Sunday, March 12, 2006

is this desire?

yesterday the l.a. times ran a feature on bettie page, the iconic '50s pinup. she's 82 now and quite arthritic, but still game to perpetuate the legend -- she was interviewed while slowly autographing a pile of her memorabilia, which is hotter than ever (hence, l.a. times feature). and she refused to have her face photographed, so that people can remember her as she was. she says she thinks nudity is natural and not shameful, which may be why she doesn't like the title of the new film about her: the notorious bettie page. the movie's producer explains the title was "meant ironically."

bettie guards her privacy and is a born-again christian of many years. she tells of how she made most of her outfits -- bikinis and lingerie -- which explains why they fit her so well, now that i think about it. anyway, she seems ok with it all, but two things were telling, one sad and one ironic. she and her sisters were all molested as children by their father; and bettie desperately wanted her mother's attention. she did well in school, but her mother seems to have been jealous of bettie and blamed her daughter when the woman's much-younger lover came on to the girl. then there were the klaws -- makers of the cheesecake photos/films bettie starred in. one very popular subset of bettie photos is the bondage scenarios, which she says in the article are the only ones she regrets. the klaws made her do an hour of the hog-tied, chair-bound, whip-wielding jazz in order to get paid for the other stuff she did. "but i never whipped anybody in my life," she says. "it was all pretend."

it's just an interesting portrait of a weird, ultimately symbiotic, cycle of exploitation (which is still going on -- asking an arthritic old woman to sign autographs! it takes her a whole minute to write her name). used sexually by her father, and rejected by her mother (the classic components for exhibitionist tendencies, although certainly not always the case). yet somehow maintaining a fair level of self-esteem: despite her mother's utter lack of interest in anything her daughter did, bettie valued being a good student and even tried for a scholarship. even with the modeling, she wasn't locked in a room and beaten into submission. she chose to do it b/c she could make more money than being a secretary. on the other hand, she was forced to compromise where she would have drawn the line: b/c she wanted to continue posing, the klaws compelled her to appear in scenarios she didn't really want to be in, as a condition of getting paid.

eventually bettie page got caught up in the moral posturing of her day, made to come to d.c. by sen. kefauver as a part of his investigation on pornography. the times article says she was never compelled to testify, which makes me think it was some sort of grandstanding move on the senator's part. but in any case, the klaws packed it in. by age 35, bettie was saved and living with jesus in relative obscurity.

it was interesting to catch a glimpse of her now, still being exploited in some ways, and still also willing to accept the exploitation of others in order to profit from exploiting herself. (she of course has her own web site.) that's been her life -- a life lived so long that all the old crimes and misdemeanors are just stories to tell, so long as someone is interested.

london calling

incredibly, another tidbit in the l.a. times worth noting: today's travel section had an article on affordable places to stay in popular cities, such as london. one of the places was the portobello gold, a pub in notting hill where my new pal and the doc's old one, boss goodman, is the chef. (i can't link to the reference b/c for some reason you have to be registered to view the item.) when i went to london last fall, i drank and ate at will at this wonderful spot -- boss is a prince among men; i was spoiled rotten just as if i were in my own home -- but i did not stay there, although i wish i had. and next time i will.

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