Roy Exum: Babette, Who Started It All

Monday, February 17, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

You never heard of Babette Beatty and that’s just as well, but 50 years ago the kid caused quite a stir. She had gone to the beach one afternoon in Fort Lauderdale, where she was living with her folks at the time, and a life guard had sent her packing, telling her that the white bathing suit she was wearing was a little risqué, especially with the tassels.

So as the 15-year-old German girl walked dejectedly back across the street, a guy who was running an Eastman Kodak store-front offered her $25 to take a few snapshots. Babette was 5-foot-10, model-like thin yet pretty just the same, so she posed and he snapped away with his new Brownie. That was in 1959, mind you, and about a year later, she got a call wondering if she would like to do some fashion shoots.

Another year later – barely 16 -- she was on the runways in New York, a fashion model whose pictures soon were in Vogue, Elle and other slick magazines of the day. "There were about five or six photographers who seemed to like me, and that's how things started for me really,” she told CNN not long ago, and in November of 1963 she got a call from noted photographer J. Frederick Smith who asked her to go to Cozumel.

“We did a lot of pictures together so I said, ‘Why Not?’ The pay was $50 a day and all I had to do was keep my bathing suit from filling up with sand. It was a great trip -- so much fun," she remembered. "There weren't any people there, not like now. You have to remember Cancun (on the mainland) didn't really exist then, the only people there were the Mexican Air Force. And they seemed to enjoy the shoot!

"Each day, we'd have breakfast and then the photographer would tell us where to go. He was just constantly snapping pictures. I was put in my bathing suit, and that was it. We even did our own hair and make-up.”

Well, almost. On January 20, 1964, the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine had a picture of Babette Beatty on the cover with the headline, “A skin diver’s guide to the Caribbean.” And while nobody could have ever predicted what would result, she became the first-ever “most famous” bathing suit model 50 years ago.

The 50th anniversary edition of “the only sports magazine no mothers want their sons to see” hits the news stands tomorrow. So what’s the big deal? In 2012 the SI Swimsuit Edition included $40 million in advertising alone, which doesn’t include the cost of $5.95 per copy, or the 34.5 million video views online. The Swimsuit Edition is as American as baseball and hot dogs with extra mustard, and devoured just as quickly.

This week’s line-up of models is unprecedented, with a trio of Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge and Chrissy Teigen on the cover who can also be seen giggling on the Jimmy Kimmel Show tonight. They’ve even got Barbie – the plastic Mattel doll – making an “unapologetic” cameo. But back when Babette Beatty started it all, life was tame.

"It's something I did lifetimes ago," she told the LA Times. "I think I've lived six or seven lifetimes. Each one leads to another. "I loved what I did," she said. "But I really am happy where I am now."

Babette said that after the shoot, the entourage flew back home through Dallas. "When we landed, we were grounded and it was announced that President John F. Kennedy Had been shot dead," Beatty told CNN. "The whole plane was just crushed. People were screaming and crying, it was awful. I'll never forget that. The dream trip had ended on such a terribly sad note."

But once she made her way to New York, things were quiet until the Sports Illustrated edition came out. "I didn't realize guys all over the world were going to go crazy over this," she still laughs, telling about the Mexican Air Force officer who followed her to New York, ready to propose. "I wouldn't see him," she shook her head, admitting she got many "weird proposals" over the years.

Today she and her husband of many years – a renowned sculptor artist named Dale Beatty – live in a small town in Oregon with their dogs on a glorious countryside. Yet, to this very day, people will track her down and continue to ask the very attractive woman to sign a magazine cover. "There are marriage proposals too," she laughed, "and I'm 72, I tell you!"

royexum@aol.com

Babette Beatty In 1964
Babette Beatty In 1964


Roy Exum: Rebranding & ‘Culture’

My grandfather, who ran several very successful businesses, was a very astute fellow. I can’t tell you how many times he said, “The worst thing any salesman who calls on a business can say is, ‘I am here to save you some money.’ That’s not true -- In every instance they are in front of you hoping to make some money for themselves, else they would have never come by.” Another ... (click for more)

American Royalty And The Government Shutdown

Sad but true, our Congressman and senators have become American Royalty that are so arrogant they can continue to receive their pay while our government is shut down.  Those protecting these arrogant politicians work without pay and risk their lives so the American Royalty can continue to live their lavish life styles.   The American Royalty is too good to accept ... (click for more)

Woman Who Took Truck Driver's Blood At Tragic Wreck Scene: "It Was Like Nothing Had Happened"

The woman who took a blood draw from a Kentucky truck driver who had just wrecked and claimed six lives said, "I was thrown by his demeanor. It was like nothing had happened." Lisa Martin told a jury from Nashville on Monday afternoon that Benjamin Scott Brewer kept asking when he could go home. Brewer was eventually allowed to leave, but was later charged and is facing trial ... (click for more)

Taji Webb, 26, Shot And Killed Monday Night

Taji Webb, 26, was shot and killed Monday night.   The Chattanooga Police Department responded at 10:43 p.m. to a person shot call in the 1500 block of Ryan Street .  Upon arrival, officers located Webb lying on the ground suffering from a gunshot wound.   HCEMS responded to the scene and transported Webb to a local hospital where he would later ... (click for more)

McCallie Bounces Back To Beat MBA, 56-42

It’s been a tough two-week stretch for coach John Shulman and his McCallie basketball team as they lost two games in a row after starting off the season with 17 straight wins. The Blue Tornado had a makeup game with Montgomery Bell Academy at McCallie Monday night and the home team got back on the winning track with a 56-42 victory. With the win, McCallie improves to 18-2 ... (click for more)

Ooltewah's Second-Half Rally Dumps East Ridge, 66-54

East Ridge launched an all-out 3-point blitz against Ooltewah on Monday night at Catherine Neely Gymnasium. The Owls, who trailed 2-0 before the game even started due to Cam Chambers’ technical foul because of dunking in warmups, weathered that storm. They whittled an 18-6 first-quarter deficit down to 27-23 at halftime. Ooltewah took its first lead at 31-30 on Kobe Smith’s ... (click for more)