This senator then went about trying to bring an end to Irving’s distribution of pornography for good.
BDSM-themed pornography is still far from the norm, and it was doubly offensive back in the day. When the masses got wind of the work that Bettie Page was doing with Irving Klaw, they were not too keen on it. Though there were certainly small niches of the population that could appreciate the work, it undeniably wasn’t for everyone. The legal action that the senator took against Irving Klaw forced Bettie to show up in court and testify on his behalf. Though neither of the figures ended up getting in much trouble, the whole debacle tarnished their reputations in the eyes of the public.
The worst part of the court battle was when a man claimed that Irving Klaw’s BDSM-themed photos of Bettie Page had somehow inspired his son to commit suicide. This hurt Bettie personally, and she had no interest in getting back into the world of BDSM after the court battle came to an end. Instead, Bettie began working with a female photographer by the name of Bunny Yeager. Bunny was a former pinup model herself, and Bettie claimed before her death that the work she did with Bunny was the best work of her career.
Bettie’s Work with Bunny Yeager Is Considered Her Best
Though the work that Bettie Page did with Irving Klaw was certainly the most cutting-edge work that the model took part in over the course of her relatively short career, the work that the model did with Bunny Yeager is considered more iconic. If you see a vintage pinup of Bettie Page nowadays, you’re most likely looking at a photo that was taken by Bunny. Bettie’s work with the female photographer became incredibly popular, and Bettie found herself at the height of her fame. However, she wasn’t long for the world of porn.
By the end of the 1950s, Bettie Page decided to turn her back on pinup modeling. One might assume that the reason Bettie left the industry was because of the negative experiences she’d had in court with Irving Klaw. However, it seems that the true reason Bettie left the industry behind was because she’d had her own personal religious awakening. According to the late Bettie Page, she became a born-again Christian on New Year’s Eve of 1957. The incident occurred while the former pinup model was attending church service in Florida. Sadly, Bettie’s transition from pinup model to born-again Christian was a bumpy one.
Bettie Page continued living in Florida for a time after her religious awakening. In 1958, she married her second husband. This man was named Armond Walterson, and their marriage would only last until 1963. In 1967, Bettie would marry for a third and final time. This third marriage only lasted until 1972, meaning that Bettie didn’t have a single marriage over the course of her lifetime that lasted more than a handful of years. Bettie’s mental health had begun deteriorating significantly during her second marriage, despite the fact that she had found faith. During her third marriage, things would get even worse for the former model.
Why Did Bettie Turn the Page on Her Career?
It was undeniably Bettie’s newfound religiosity that caused her to give up her career as a pinup model. However, religion didn’t immediately bring the model the peace she desired. In 1972, Bettie got in trouble when she forced her husband and his children to pray to Jesus at knifepoint. A few months prior to this incident, the former pinup model had brandished a gun during a church service. It seemed that Bettie needed some help calming down, so she was sent to a mental hospital. Harry divorced her, and Bettie never married again over the course of her remaining years.
Bettie was eventually let go from the mental hospital, but was forced to return after attacking her landlady with a knife. By the early 1990s, Bettie Page had essentially disappeared from the public eye. However, the cutting-edge work that the pinup model had done decades prior was starting to develop a legendary reputation. Bettie’s disappearance only added to her cult appeal, and it wasn’t long before magazines were putting out wanted ads asking for information about the former pinup model’s whereabouts. Though one might’ve assumed that Bettie wanted nothing to do with the public at this late stage in her life, she ended up making a return to the public sphere before her 2008 death.
During the final years of Bettie Page’s life, the former pinup model made a triumphant return to the spotlight. Despite all of the mental troubles that she had dealt with during her middle years, she ended up accepting the legacy she left behind as a pinup model. As of 2022, the city of Nashville is hard at work on a memorial to the late pinup model.
Bettie Page quite pinup modeling at the height of her fame, and the reason was because of her born-again Christianity. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Bettie Page attacked her landlady with a knife, and that she chose Jesus over her pinup career? Comment down below!