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Bettie Page: Psychosis, Assault, and Attempted Murder

by Robyn Reisch 6 months ago in guilty

How much do you really know about the "Queen of Pinups"?

You probably know Bettie Page from her iconic pinup work. She didn't fit her era's image of a wholesome blonde American beauty, so she constructed her own aesthetic. With her athletic body, subversive demeanor, and shiny black locks, Bettie brought an edgy new dynamic to the scene...and the world loved her for it.

So...would you believe me if I told you that she once attempted to murder her elderly landlord in cold blood?

Under Bettie's joyful public image lay a personal story that was deeply tragic and complex.

Her childhood was not a stable one. Bettie Page grew up in poverty. Her family was always on the move. Bettie, along with two of her sisters, spent a year in an orphanage when her parents were unable to care for them. Her father was in and out of her life - and jail. He began to molest her at the age of thirteen. 

Nevertheless, Bettie Page was known as a bright and active student. She was a member of the debate team. She was named class salutatorian. Bettie Page was even voted "Most Likely to Succeed" by her classmates.

The small town homecoming queen moved to Los Angeles, and then New York City, where she did just that.

Below the shiny surface, though, the stiletto goddess' psyche was starting to unravel.

As her star rose, Bettie's mental health began to deteriorate. She suffered from breaks with reality. Often, these episodes would have religious undertones and violent intentions to them. 

In 1972, the police were called to find her running through a motel complex waving a gun and threatening the retribution of God. A month later, Bettie forced her ex-husband and his children to pray to a picture of Jesus at knifepoint. She threatened to cut out their eyes and guts if their gaze strayed. 

Although she was not charged for the first incident, the second led to a four month forced hospitalization. She was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Bettie moved back in with her ex-husband to recover. Unfortunately, he was forced to call the police again when she trashed the house in a fit of rage. They detained her, at which point Bettie began to masturbate in the police car.

This scene resulted in Bettie being hospitalized for six months. She was put under a suicide watch.

Unfortunately, things did not turn around for Bettie after her release.

In 1979, she attacked one of her landlords - an elderly woman - with a knife. The attack was said to be completely unprovoked. Bettie was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, but found not guilty by reason of insanity. She was sentenced to five years in a state hospital. Bettie was released after serving less than a year.

Shortly after her return to society, Bettie broke into the apartment of her new landlord, also an elderly woman. She told her "God has inspired me to kill you." Then, Bettie stabbed the terrified woman repeatedly. 

She sliced from the corner of her victim's mouth to her ear, disfiguring her face. Bettie also severed her landlord's finger and stabbed her four times in the chest. The old woman put up an admirable fight, resulting in several defensive wounds on her hand. 

Thankfully, she survived.

It was clear, however, that Bettie Page had attempted a grisly murder.

At her trial, Bettie plead not guilty by reason of insanity. She was sentenced to confinement in a state mental hospital for eight and a half years. This time, Bettie served the entirety of her sentence.

Some might argue that the consequences assigned to Bettie Page were lighter due to her star-power. If that is the case, then doing so was a misguided kindness. Bettie suffered from obvious and severe mental illness - and when I say that, I mean that she suffered in a very real way. 

Ultimately, though, her victims suffered from Bettie Page's delusions as well.

While her creative genius lit up the world, Bettie Page's violence against the innocent can not - and should not - be forgotten. Mental health care is not a luxury for people who want to feel good. It is a necessary component of a civilized society.

Sources

https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/bettie-page-the-case-of-the-vanishing-pinup-204454/

https://www.oregonlive.com/oregonianextra/2008/12/steve_duin_the_real_bettie_pag.html

https://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/bettie-pages-lost-years-revealed-in-treasure-trove-of-unseen-letters-and-photos

Bailey Sarian, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lknCE7fn7k8

Essex, Karen; Swanson, James L. (1996). Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-up Legend. General Pub. Group https://www.worldcat.org/title/bettie-page-the-life-of-a-pin-up-legend/oclc/32923543

guilty

Robyn Reisch

Robyn Reisch spends her days cooking, writing, and raising three gorgeous little hooligans. She is married to the world's greatest man. They live in Colorado with their elderly dog, Rupert.

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