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Bettie Page, Bondage, The Ball Gag And Bad Dance

Jim Linderman on the blog Vintage Sleaze discusses the Bettie Page Craze and Millions made on Bondage

Bettie Page provides proof with a pout that her dancing skills are completely lacking in Varietease, a “Burley” film directed (by which we mean bankrolled) by Irving Klaw, early bondage marketer and ball-gag promoter.

That said, and not to burst any burlesque bubbles, but Betty was not a performer. Some entertainers belong only in still frame, and most of the early dancers in Burly films (a genre deserving scrutiny even if they were simply terrible..and believe me, they were) should have stayed in smoke-filled clubs rather than smoke-filled movie sets. Sets like the remarkable “two curtain” wall provided here for his star by Mr. Klaw.

Bettie’s dance consists of three moves which would get her booed off America’s Got Talent before she dropped a veil. One is the pout mentioned above. One is the wink. The third is her best move, in which she lifts her hair over her head. Other than that, Varietease is a tedious attempt to rival Salome. Well…sorry. She is no Salome and the Pin-Up king is no King Herrod. She does, however, have a cool “spidey crawl” thing she does with her hands. It reminds me of the “wall-crawl” my mother taught me to stretch out my sixth cervical vertebrae, but if Bettie did it against the set here, the drywall would crumble.

As you can see here, Klaw spelled her name wrong. Hell, he spelled CAST wrong.

One thing often forgotten in the permanent Bettie craze is that her photographer was brought to Washington ti be grilled like bacon as much because he showed women stretched out on racks with their mouths stuffed as he did showing leg. I wouldn’t censor anything in the world, and truly each to their own…but men had always treated women like crap and Klaw figured out he could make money photographing it. Virtually every article you find uses phrases like “tame by comparison” when describing Klaw, but a ball-gag is a ball-gag, and one wonders how many of the bangs bedecked rockabilly girls today have seen the photographs Klaw subsequently destroyed. Even a few of the ones his sister saved from the fire are too taboo today. You won’t see a Bettie backlash, nor should there be one…but a good deal of her reputation was based on the relationship between her beauty and being bound.

Klaw In fact made millions of dollars, and that is in 1950s dollars. Other Klaw films of the era include “Riding the Human Pony Girl” “Bondage in Leather Harness” and “Jungle Girl Tied to Trees” and in print form the questionable “Girl Psycho Handled with Restraint” which I have not read. It is no wonder some say he eventually sold his empire to Edward Mishkin, a mobster who stayed in the business even longer than Klaw, and a man who went on to produce the type of material you REALLY don’t want to see, and I’m not even using the words here because google will drop my blog like a ‘tater.

Now before I receive any flame for questioning the skill of the most beautiful woman to ever become an icon, let me assure you when Ms Page was NOT moving, she owned the camera like no woman before or since, and that includes Dita. Every click of the shutter, and unlike any model then or now.

Wink, pout, TWIRL!
Jim Linderman

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