December 11, 2008

Pin-up girl Bettie Page dies at 85

Bettie Page, who gained fame as a '50s pin-up girl, has died in Los Angeles, nine days after suffering a heart attack, her agent said. Page was 85.

Mark Roesler, Page's long-time friend and business agent, said Page died after having been on life support since the Dec. 2 heart attack, the Los Angeles Times said Thursday.

Page was one of six siblings in a Nashville family and was placed in an orphanage when she was 10, she had said on her Web site. But she graduated near the top of her class in high school and studied to be a teacher at Peabody College of Education in Nashville.

In 1950, she met a police officer and amateur photographer named Jerry Tibbs in San Francisco, who took photos of her and assembled her first pinup portfolio. She appeared in Playboy magazine, and by the mid-1950s her image appeared on everything from playing cards to bedroom posters.

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner once said Page's appeal in popular culture was a combination of wholesome innocence and fetish-oriented poses that is at once retro and very modern, the newspaper reported.

Page suffered from depression and mood swings late in life and spent several years in a state mental institution, the Times said. She abruptly stopped modeling in 1957 and disappeared from the public eye, which contributed to her cult following in later years as a younger generation of fans speculated what had become of her, KNBC-TV reported.

Page's story was adapted for film in 2005 with Gretchen Mol starring in The Notorious Bettie Page.