Bettie & Bunny: The Real Story About Their Relationship

by: Tori Rodriguez, Editor

Bunny Yeager & Bettie Page at Africa USA

Over the years there have been many stories told about the relationship between Bettie Page and Bunny Yeager, not all of them accurate. A lot of people seem to think that Bettie was somehow taken advantage of. The fact is that the relationship started when Bettie contacted Bunny, asking if she needed a model. Bunny had never worked with anyone from New York, had done very little nude photography, and was excited at the opportunity. Bettie was an underground sensation for her bondage photos, and was also known for her camera club work, but had worked with very few professional photographers.

Their relationship was totally professional, and Bunny had to make the most of every minute she had with Bettie, as her time wasn’t free. They had approximately 15 sessions together, all between March and December of 1954. I am attaching a scan of a cancelled check that Bunny wrote for one of their sessions. Keep in mind that the daily rate at the time for a model was around $10.00 for a full day.

copy of canceled check from Bunny to Bettie

They were both talented swimwear designers, and they worked together on at least one swimsuit–the one-piece leopard print Bettie wore at their Africa USA shoot. That was one of their first sessions together, and Bunny sent the photos to a new magazine at the time called Playboy. Editor Hugh Hefner liked the photos, but he asked Bunny to shoot Bettie indoors. The result was the famous image of Bettie with a Santa hat and Christmas tree, which became the centerfold in January 1955.

Bettie Page’s Playboy centerfold 1955

Bettie returned to New York in 1955 and continued to model. Their relationship remained friendly, and Bettie wrote a letter to Bunny in 1957. Bettie moved back to Florida shortly thereafter that and gave up modeling. Bunny ran into her at a department store in North Miami a few years later but never saw her again after that. When the author Gay Talese was writing his book about sexual mores in America in the late 1970’s, Thy Neighbor’s Wife, he asked Bunny to put him in touch with Bettie. Bunny ran an ad in the Miami Herald seeking her whereabouts, and Bettie’s ex- husband Harry Lear answered it. Bettie was living in an apartment attached to Harry’s house. He gave Bunny her phone number and she was able to talk with her about the book. Bettie had devoted herself to God and had no interest in cooperating with Mr. Talese.

copy of canceled check from Bunny to Bettie

It wasn’t until 1993 that they would speak again, when Bunny talked to Bettie for Interview Magazine. It was around this time that Bettie started working with a new agent, who convinced her that Bunny had somehow taken advantage of her. This was not true, but they never spoke again as a result.

Bunny continued to refer to Bettie as “the best model she had ever worked with” and was sorry to lose touch with Bettie. Bunny Yeager’s photos of Bettie are considered by many to be some of the best ever taken of her.

Bettie in that famous leopard print bathing suit, photo by Bunny Yeager

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