Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bad News Bettie

Fifties pin-up Bettie Page is very, very ill.

Despite what you hear, I was about...ummm...one year old during BP's original popularity. My only interest in her would have been for, shall we say, nourishment potential...although Bettie is quite, and delightfully, "average" in that respect, without the inhuman mammillary opulence that a certain playboy in a bathrobe and pipe would soon make de rigeur for ecdysiasts.

No, I came across the infamous Bettie in the 1980's, when Dave Stevens (who drew the lovely Bettie at left) let his inner fanboy out and splashed her across the pages of several of his graphic works including the "Rocketeer". Perhaps it's just a wierd concidence that Stevens died this spring; it seems more like kismet. I'm not sure he would have wanted to live in a Pageless world.

Her story is fascinating and awful in the way that carnival sideshows are awful and yet fascinating.

It goes the whole magilla: fame, beauty, youth, exuberance, conversion, flight, despair, even madness...Bettie was hard done by, but she could be any of the young girls in the harsh spotlight of the skin trade. She made next to nothing from the men who wanted to imprison her on cellulose or slick paper. She spent years in obscurity and poverty, again getting nothing from the men she married in search of security, comfort, love, maybe even something she herself didn't understand.

And all the time, rising serenely over the real woman's hardscrabble life, are the images stolen from her youth; lovely, vital, lush...an impossible rival for women, a teasing fantasy for men. I can't help but think that part of her vanishing was the impossibility of living as "Bettie Page", of having that inhumanly glossy siren's empty paper eyes on her every minute. Hard to take for anyone, let alone a smalltown Depression kid from Tennessee...

So I was sorry to hear that it looks like the time is drawing short for Bettie. Her lights are dimming, and life hard or smooth isn't going to be a problem for her soon.

But it does make me hope that today's twenty-something Betties of 2008 are learning from Bettie herself; being smart and getting lots of lovely money for showing us their boo-tay, converting it into Krugerrands or something and building themselves a safe place out of that sleek skin and glossy hair, so they can live doucely into their "sunset years", serene white-haired old ladies smelling of vanilla, smiling sweetly and horrifying their granddaughters with raunchy tales of their spicy youth.


Lisa said...

Hers is a sad and freaky story, from what I know. But in, "battled mental illness and became a born-again Christian," the "and" is superfluous,

"battled mental illness, becoming. . ."

FDChief said...

Lisa: I had the same feeling about that part of her story, yet didn't want to hammer away at it when the poor woman is dying. Like I said, her story is beyond bizarre - I especially liked the part where in trying to get her church to send her to Africa as a missionary she remarries the a-hole first husband she divorced because, well, he was an a-hole and abused her and was generally worthless. So goes on mission and the marriage falls apart within a year. So much for the sanctity of marriage.

There's a local connection there, too; she attended Multnomah Bible College, where she learned, so far as I can tell, nothing useful. Which pretty much confirms my suspicion that "bible college" is to "college" what "cheese food" is to "cheese".

Lisa said...

I think you're spot-on about bible colleges, generally.

And in a desultory comment, not only is it "cheese food," it is, "processed" cheese food.

I remember my proto-earth mother going into a rant in the grocer's over a stand-alone display of Velveeta -- "Do you see this? This food will never decay, because is has no redeeming food qualities." Of course, we hadn't yet gotten the UHT dairy items, and she was going on her horrific memories of margarine WW II era -- lard + yellow food coloring. But I am glad for her insistence on real food.

When I was a kid, post-Apollo missions, "food bars," Tang and that stuff became de riguer. Not in my home. "Citrus punch" and soda was anathema. I am still amazed that so many people survive on totally processed food diets, devoid of veggies or fruits.

FDChief said...

Lisa: the really sad thing is that many of the people eating this stuff are pretty damn poor, and they're spending their food stamps on this crap.

Being poor is hard enough without being dumb, too.

Somewhere I read that something like the secod or third most commonly purchased "meat item" is SPAM.

There is no God.

Lisa said...

Exactly so, Chief. It costs money to eat well. A trip through any Whole Foods market will tell you that.

The poorest must go for the cheapest, most filling calories, which are low-quality carbohydrates and poor fats and oils.

It would be neat if we underwent some kind of food revolution, maybe back to a communal victory garden mindset. But only wealthy people live in communitarian developments with land set aside for gardens.

Agribusiness is big business, and the "cornification" of America had been well-documented by biologist Pollen. And ill people feed the maws of the health care behemoth. It is a sad treadmill, at the moment.