Famed Pinup Girl in Critical Condition

LOS ANGELES - Quintessential 1950s pinup girl Bettie Page is hospitalized in Los Angeles with a critical case of pneumonia, her longtime friend and lawyer said Friday.

"She's been hospitalized with pneumonia. She's critically ill," said Mark Roesler, who is also the 85-year-old Page's business agent. She was hospitalized three weeks ago, he said.

Roesler would not say where Page was being treated, saying only she was in the Los Angeles area.

Page, 85, was born in Nashville as one of six children. According to a biography on her Web site, Page worked as a hairdresser and clothes-washer as a child to help support the family. Her mother placed Page and her two sisters in an orphanage when she was 10.

While spending time in various community centers as a teenager, she learned to cook and sew, eventually making her own bikinis and costumes. She graduated near the top of her class in high school and studied education at Peabody College.

She married boyfriend Billy Neal in 1943 and moved to San Francisco, where she did her first modeling work, modeling fur coats for customers at a furrier.

She divorced her husband in 1947, and in 1950, she met a police officer and amateur photographer named Jerry Tibbs, who took photos of Page and assembled her first pinup portfolio. Tibbs eventually introduced her to other photographers, helping to launch her modeling career.

Her photo eventually graced magazines such as Wink, Eyeful and Beauty Parade. She appeared in Playboy in January 1955, further expanding her worldwide popularity. Soon her image was gracing playing cards, record albums and bedroom posters across the country.

She married two more times, but both marriages ended in divorce.

She stopped modeling in 1957 and disappeared from the public eye -- prompting an almost cult-like obsession in some circles in the 1980s and 1990s as people speculated on her whereabouts.

Page was hospitalized earlier this year with a bout of pneumonia earlier this year, but she successfully fought off that illness, Roesler said.

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