NiteTalk: Petra Mason Brings Bettie Page Outta Bunny Yeager's Darkroom

Of all the dynamite dames who’ve helped to make Miami famous, none has done as much to enflame our infamy as the dame named Bunny Yeager. The lovely lady got her start as a popular pin-up girl (when pin-up girls were at their most popular), but she made her mark making a naked Bettie Page the single most popular pin-up girl of all time. In those days, nice girls weren’t supposed to shoot people, and they surely weren’t supposed to shoot nudes. Bunny pooh-poohed all that supposing, and proved chicks truly click when they don’t have cotton-picking parameters keeping ‘em henned in. Niteside hit the magnificent Miami Beach Cinematheque and asked the equally with-it chick, Petra Mason, to expound some on Bunny and Bettie, and it was there where we found the culture chronicler's breathtaking Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom makes a rather fetching pairing with fimmaker Mark Mori’s eye-popping Bettie Page Reveals All.

Why Bunny Yeager? I fell in love with her work many years ago, though, unlike many, it was her image which most moved me, rather than an image of Bettie Page.

Do you recall the shot? Oh yes, it was a postcard from that famous series of Bettie Page with the two cheetahs. In this particular photograph, Bunny’s armed with her trusty 4X5 camera kneeling beside Bettie and the cats. It was so empowering to see this woman surrounded by the tools of her trade, especially in that day and age. Plus even wearing clam diggers and a bowling shirt, Bunny looked absolutely stunning.

How long was it before your next encounter? Over the years I’d come across this or that tidbit and image, and kind of filed away the facts and stayed awestruck by the photographs. Then in August 2010, on the Beach in front of the site of the old Firestone estate (now the Fontainebleau), which was one of Bunny’s favorite locations, I finally decided a book needed to be done. Two years later, almost to the day, Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom was in bookstores.

How’d you decide what photographs to include in the monograph? Bunny graciously granted me considerable access to her archives, and she, her daughter Lisa and I poured over literally thousands upon thousands of images, every day for months, before we came up with the collection. It wasn’t easy, but it sure was fun.

Bunny was more than just about Bettie though, wasn’t she? Oh yes, much, much more, and I made a point of emphasizing her pivotal place in the Golden Age of Pin-Up Photography as a whole. That said, as Jim Lindeman at Vintage Sleaze pointed out, the book also includes a lot of unseen Bettie.

Did you face any other significant challenges? Actually we did run into some difficulty in choosing a cover image. Even now, fully topless is out as far as bookstores are concerned, and as you know, Bunny primarily shot Bettie in the nude. So I must be the only person in history who was intent on finding photos of Bettie Page with her clothes on.

How’d you swing the delightful Dita Von Teese for the Forward? One day at the Beach branch of Books and Books, I happened to be on hand while Dita was being interviewed by a very dapper man who I’d come to find out is named John Hood. Despite the fact that the room was full of fans and photographers, he and Dita chatted as if they were the only two people there, which frankly was a little intimidating. Nevertheless, after they finished, I introduced myself; then, once the book got green lit, he connected me with Dita, who’d been a long time admirer of Bunny. She ended up writing a really beautiful piece for the book, and I’m so grateful.

Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom (Rizzoli ) is available at Books and Books and wherever else breathtaking books are sold. Bettie Page Reveals All can be seen at Miami Beach Cinematheque through November 7th.

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