Few people in the history of smut and sleaze have been ripped-off more than Bettie Page. I just did a search on eBay, once home of cool antiques one could happen upon, and now home of brand-new crap you can get anywhere but don't need. 12,000 hits. Who knows how many I would have found if I had spelled her name wrong? Buttons, pins, lighters, dresses, copies of copies of copies of copies of copies of "original" photographs, bad painted "tributes" and more. Clearly Bettie has achieved the much coveted "worth more dead than alive" status we value so much here in the land of the dollar.
It didn't start yesterday. It started when she was alive. Not too smart maybe, but alive. The example above pairs her image with an advertisement for a cruddy potboiler titled "Lust" by Gerald Foster in a mail-order brochure from the 1960s. Needless to say, Bettie Page is not in that book. "Lust" was a piece of crap originally published in 1934, and shilled in later editions simply because the title was hot. Paired with a sultry "come-hither and boff me big boy" Bettie, it probably sold enough to make the sleaze who swiped her picture a few bucks. No wait...MANY bucks. I just converted 1962 dollars to 2012 dollars. The rube who was tricked into buying "Lust" here was paying the equivalent of $37.61. His money went to a PO Box...so Bettie couldn't have even dropped in to collect her share.
I believe the first time Bettie Page was ripped off financially was HERE when unscrupulous neighbors stole her swimsuit designs, a sordid tale of trust betrayed I discovered earlier.
I suppose the "coolest" rip-off was accomplished by contemporary artist Richard Prince. Here is a description of the Prince project...or at least the book/catalog which was published in conjunction with the exhibit:
RICHARD PRINCE: BETTIE KLINE. New York: Gagosian Gallery, 2009. First Edition. Small Folio. Pictorial Boards. Artist's Book. Fine/No Jacket - As Issued. np (108pp), profusely illustrated in color and b&w. Richard Prince's artist's book entitled "Bettie Page". Starting with the premise that painter Franz Kline and Irving and Paula Klaw both pursued their "artistic practice" at the same Manhattan address during the fifties; perhaps sharing models, Prince juxtaposes appropriated images of Bettie Page alongside those of Kline and his works to set up a frisson between the pin-up legend's limbs/torso and the pioneering Abstract Expressionist's bold calligraphic brushstrokes. Previously shrouded art history revealed, or wry revisionist stroke book for sexy sophisticates - you decide!
See? Cool! And from now on when I post a picture of the model on my website, I'll not be posting dirty pictures, I'll be setting up a frisson.
Page from a mail-order brochure, circa 1962 Collection Victor Minx