Bidding Bettie Page farewell

Dozens of family and friends attended Bettie Page's funeral at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park. More photos >>>
Dozens of family and friends attended Bettie Page’s funeral at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park. More photos >>>
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Legendary pinup queen Bettie Page was remembered at a private memorial service Tuesday as a taboo-breaking model who later gave it all up to become a devout Christian -- only to reenter the public eye as a sexy trendsetter.

“So it is only fitting that her final resting place be here, not far from Marilyn Monroe’s final resting place,” said Mark Roesler, chairman of Indianapolis-based CMG Worldwide, which markets Page’s image, during the rite held at the Pierce Bros. Westwood Village Memorial Park.

After the memorial service, Page’s casket was taken from the memorial park’s chapel to a shady grave site a few yards from Monroe’s crypt.

Page, who died Thursday at 85, is most famous for the 20,000 photos taken of her by amateur photographers between 1949 and 1957.

Those often grainy images -- of a raven-haired beauty with thick black bangs, arching eyebrows, bright red lipstick and wearing nylon stockings with seams running down the backs, high heels and form-fitting skirts, polka-dot and leopard-print bikinis, negligees or nothing at all -- transformed Page into an enduring fashion icon.

Most recently she has become an Internet phenomenon. CMG said the "> website receives 750,000 visits a day.

Among the mourners were artist Olivia de Berardinis, who portrayed Page in idealized representations of her curvy personas -- Substitute Teacher Bettie, Nurse Bettie, Maid Bettie -- and Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner.

Page was the then-fledgling Playboy’s centerfold in 1955.

In the final years of her life, Hefner helped her with legal and financial issues. “She appreciated that until the day she died,” Roesler said.

A eulogy and graveside prayer were conducted by televangelist Robert Schuller before about 70 relatives, friends and admirers, including several Bettie Page lookalikes.

“I think Bettie is looking out at you all and saying, ‘Oh, thank you for coming,’ ” Schuller said. “And I think she’s pointing at some of you and asking, ‘Remember back when?’ ”

He could have been talking about several former pinup models, all in their 80s, who worked with Page in her prime. Among them was Tempest Storm, who appeared with Page in the 1955 film short “Teaserama.”

“We had a lot of fun making that little movie,” Storm recalled.

“For all her personal problems, Bettie was very sweet. She had a sensuous, but never vulgar, personality.”

At 35, Page quit modeling and moved to Florida.

She spent much of the rest of her life studying the Bible and trying to cope with broken marriages and sometimes violent mood swings that resulted in her being institutionalized for a decade.

She was released in 1992 from Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino County to learn that she had unwittingly become a pop-culture heroine.

“I was not trying to be shocking, or to be a pioneer,” Page explained in an interview years later.

“I wasn’t trying to change society, or to be ahead of my time. I didn’t think of myself as liberated, and I don’t believe that I did anything important. I was just myself. I didn’t know any other way to be, or any other way to live.”