Bettie Page, in her heyday
12/12/2008 at 07:00 AM EST
Bettie Page, the ever-smiling, zaftig brunette with trademark bangs who became one of America's most famous and notorious pin-up girls in the 1950s, died in Los Angeles Thursday after having her life support removed following a heart attack. She was 85.
"She captured the imagination of a generation of men and women with her free spirit and unabashed sensuality," her agent, Mark Roesler, said. "She is the embodiment of beauty."
Page was a 27-year-old secretary when a photographer on the beach at Coney Island discovered her in 1950. She went on to star in a series of sensual and nude photographs, including a Playboy
centerfold and some that featured her in sadomasochistic poses.
After disappearing from public view for decades in which she became a devout Christian and was diagnosed with acute schizophrenia, Page re-emerged again in recent years, even becoming the subject of a 2005 feature film, The Notorious Bettie Page
, in which she was portrayed by actress Gretchen Mol.
Page's three marriages all ended in divorce.
PEOPLE pays respect to stars who've passed on