Friday, April 14, 2006

Camera Obscura - TN's Sex Siren, Bettie Page

This is a jammed-packed movie post this Friday, with lots to talk about including the ever-growing fame of pin-up star Bettie Page, the little gal from Tennessee who gets her own Hollywood major release this week - only fitting as the talk on the blogs this week has been about politics and Bettie's fame was insured by a Tennessee Senator who wanted to be president and held hearings about the outrages of Miss Page and them dirty nasty comic books which the non-family-value juvenile delinquents were reading all over America.

What captured my attention was that the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture devotes a page to Bettie, who turns 83 on April 22nd. And according to the Official Site of Bettie Page, her fame is worldwide phenom, citing over 626 million hits since August of 2000. That sure got Hollywood's attention. (Though not, apparently, in her home state, where I could find no mention of this movie opening today or playing anywhere soon in a theatre near you).

She was born in Nashville and attended George Peabody College for Teachers where she earned her degree in teaching .... odd, isn't it that all these years after the 1950s conservative rage against her there were thousands and thousands of searches on the Internets yesterday about the recent arrest of a teacher-turned-child-molester Pamela T. Rogers.

Not that Bettie ever went for kids, no, just kinda sorta happened into a career in the All American publishing trade in the 50s for pin-up models. A Victoria's Secrets commercial on TV reveals far more female flesh than Bettie did in the majority of her work. But she did some (for the times) mind-bending photos of bondage and S & M -- just bringing that sexual concept into print, saying those words was enough to outrage the good, God-fearin' folk of the 50s. Today - she is hailed as a kind of sexual template, innocent yet kinda kinky, and untold dozens of wanna-be stars in Hollywood today in movies and music use that Bettie Page template. Yeah, you know who I mean.

She gained true infamy for some pics published of her by Irving Klaws, who was called before a U.S. Senate sub-committee headed by Democrat Senator Estes Kefauver, who had gained fame in 1952 in his campaign for president because he went around wearing ... well, check out that Time magazine cover in the link above. No one campaigns in a coonskin cap these days, huh? (and I must give a personal aside here, that the first time I encountered the Kefauver name was in National Lampoon's High School Yearbook Parody, where the kids attended C. Estes Kefauver High School ... but I digress).

The movie opening this weekend, "The Notorious Bettie Page", is not endorsed by Bettie, who abandoned the modeling world and worked for many years as a Christian evangelist. She won't be doing red carpet walks for this release, which follows the early days of her career and her encounter with Sen Kefauver. Actress Gretchen Mol shed her blonde locks for Bettie's dark black hair, and Knoxvillian John Cullum plays the role of a minister in the movie. You can link here for an interview with filmmaker Mary Harron heard on NPR this week.

Another Bettie-related movie was based on Dave Stevens comic "The Rocketeer", and Stevens based his lead female, Jenny Blake, played by Jennifer Connelly, very much on Bettie.

It is a shame, though, that her home state keeps her at a distance. Not that I'm saying their should be a statue of her or Graceland-like fans lining the streets ... but I'm betting most everyone in the nation over the age of 15 knows of her image and her influence on pop culture continues to grow around the world. Who knows, maybe in another 50 years, we'll be able to talk about sex in America a little more freely.


A movie which doesn't open until August has already become a massive cult hit just because filmmakers threatened to change the name of the movie last fall when filmming wrapped. A giant yell from the Blog World made producers re-think it, and they kept the title and even made them go back and shoot more footage for "Snakes On A Plane", starring Samuel Jackson. Jackson was quoted as saying he made the movie simply because of the title and apparently, a large number of folks love the title too. Get ready for it to be a massive hit when it opens in August. Check out the trailer here.

Lucky filmgoers in Japan will get to smell "The New World" when it's released there. Yeah, I wanna smell a movie. "A floral scent accompanies a love scene, while a mix of peppermint and rosemary is emitted during a tear-jerking scene. Joy is a citrus mix of orange and grapefruit, while anger is enhanced by a herb-like concoction with a hint of eucalyptus and tea tree

Oh and dear li'l Buffy the Vamp Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar, has her 29th birthday today. And while some critics applaud other TV shows with strong young female stars, "Veronica Mars" ain't no Buffy.

For a DVD suggestion, let me recommend the 1999 comedy cult wonder, "Office Space", written and directed by Mike Judge. Sick of your job? Who isn't. From it's opening dance-routine of traffic jams (which, by the way, is a perfect example of what it's like to drive into Pigeon Forge) to the pitch-perfect acting of a range of excellent character actors like Stephen Root ("I want my stapler") and boss-from-hell Gary Cole ("Yeah ... What's Happening?") and many more, the movie is about those ugly rhythms of work and life people often get stuck in. One of the best and most underrated comedies from the 1990s.


  1. Cinemonkey11:30 AM

    Maybe, if "Notorious.." does well, Bettie might get more cred in her home state.

    Nah, I don't think so either.

    "Snakes on a plane" is rapidly becoming a catch-phrase denoting a sort of "whattya gonna do?" meaning. "They cancelled Arrested Development!" "Eh, snakes-on-a-plane...."

    Do NOT be dissin' Veronica, man! I'll make the 700 mile trip just to smack you around some. She may not slay vamps, but she tazers hooligans with the best of 'em!

    And if you've been missing TV vampires, you might want to check out Supernatural next week.

    And Stephen Root is my hero.

  2. Read the link. Whatever Mars may be, she ain't no Buffy. Period. The End.

    Travel any distance ya want. Won't change nuthin.

    And Supernatural just sucks, sorry. A mediocre Hardy Boys-style mystery show.

    Other than My Name is Earl (a bushido-zen guide to redneck life) the best writing on TV of late has come from David Mamet and his "Rat Patrol" meets "Desperate Houswives" action drama "The Unit" on Tuesday nights.
    (heh heh ... 'unit' .... heh heh)

  3. No, Veronica is NOT Buffy. Thank God! Give me a smart heroine over a vapid vampire slaying one any day.

  4. Thanks for the visit and time away from your Veronica Mars Blog, Magnolia!
    Always glad to have a new reader.

    You VM fans are intense, I can tell, as I never said anything negative about VM - just that it ain't Buffy, like the way green beans aren't shoes.

    But for critics to say the shows are similar, that I am negative about and call hooey.

    And, um, yeah, go ahead and TRY to convince me Buffy isn't my favorite show, even have a brick wall here you can run up against too if ya wanna!!

  5. 1) Gretchen Mol is no Bettie Page.

    2) The only movie I want to smell is "Polyester."

    3) Office Space is frickin' genius.

    4) My Name Is Earl, followed by The Office is my favorite hour of commercial television.

    5) I have never watched Buffy or Veronica Mars, and, thus, have no opinion on this apparently very hot debate.

  6. I have decided I'm the triplet of Tits McGee and Joe Powell.
    Although Mars is pretty good (I've only seen a couple of episodes), Buffy is still brilliant. Brilliant I say.
    Bettie Page. Goddess.
    Office Space makes me laugh out loud everty time I see it. Funny, I never caught it until late one night a few years ago on IFC. Felt dumb missing it in the first place.
    And as for Earl, I will say its the first time in a while I've seen a show that operates in such a fashion, and I'm with Tits. Earl and The Office are tivoed every week so I can see them.
    Although, I'm oddly obsessed with Lost right now, I'm agreeing with both of you on every level.
    Buffy. Ahhhh. Those were the days.

  7. Anonymous1:31 PM

    Nothing, but nothing will ever come close to Buffy for writing and acting.
    The Unit is one cool show, hope they don't mess with it to "improve" it as has happened to so many other shows with some depth.
    Scorpio Rising

  8. Well Newscoma, if we're triplets, that would explain the weird attitude I get from my so-called "family"!!

  9. Can we be like the Wonder Twins? Do we have special powers? I'd like to take the form of Bettie Page.

    I heart Lost.

  10. Wonder Twin powers, activate. I am the form of Doris Day. (Why, I have no idea.)
    I heart Lost too.
    Joe, My mother told me an odd tale of a love gone wrong in (insert your city of birth here.) Same for you, Tits. It was a dark and stormy night when the electricity went out and children were stolen from their beds (I had Gunsmoke sheets. Really.)
    Triplets with Wonder Twin powers. Awesome
    I obviously had a lot to drink last night and the residual alcohol is still soaking into an unusual type of wetbrain for me this a.m.
    Happy Easter guys, or Jesus is back day, whatever you call it.

  11. Hmmmm ... Bettie Page and Doris Day? Who's been peeking into my archetypal memories???

    The history of my origins as one of set of "lost" triplets with Wonder Twin powers has me stunned. Please, more details ....

    Oh and Gunsmoke Sheets needs to be the name of a rock band or a private detective. LOL

  12. I went to school with Gunsmoke Sheets. His given name was Lester Winslow Sheets III. He smelled of sulfur and sour milk and was given to farting while climbing the rope in gym class, covering the waiting students in a putrid cloud of "gunsmoke."

  13. You are so funny, the editor.
    Joe, I have no scientific information regarding Wonder Twin Powers and triplets, but if there is such a thing as the platypus and Geo. Bush as president, you know this is possible.

  14. I might be late to the party, but did you know that there's a new reality show coming out where they're looking for the new Elvira? Cool...