BETTY BROADBENT – Tattooed Beauty
The beautiful Betty Broadbent was born in 1909 and during her childhood she was a rather innocent lass. She was rarely in trouble and was both trustworthy and kind. At the age of fourteen she was employed as a nanny in Atlantic City, New Jersey and took to wandering the boardwalk. It was there that she had a chance encounter with tattooist Jack Red Cloud and fell in love with the art form that would forevermore shape her life and future.
By 1927 Betty was well on her way to completing a tattoo body suit. Over 350 designs adorned her pinup model-like body, designs created and applied by notorious and revolutionary tattooists like Charlie Wagner, Joe Van Hart, Tony Rhineager and Red Gibbons.
Tattoos were not in vogue amongst women of the era. In fact, tattoos in generally were fairly rare outside of sailors and riffraff. It was even more unusual to find tattoos in such a high concentration on a single human being, never mind on a voluptuous and desirable female body fit for fantasy. While her body was nearly covered with ink, Betty’s beautiful face was completely untouched, as a result of this contrast Betty quickly drew a great deal of attention and opted to embark on a career of exhibition.
Betty’s first job was with Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus and almost instantly Betty fell in love with show business. Many women quickly grew tired of the rigorous carnival lifestyle. But Betty thrived in exhibition and she spent the next 40 years in and around the show business and circus scene. In fact, Betty flaunted her tattoos in every significant American, Australian and New Zealand circus the era had to offer. Betty was even a featured attraction at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
Betty retired from exhibition in 1967 and disappeared from the public eye for quite some time. She was rediscovered by tattoo enthusiast and historian Lyle Tuttle and it was revealed that she had retired to Florida where she became a tattoo artist herself. She spoke quite fondly of her role in tattoo history and her life as a living exhibit.
Betty Broadbent became the first person inducted into the Tattoo Hall of Fame in 1981.
She died in her sleep in 1983.
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