The first, is that I was incredulous about driving nearly 2 hours to a restaurant that one had to in turn spend two hours waiting in line outside to eat. Yes, my friends claimed, backed up by Alec Stevens, one of our teachers, that it was the best pizza in the world. And I didn't dislike pizza, but I also had no Ninja Turtle-esque devotion to it, so to me that was like saying "it's the best pancakes in the world". A pancake was pretty much a pancake, to my mind.
The second, is that I was entirely and absolutely wrong. Pepe's Pizza IS the best Pizza in the world. I've never tasted anything close again. In fact, I barely eat pizza now because it's always a little disappointment.
The third, is that on the ride over and in line waiting a large part of our conversation revolved around Dave Stevens. To the point we even referred to that afterwards as our "Dave Stevens Trip". Stevens is one of those select comicbook artists whose work was held on a sort of pedestal among our group. I have to admit I was indoctrinated to this, as I wasn't introduced to his comics until my time at Art school (I discovered a lot of comics and comicbook artists at that time). Actually, prior to attending Art School I tended to follow comicbook writers more than artists. After the fall of Marvel and the rise of Image, I'd transitioned to being a heavy reader of DC's Vertigo in the 90s. So it wasnt until Kubert that names like Stevens, Toth, or Hughes became important to me.
In the film, Cliff Seacord's girlfriend is Jenny Blake, portrayed by Jennifer Connelly
However, in The Rocketeer comicbooks Cliff's girlfriend was named "Betty"
Of course, I don't need to explain who that is nowadays. She's a pop culture icon of the twentieth century. You cant throw a stick in a collectibles shop without turning up Betty Page posters, trading cards, photo books, etc. In the late 80s and early 90s she inspired a fashion trend, and also helped to "mainstream" S&M culture through tributes in film. You could trace a direct line from her popularity surge right up to the fetishistic costume design of The Matrix.
Knowledge of Betty Page was akin to knowledge of Cthulhu in the 70s - known to a small select group of fans of old pulps and nostalgic trivia, which is what The Rocketeer was rooted in, a tribute to adventure serials of Hollywood's Golden Age.
Betty Page herself was a model in the early 50s for "photography groups" that were common at the time. She immediately gained notoriety for her audaciousness and flagrant rejection of the societal norms for women at the time. This was before the sexual revolution of the 60s, or the Women's Rights movement, when Donna Reed clones was the norm for portrayals of women. Lots has been written on this, but to sum up succinctly the standards of the era, it was a common unstated rule at the time in any sort of verging on erotic imagery that women would look away from the camera, ostensibly showing an embarrassed reaction to being "captured in a compromising situation". Betty Page, instead, stared defiantly directly at the camera, and this was actually shocking enough to be commented on extensively at the time.
Some speculated she married a rich foreigner, other rumours confused her with the Black Dahlia and thought she was the victim of a gruesome murder. Though we know the truth now, at the time it was an enduring mystery. But as the 60s and 70s pressed on the world largely forgot her.
But as this was discovered and slowly spread, interest in Page began to grow again. A fanzine called The Betty Pages started republishing rare old photo sets and speculating on the mystery. By the end of the decade, Betty Page was bigger than she was in the 50s, and hit the mainstream with her iconic hairstyle re-entering the world of fashion. I doubt many knew this started with The Rocketeer. The comics themselves wouldn't even become commonly known about until the Disney film.
But it was this resurgence that caused Betty Page to finally come out of hiding. She'd become a born again Christian and gave up her modelling career, and later, spend time in a psychiatric institution. By the time she'd become a pop culture phenomenon, she was practically penniless. In fact, her reason for revealing herself again to the world (I say that very tongue in cheek, as in interviews she refused to be photographed or shown on camera) was to attempt to gain royalties for the money being made off of her image.
Stevens, to his credit, was the first. The moment it was revealed that Page was alive and well, with no prompting, he began sending her royalty checks. These alone kept Page from the street when an unscrupulous rights firm she'd signed up with defrauded her. Sometime during this time, Stevens and Page met and became friends. Page eventually signed up with another Estate house, and to this day her inheritance is a 10 million dollar a year industry.
But why did Betty become Jenny? Especially as this hit at a time when interest in Page had hit an all-time high? Well, because Disney wasn't comfortable with the implied connection to a fetish star as the female lead in the film, basically. Though truth be told, I personally am not a Betty Page "fan". I find the story interesting, but as a "sex symbol", she's not my type. And make no mistake, I have no complaints about Jennifer Connelly in the role. I've no complaints about her being in ANY film. I want MORE Connelly.