From a Tennessee orphanage to the Playboy mansion, from honor student to bondage model, Bettie Page embodies a lifetime of contradictionsand was the naughty poster girl for a repressed era in American culture. With signature ebony bangs fringing the palest of slate-blue eyes, her bikini-clad likeness graced everything from magazine covers to album jackets. But it was her whip-accessorized fetish photographs for Irving Klaw's early fifties catalogs and films that would become her trademark. They would also land her at the center of Senator Estes Kefauver's very public campaign against "pornography" in 1955.
Though her nearly 10-year modeling career was, by most standards, quite long, her disappearance in 1957she became an Evangelical Christianwas abrupt and complete. But despite her absence, her style has inspired many imitators. Burlesque dancer Dita Von Teese invites obvious comparisons, and now the fair-haired Gretchen Mol has gone dark to play the provocative pin-up queen in The Notorious Bettie Page, Mary Harron's new biopic that opens today.