Sunday, June 5, 2011

Autobiography Pt. 28


One of my earliest lucky-breaks came in the form of a letter from the Hawaiian Islands, written by a man named Joe Hanson. It contained a wonderful story about his meeting Bettie in San Francisco, and he invited a phone call. Joe warned me not to mention the subject to his wife if she answered the phone. Seems that his wife had jealous streak, and he’d catch four kinds of Hell from her if she knew that he was talking about old girlfriends. It was the first time that I was asked to keep my source anonymous, and it wouldn’t be the last. Since his name was Joe Hanson I decided to call him “The Swede.”
The Swede was a big help and supplied lots of facts about Bettie’s life during the Second World War, her family, and her attempts to get into the movies. We sent him every issue of TPB, and he always sent the new Girls of Hawaii calendar back. In a story with more than its share of scoundrels, Joe Hanson was always a sweetie.
    It was the first of many contacts I made through the magazine. Like an ambassador, TBP was always there before me with a good introduction. Without the work-in-progress chances of contacting her friends and work mates was slim at best. By publishing and researching, leads came to me, rather than the other way around.
    The best way to do research that I’ve found yet.

One of my best early breaks was coming into contact with Mr. Lucky, a character who I met by way of my downstairs neighbor.
During that period my late-night radio listening consisted of the Al “Jazzbeau” Collins’ show on 1560 WNEW. Jazzbeau is a legend of New York radio, and is so cool that THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COOL authors invited him to do the introduction. His musical tastes gravitated toward Count Basie, Slam Stewart, and Dinah Washington, and I loved his show. One late night I heard him make a call for a new place to live, and since my studio was four blocks from my NYC digs, I called and tipped him off to the space that had just opened downstairs. He moved in shortly after, and we became pals. After he settled, I brought him down copies of THE BETTY PAGES #1 & 2.
       “I knew Betty Page.” was his casual remark as he took the digests. It popped my top. Could this be the mother-load I was looking for?
       “...but I don’t remember anything about her,” was the follow-up that crashed me to the ground.   Apparently she’d been up at the radio station during the 1950s, but his memory was vague. “But, I do know a guy who dated her.” Hope refilled my heart. He continued “Yeah, my pal Richard Arbib, and his number is....” and Jazzbeau rattled it off like it was his own.
       I bee-lined to the phone and called a number that connected me to one of my best sources on Betty, ever. Arbib was a graphic designer and had won much praise of his work, including a line of watches that are collector’s items today.  Richard didn’t mind talking about her, but didn’t want to be bothered by anyone other than me. When I heard his story I immediately dubbed him Mr. Lucky.
    The guy actually “did” Betty, many times.
    Anyway, the guy clearly still had a spot for Bettie in his heart. There’s this certain tone a guy gets in his voice when he speaks of lost love, and even with a bad connection it would have rung true.

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