Monday, May 26, 2014

BUNNY YEAGER (1929-2014) - A Tribute
Like H.R. Giger who recently passed away, Bunny Yeager is probably not a household name, or one that you might necessarily connect to the movies. But like Giger, her presence is now threaded throughout American culture, especially in the visual arts and photography.
Born Linnea Eleanor Yeager in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, her family moved to Miami, Florida when she was 17, and it was there that Bunny was born - taking her name from a Lana Turner's character in Weekend at the Waldorf (1945).  
As a young woman, she was a pageant winner (Miss Trailer Coach of Dade County, Miss Personality of Miami Beach) and soon became a professional model.

Looking to economize, and control the production of her own prints, Bunny Yeager took up photography, enrolling in a night school photography class in her 20s.

And it was as a photographer that Bunny Yeager captured the images that would immortalize her, when she teamed up with the iconic model Bettie Page to create a number of classic photo series - including the shots of Bettie Page in a revealing Santa suit that appeared in Playboy magazine.

She also did make some movies, appearing as herself in some nudies shot by director Barry Mahon, such as Bunny Yeager's Nude Las Vegas (1964) and Nudes on Tiger Reef (1965). She also had credits as a "technical coordinator" on films like Nature's Sweethearts (1963) and How I Became a Nudist (1968). She also had a small part as "Bunny Fjord", a Swedish masseuse in Lady in Cement (1968) with Frank Sinatra.
Back behind the camera, she was also a still photographer for nudies like the bizarre Nude on the Moon (1961) and Blaze Starr Goes Nudist (1962).

In 1962 she also took some (uncredited) stills for the James Bond film, Dr. No which are iconic in their own right. Obviously, the filmmakers wanted someone who knew how to capture vivid shots of women in bikinis. Obviously they succeeded.

I am well aware that some people will look at Bunny Yeager and see nothing but "sexism" and "objectification" of women. That's not the view I have. Was Bunny Yeager a beautiful woman? Yes she was. Did she parlay those looks into a career? Yes she did. Is sexuality an inherent part of human nature? Yes it is. And in Bunny Yeager's heyday, sexuality was viewed as both more threatening and more innocent than it is now. In my opinion, the fact that there is such a strong nostalgia and market for the types of "sexy" images that Bunny Yeager created speaks not to a carnal yearning so much as to a desire for a more innocent time. Bettie Page may have "bared all" physically, but she always did so with a sense of joy. That's a far cry from the show all, tell all, celebrity sex video culture we're all wading through now.

Bunny Yeager was much more than just a pretty face or lovely figure. She was an artist who took control of the means of production, and in that alone blazed trails that many others have since taken. Along the way, she also managed to capture some people and images that will have currency in our culture for lifetimes yet to come. Both those are legacies to be proud of.

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