She was born April 22, 1923, in Nashville to Edna Mae (Pirtle) and Walter Roy Page, the second of six children. Bettie's family was poor, and they travelled from city to city when she was a child. When they returned to Tennessee, her father was in and out of trouble (and jail), so her mother divorced him in the early 1930's.
|Bettie Page yearbook|
She then went to George Peabody College for Teachers. She married her first husband Billy Neal in 1943 (their stormy relationship ended in 1947). Bettie got her bachelor's degree in 1944.
From 1952 through 1957, she posed for photographer Irving Klaw for mail-order photographs with pin-up, bondage or sadomasochistic themes, making her the first famous bondage model and the defining icon of dominatrix.
In 1955, Bettie won the title "Miss Pinup Girl of the World". She also became known as "The Queen of Curves" and "The Dark Angel". While pin-up and glamour models frequently have careers measured in months, Page was in demand for several years, continuing to model until 1957.
She was PLAYBOY'S Miss January of 1955. She did not pose for Playboy per se -- the fledgling magazine bought an existing shot from photographer Bunny Yeager. In addition to appearing in about 50 "loops" (short films made by the Klaw studios), she danced in three feature-length burlesque films: Striporama (1953), Varietease (1954), and Teaserama (1955).
Bettie left New York in December 1957 and traveled to Miami. That month, she posed for a few amateur photos that were published in a skin diving magazine the following year. It was her final modeling experience. She married former boyfriend Armond Walterson in 1958 on Key West, but soon encountered financial and marital problems. On New Year's Eve of that year, she walked into a church service on a whim, and became devoutly religious thereafter.
Over the next few years, Bettie left her husband, attended Bible colleges in L.A., Chicago, and Portland and had a series of secretarial jobs. She eventually returned to Tennessee and briefly remarried Billy Neal. In 1966 Bettie went back to Florida and met her third husband, Harry Lear. They married in 1967 and divorced in 1972, but she continued living in his house in Hialeah until 1978, when she moved out to California to stay with her brother Jimmie.
Bettie lived in California where she enjoyed a private life. She returned to the spotlight of fame in the 80s and 90s following several media stories, including an E! True Hollywood. She hired a law firm to represent her estate, where she was able to reclaim the licensing control of her image. And in her last years, finally received some of the financial rewards of her popularity. She died on December 11, 2008, at age 85.
Her legacy lives on.