Saturday, December 13, 2008


Or "Bettie" as today's NY Times article says was the real spelling.

I didn't know her name when I was a boy in the 1950s and discovered her open and friendly smile in her pin up photos in mens magazines of those pre-nudity—or any kind of too-much-information nakedness—times.

She was usually in a two piece bathing suit that couldn't even be called a bikini, because there was more to it than most bikinis. She had the kind of figure that seemed naturally beautiful then, before stick figure models became the norm. Curves in the right places, including her smile.

When she was rediscovered in the 1980s and later a film was made about her, I felt like what made her special back then was being misinterpreted. But in the end, I think I was wrong. I think her appeal was always her smile, which seemed to say, hey, it's okay to feel attracted to a pretty woman in a bathing suit or less. At least it's okay with this pretty woman. Enjoy. And we did.

1 comment:

Curtis Faville said...

Pornography's a lot more complicated than that.

In our puritanical society, the human body's always needed to be idealized in order to be deemed "visible."

In our puritanical way, we loathe sexuality and can only accept it when it's clothed in some kind of sanctioned context.

I often wonder what goes through physicians' heads, as they routinely examine every kind and version of the body, right down to the most inviolably private parts. Imagine massaging someone's heart. Or cutting out an ovary. That's truly eerie.

One thing that Anthony Hopkins did in Silence of the Lambs--he made bestiality and frankness somehow equal, as if bodies were the mere masks of identity. It was scripted but he made that work.

I think that's partly what Bill Knott tries to do in his poetry (transcendence through masks)--to not much effect, unfortunately.

Bettie's "fun, innocent" demeanor belied her "naughty" exploits on film. She was prolific--apparently dominating the porn photo scene in the 1940's and 1950's. Photogs couldn't get enough of her.