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Pin-up model Bettie Page dead

December 12, 2008 14:18 IST

Cult figure and 1950s pin-up model Bettie Page, who inspired and set the stage for the sexual revolution in America in the 1960s, died of a heart attack last night at Kindred Hospital, Los Angeles. She was 85. She had been on life support after suffering from a heart attack on December 2, her agent Mark Roesler said.

Page was best known for her black and white glossy photographs between 1949 to 1957, where she posed in high heels, bikinis or negligees, nude or in bondage apparel, the Los Angeles Times reported. Decades later, her images inspired biographies, comic books, fan clubs, websites and commercial products.

In 2005, a film The Notorious Bettie Page was also made on her life and times.

Page led a difficult life post her fame as the pin-up model as she struggled with depression, violent mood swings and several years in a state mental institution. She turned religious in her later life, but Page was always mystified by her influence on modern popular culture in America.

'I have no idea why I'm the only model who has had so much fame so long after quitting work,' she said in an interview with The Times in 2006. She, however, did not allow her photographs for the interview, saying, 'I want to be remembered as I was when I was young and in my golden times. I want to be remembered as the woman who changed people's perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form.'

Paying tribute to Page, Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner said, 'Bettie Page was one of Playboy magazine's early playmates, and she became an iconic figure, influencing notions of beauty and fashion. Then she disappeared. Many years later, Bettie resurfaced and we became friends. Her passing is very sad.'

According to her agents at CMG Worldwide, Page's official website has received about 600 million hits over the last five years. 'Bettie Page captured the imagination of a generation of men and women with her free spirit and unabashed sensuality,' said Roesler, chairman of the Indianapolis-based CMG Worldwide, who was at Page's side when she died. 'She was a dear friend and a special client and one of the most beautiful and influential women of the 20th century.'

Born April 22, 1923, in Nashville, Bettie Mae Page was the oldest girl among Roy and Edna Page's six children. Her parents divorced in 1933 but life didn't get any easier for Bettie. After working as a teacher and a secretary, Page was discovered by an amateur photographer, who introduced her to the world of modeling. Page quickly became a sought-after model, attracting the attention of Irving Klaw and his sister, Paula, who operated a mail-order business specializing in cheesecake and bondage poses. At 35, she walked away from the world of modelling and moved to Florida.

Page remained unlucky in all her three marriages. She spent most of her final years confined to a one-bedroom apartment, reading the Bible, listening to Christian and country tunes, watching westerns on television, catching up on the latest diet and exercise regimens or sometimes perusing secondhand clothing stores.