NEW YORK—Interest in all things Bettie Page has never flagged since her debut as a pin-up model for photographers Bunny Yeager and Irving Klaw in the 1950s, though since her death at age 85 in 2008, such interest has positively exploded, what with a store chain devoted to Bettie Page apparel, a documentary on her life (which we haven't yet seen but which would likely make an excellent pairing with this 2006 pseudo-biopic starring Gretchen Mol)... and now some auctions and sales of never-before-seen Bettie photos and memorabilia.
Those who are old enough to remember when comic books cost 10¢ or 12¢ may also remember an ad that frequently ran in the back of the books for "Movie Star News," a New York City company which promised "the largest collection of movie star photos in the world," but which was also the kinky kingdom of Irving Klaw, who with his sister Paula photographed some of the '50s top bondage and fetish models, including famous burlesque queens Blaze Starr, Tempest Storm... and newcomer Bettie Page.
Though Irving Klaw died in 1966, the business continued to be operated by Paula and her husband Jack until the reins were turned over to their son Ira... but it looks like Movie Star News has finally breathed its last, as The New York Times announced on Friday that the store's contents, including over 1,500 snapshots of Bettie found "stashed in drawers," will be auctioned off over the next few months by Guernsey's Auctions, an auction institution that's also handled such unique items as over 5,000 remnants from the "unsinkable" Titanic, a Harley Davidson motorcycle from the motorcade of John F. Kennedy's ill-fated visit to Dallas in 1963, and one of the last known original studio models of the "Maltese Falcon."
According to the Times, also to be made available through Guernsey's will be "thousands of images of [Bettie's] colleagues, including Tempest Storm and Blaze Starr. There were multiple copies of prints that apparently had not sold well, including photographs of women looking detached and exhausted, posed with props as dreary as paint solvent cans and air-conditioners."
The Times has also made a small gallery of Bettie photos and related documents, largely from the Bunnny Yeager collection, available here. Fans may also want to note that two new Yeager books have been (or soon will be) released, including Bunny Yeager's Darkroom: Pin-up Photography's Golden Era, by Petra Mason with an introduction by Dita Von Teese, and Bunny Yeager's Beautiful Backsides by Bunny herself.
And if that weren't enough, vintage photography dealers Andrea and Adam Forgash are in the process of "selling hundreds of signed prints and contact sheets that the octogenarian photographer Bunny Yeager had filed away at her Florida home," which the Times also noted, "On images of men and women in scanty outfits, occasional pen strokes mark where wrinkles and cellulite needed to be retouched." The Forgashes' next sale will take place at the Boston Book, Print & Ephemera Show at the Back Bay Events Center, 180 Berkeley Street, Boston, on November 17—but can also probably be obtained by special request by contacting them here.