Sunday, June 5, 2011

Autobiography Pt. 35

         Since the TENNESSEEAN piece appeared, Jack has been forwarding mail and communications from a number of people.  After some thought, I decided that it was time to contact her myself.  The LIFESTYLES feature confirmed that she was finally willing to communicate with the public.  I sat down and wrote a letter that I'd been composing in my head for six years.
         What I wanted to say wasn't the hard part, it was the order that had me stymied.  I decided to open with greetings from her friends.  Every time I spoke with a person from her past, they always had some kind of message to convey to her, and I passed them all on to Bettie.  With those our of the way, I plunged into an overview of the whole Bettymania, and closed with a royalty check and two copies of the ANNUAL Vol. 1.  Shortly before Thanksgiving 1992, I stamped the package, mailed it, and held my breath.
         Days passed without any response and it had me worried.  A couple of weeks later I called the bank to confirm if the check had been cashed.  No dice.
         From the first issue of TBP I've been concerned that Bettie Page might not approve of the research I was doing on her.  There was no way to tell.  Worse yet, she might be upset with the magazine and the unwelcome attention it has attracted to her.  Early December brought cold weather, but I was still sweating.  After all, people expected me to finish the story I had started five years before.  If somebody else had done the job, fans would forever be asking me why I hadn't done the job.  I'd painted myself into a corner and was hoping La Page would throw me a rope.
         On the morning of December 17, I found a small treasure with a 29 cent stamp affixed to it.  A stack of other incoming letters were all but forgotten.  The peacock blue ink announced a message from Bettie Page, via her brother.  The writing was unmistakable.
         So, here it was at last: a communication from Bettie Page.
I've been a fan of Page since 1963 when I discovered her black bangs in a stack of old skin magazines owned by my next door neighbor's father.  I've never forgotten her, and when Dave Stevens reintroduced her in THE ROCKETEER, it brought back a flood of memories.
Betty wrote:
Dear Greg,
I hope you don’t mind my calling you by your first name. Mr. Theakston sounds so formal.
Thank you for your very nice Christmas card. A few days ago I received the BETTY PAGES ANNUAL and the poster calendar girls. I like all of them. You and Mr. Stevens are both very fine “girlie” artists. You are a very good writer, too. It’s obvious that you went to a lot of time and trouble to round up all the interesting information that is in the annual. I enjoyed reading it. It contains some very good pictures of me. There is just one shot that I don’t like—the one in the book where I’m flaunting the pubic hair in the opened grass skirt. That’s just carrying things entirely too far. I don’t remember posing that way at all. The front cover painting and the back cover are very lovely. The back one looks more like me than any drawing or painting I’ve seen. Thanks very much for sending me the annual.
Betty Page
California, USA
Schapiro was asked by PLAYBOY to do the Bettie follow-up piece and he produced quite a number of quotes from Bettie. He observes in the text “It was not really difficult to find Bettie Page, which leads me to believe that the legions who claimed to have searched for her were not trying very hard.”
When I later pointed out in a phone conversation that his “research” amounted to asking me for Jacks phone number, so he could get Bettie’s number, Bob started speaking the “L” word (lawyer.) I offered to let him rebut my statement in TEASE! Magazine, but he never took me up on it. I accepted his apology, and took it in stride.
I wonder what keeps chasing me away from PLAYBOY.
Thinking about it, I haven’t had very good experiences with them.

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