The life-sized statue of Betty Boop became a local landmark in Virginia Beach, where she greeted passersby on the city’s Shore Drive. For years tourists stopped to snap pictures with the welcoming icon outside of her home at Cool & Eclectic Furniture, a trendy store “where it’s usual to find the unusual.”
Today the question remains: where is Betty Boop’s head?
Despite the Associated Press story, “Life-Sized Statue of Betty Boop Beheaded,” making national headlines in July 2005, no head was found. But new hope came shortly, when Max Fleischer, grandson of the creators of the famed icon, got word of the story and sent out a media advisory with the demand, “Bring me the head of Betty Boop.“ Max offered a collection of Boop memorabilia to anyone who found the head. But still no head.
When it became apparent that Betty’s head was not going to turn up, I sought to bring the story to closure. I solicited syndicated comic artists with a request to restore her head in the comic world, where she began. Nationally syndicated cartoonist Bill Griffith came to the rescue with a humorous take on the vandalism, published in his strip, “Zippy the Pinhead,” in September 2005.
But there is a slightly more serious note to this story. This statue of Betty was unlike the rest of her cartoony incarnations. Because of its realistic body shape and scale, it looked almost lifelike, in a red dress. One photographer suggested that if the photo of Betty lying street-side had been in black and white, with a grainy texture, it would have reminded him of photos of the “Black Dahlia,” a woman whose body was found cut in half in 1947.
This statue had been vandalized before — by nature. In 2003, the hurricane winds of Isabel tossed her down Shore Drive, severing limbs and crushing her head. I stored her away in a warehouse until July of 2005, when I rebuilt her from heel to uppermost spit curl, in honor of Betty’s upcoming 75th anniversary on August 9, 2005. But that day never came for this gal.