Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Girl in the Video: “Cradle of Love” (1990)

Introduction to series “The Girl in the Video 2” (including list of interviewees).

The video: “Cradle of Love” by Billy Idol.

The girl-now-woman: Betsy Lynn George.

How old were you when you appeared in the “Cradle of Love” video?

I was 18 years old. I was also asked to prove so, shortly after the video was aired. Propaganda Films contacted me wanting a copy of my driver’s license. They said that a concerned mother’s group wanted to know if I was of age to do such a video.

Where were you living at the time?

I was living in West Hollywood.

The night before our first rehearsal, I went on a double date with my girlfriend. She set me up with a well-known actor. The four of us came back to my apartment. My date came out of my bathroom and made a comment that I had a metal tube of what he thought was a birth control—it was really just hand lotion. He announced to my friend, loud enough [for me] to hear, that I must be “ready for him.” I promptly asked him to leave. He asked why. I told him that I had a rehearsal for a music video in the morning. He rolled his eyes, said something along the lines of “oh wow,” and slithered out the door.

Later that year at the [1990] MTV Video Music Awards, he announced “Cradle of Love” as the Best Video from a Film. My friend who set me up with him left a message on my answering machine, crying with laughter, that he had to announce my win.

What music videos, shows, or movies had you appeared in prior to that?

For one year, I did modeling near my hometown in Pittsburgh, PA for Calgon Bath Product, Gimbels, and Kaufmann’s department stores. When I first got to L.A., I did two Japanese buyouts, [one] for Konica Camera (billboard) and another I don’t recall. I was offered a six-month contract to model in Japan through Askew Modeling Company. I turned it down and stayed in L.A. to pursue being an actor. 

I was on Days of Our Lives and featured as a 1920s ballroom dancer in the TV movie Man Against the Mob: The Chinatown Murders. I played a young bride in a music video. I do not recall the name. It was a soulful boy band. I got my SAG card as a guest star on Baywatch, shortly before the Billy Idol video.

How were you cast
in “Cradle of Love”?

It was a large casting [call] at Propaganda Films. Casting directors Elisabeth Kovacs and Elaine Guy had me in on a commercial casting and told me to come to this large casting. Lee Daniels, my manager, told me that it was a cattle call. And it was. I went to the call with no makeup, a vintage dress from the ‘60s, and a trench coat, I think. The casting directors quickly pulled me aside and said to put on some red lipstick and really “play the role.” They believed in me so much. Elisabeth said that the director David Fincher did not like me for the role, initially. Nonetheless, I got a callback and got the role.

Do you remember what your reaction was when you were cast?

It was an exciting moment. I was really going out of my comfort zone and stretching my limbs as an actor. At the same time, I was very excited because I was going to be able to incorporate my love of gymnastics and skills into the video. I was also about to be the star of the video and was eager to do well. It was emotional because I felt like I was getting a chance to perform gymnastics again in some way. At 13, I had broken my neck doing competitive gymnastics. The accident ended my career as a gymnast.

Were you a Billy Idol fan?

I liked his music.

Where was the video filmed?

In a loft in downtown Los Angeles.

How long was the shoot?

Two or three days.

How did you feel making the video?

I knew that we were making something special. There was that sense on set.

What was the hardest part of the shoot?

Crawling on the floor and kissing Josh. I cried after the shot, actually. No regrets, no trauma. I was a small-town, mostly-good girl suddenly doing a music video with a sexually-fueled demand to its creation. I began to realize my power as a woman and it was a little scary. Even then I had the sense to be careful and not abuse it.

How was it to work with Billy Idol? What was he like? Did he hit on you?

You are funny. I did not actually work with him. He came to set one day with a full-leg cast. He [had] had a motorcycle accident.

Billy and I [did go] to dinner once. We got along well, but it was not exactly a match. I rarely wore makeup and did not dress sexy in real life. I was wearing shoes that he did not like, I was later told. We went to his house and sat by the pool. We kissed, but it was not going anywhere. I asked to be driven home. His driver and right-hand man told me when we got in the car that he “could not believe” I didn’t stay, that “all the woman stay.”

I really was still a girl in some ways. I got that Billy was very respectful of that.

Any funny stories from the shoot?

I can laugh about it now, but at the time I felt like retreating to the mountains. In the scene where I had to crawl and kiss Josh, Fincher was not happy with my crawling performance. He whispered something shocking to me. I did the scene several takes until he was happy. It was sexy and felt very primal and I could feel the heaviness of the silence and dropped jaws on the set. I went behind a tarp and cried for a minute or two until I could regain my composure.

Josh was comforting at the time. When I have run into him since, he teases me about it. We had a really good time as actors, making this video. We both went somewhere we had never gone before. “Cradle of Love” is both sexy and funny and really well made.

Anything go wrong on the shoot?


What did you think of the video?

I think that it is a work of art. There is so much talent and creativity to it. Details are everything, I think. And it has it. The makeup artist said that she was pulling red lips and minimal makeup from WWII. She spoke of batwing eye makeup so deeply rooted in Egyptian hierarchy and throughout Old Hollywood. She wanted a film noir and certain bombshell actresses influenced the Devon character. I learned so much from this makeup artist.

The costumer chose hieroglyphic, chandelier-type earrings. We shopped and shopped until we found and crafted the perfect outfit. So much thought was put into what my character would wear. The red Asian jacket reflected the downtown/near-Chinatown garb of a loft-dweller. David Fincher added his say to the wardrobe and demanded a bust-enhancing bra and high-heeled boots. He very well may not have liked my clunky boy shoes. ;)

Gregory Poe, the choreographer, is true genius. He not only comes up with unique ideas but he also was great with allowing improve—[allowing] what came naturally from me to be a major part of the performance. Fincher wanted that, too. For there to be an unscripted flow to the dancing, as if I thought no one was watching. Everyone on the crew from the cinematographer to the lighting guys and gaffers were so meticulous to make everything just right. I think that we all did just so.

I knew my life would never be the same, in a positive way. I knew that I could command an audience and was excited to do more.

What did your parents think of it?

They like it.

What did your friends think of it?


Did you watch the MTV World Premiere of the video, and if so, where and how did that feel?

Yes, I remember watching it. I was proud and only a little worried what my mom would think of the sexy parts.

Did the video ever affect your dating life in any way (i.e. when you first told boyfriends you were the woman in it)?

I did not tell anyone (other than my family) that I was in it. Nearly everyone who knew me had seen it. I was very recognizable to those who would meet me. It was a time for me that changed everything of how I saw people socially. Some people began kissing up to me. Certain people came out of the woodwork; that made me cringe. I became quite introverted toward those who treated me as if I was the character. For the most part, another level of respect came in for me that I knew I deserved. I did not date much. Over the next seven years, I had a series of three semi-long-term boyfriends.

Did you receive fan mail? If so, do you still have any of it?

I received a letter from a war vet amputee wanting as many headshots as I could send for him and his buddies. I likely have it somewhere in my attic.

Did the video generate any controversy that you know of?

Yes, like I said a women’s group targeted Propaganda Films because they thought that I was underage.

What were you paid?

I want to say close to a thousand dollars a day for three days.

Were you ever recognized in public?

I was recognized daily. I am still recognized often.

Did you appear in other music videos after that?

I was in the James Foley-directed music video “King of Dreams” for Deep Purple. Shortly after I worked with Foley again on one of the last episodes of Twin Peaks.

Did you ever meet other women who were female leads in a mainstream ‘80s rock video?

I may have, but if so it was brief and I don’t recall.

If you went to college, where and what did you study?

I am an avid reader and have been since 18. I have informally studied philosophy, Buddhism, herbology, and holistic medicine. In my thirties, I went to college for the first time. I studied journalism part-time at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. After 9/11, I decided that journalism was not a good fit for me, at that time. I went back to college part-time in 2005, majoring in psychology. The decision was partially based on my son being diagnosed with autism. I wanted to understand his condition more and gain every tool I could to help him. I continued studying psychology through 2008 at Mount Diablo College near San Francisco, mostly during the morning while my children were in school.

What are you doing these days?

I spend most of my time raising my children. Also, one year ago, I began my own at-home business. I deal in antiques, art, and vintage clothing. Quality antiquities have been a lifelong love. I sell worldwide.

Betsy modeling an item from her Etsy shop

For the past five years, I have been living in my hometown, Kittanning, PA. I also volunteer as a yoga instructor at the local YMCA. I have a large garden, I grow many herbs and much food for me and my family. I spend much time in the forest and mountains. I go to cities mostly to enjoy the arts.

2/10/15 update: I am General Manager of Friendship Inn and Estates, a 28-room inn, residential and commercial properties, that my grandparents built in the early ‘60s.


If you are/were married, what was your future husband’s reaction when he learned you were in this video?

I have been married twice and divorced twice. Upon learning, my first husband’s eyes were like a deer caught in headlights and he gushed about it, frequently. He was funny about it and is genuinely proud of my accomplishments. My second husband both pretended that he did not know when we met and pretended to not care when we were married.

How old are your children?

13, 10, and 2.

What do they think of the video?

My 13-year-old daughter likes it and sometimes teases me. We talk much about preforming. She is a talented flutist and very bright.

What did you think when you first heard from me?

I had a fine feeling—it made sense. I had a good experience with Rob Tannenbaum. I felt comfortable interviewing with him. He represented me with accuracy and is respectful and funny. He is smart in a unique and somewhat dark, yet inoffensive, way. I like working with intelligent, creative people who interpret things with accuracy in a caring way. I saw your photo and like what you write. When I first heard from you, your voice sounded caring and passionate. I saw that in your photo and what I read from you as well.

Has anyone else ever interviewed you about this?

In 2002, I did [one of the two “Video Vixens” episodes of a VH1 show called Where Are They Now?].

Have you appeared at any fan conventions to sign autographs? If not, would you?

I have not appeared at fan conventions and would likely not.

Did you stay in touch with anyone else from the video?

No. But [bumping into] some of them through the years has been pleasant.

When was the last time you were in touch?

I saw Josh in 1997 at the Beverly Hills Post Office.

How do you look back on the experience?


Tweet about this interview to @BillyIdol!

Next: Poundcake, “Van Halen” (1991).


L~ said...

I love this one. Great interview!

Eric D. said...

Good interview, thank you for sharing. One of the best music videos ever, both for the humor and the jaw dropping model. Like every hetero male that saw that video, and being roughly the same age as her at the time, I practically drooled. Surprised to find that she was only 18 at the time, she appeared a bit older.

Unknown said...

Wow. What an impressive woman:

"I began to realize my power as a woman and it was a little scary. Even then I had the sense to be careful and not abuse it."

"It was sexy and felt very primal and I could feel the heaviness of the silence and dropped jaws on the set. I went behind a tarp and cried for a minute or two until I could regain my composure."

I don't care who you are, that is just plain sexy as all get-out. What a neat girl.

Great interview!

Unknown said...

Def a great interview, i watched that video over a hundred times at least! Those geminis get me every time ;) and i see she remains quite beautiful!

Unknown said...

Cradle of love video. I consider one of the classics. Betsy Lynn George has me mesmerized.

Unknown said...

The actor she was speaking of was Robert Downey, Jr. Everyone knows he had a massive drug problem at the time. There was no need to tell this story in 2014 knowing anyone reading would Google it. Her karma is that she's the girl in this old video and he's one of the biggest stars in the world - STILL. He's changed drastically. It's a shame she hasn't matured any.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks for the comment, Tiffany. Betsy is not looking for attention; in fact, we almost didn't do the interview. And to be fair, you'll note that she did not name the actor - you did. (I linked to a page with the answer, should anyone care to find it.) RDJ's status now does not change or excuse past behavior, nor will mention of past behavior likely change most fans' opinions now. I say that as a fan of his myself.

Alex Malejewicz said...

One of the most iconic music videos of its time without a doubt.

Unknown said...

Wow indeed. I had just graduated from high school when this video premiered..."very primal" definitely describes my reaction to watching it many, many times. Never in a million years would I have guessed she was just a bit older than me at the time. Unbelievably sexy, gorgeous & charmingly self-aware at the same time.

FYI, the lovely Betsy also re-enacted the opening "knock-knock" scene with Billy Idol himself at the 1991 Grammy Awards:


Ken Severson said...

Thanks for the interview. Always enjoyed this video and she seems like she is still quite lovely.

VB6041 said...

I think a lot of todays young people could learn about what sexy really looks like by watching this video.
I remember when this first came out, my jaw hit the floor. Still love it.

smeezekitty said...

I am a big billy idol fan and love almost all of his songs but this particular video has always disturbed me. It just seems "wrong" the way it is done

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I must have watched this video a thousand times. Always got my heart pounding. Thanks for being a wonderful piece of my growing up

Unknown said...

This comment serves only to paint you as a RDjr sycophant and has nothing to do with karma. you are trying to imply that her karma is that she could have had a better career if she had slept with RDjr instead of kicking him out of her apartment for being crass on a first date

pinkcupcake said...

For some reason, Betsy isn't mentioned as much as Bobbie Brown, Tawny Kitaen ect when it comes to classic video vixens, but I remember when MTV played this video in HEAVY rotation and the impact that it had then and still has now, mainly because of her. I was just a kid but I remember thinking how unbelievably sexy she was and how much I wanted to look like her when I got older. Betsy in the "Cradle of Love" video will ALWAYS be one of the most iconic video vixens of all time!

robertobech said...

Man, this is so interesting! Thanks to both you and Betsy!

Cradle of Love was a big hit here in Brazil, I loved the song and the video. For some reason, a few minutes ago the song came to me and I was curious about Betsy, so I googled "cradle of love girl" and here I am.

I was also surprised when she mentioned her son has autism. I have a 35yo autistic brother-in-law, and me an my wife care for him as if he was our own son. His condition is pretty severe, so I imagine how hard it is for Betsy. I'm sure she is now a very strong woman -- and that's actually pretty cool! :)

Unknown said...

Betsy has a teenage daughter about to graduate high school who is a gymnast like her mother and is also interested in acting. Betsy and her daughter Ava are both appearing in an upcoming independent horror film project that will mark Betsy's return to the screen and introduce Ava as an actress.

The project is in the early stages and is looking to shoot a short to use as leverage to gain funding to propel it into a feature. The project, "Occurrence at Mills Creek", is set to shoot this summer and more information can be found at www.occurrenseatmillscreek.com

allpaulsfault said...

Does anyone have details of the stereo system in the video? I believe the VU meter is a Proton amplifier but I couldn’t make out any other components.

Unknown said...

Betsy sounds like a very intelligent, sensitive, self aware & grounded person. I'm glad she didn't compromise her principles by sleeping with Billy Idol or Robert Downey Jr. It was refreshing to read.

H said...

I dig her

Pedro147 said...

Betsy Lynn George, what a gorgeous and intelligent Lady. Fantastic interview which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Here is another music video that she appeared in Betsy Lynn George

Pedro147 said...


Erik R said...

Great interview. Fell in love with her when I saw the video - big Billy Idol fan too. Every time I see the video or listen to the song I think of her and where she is now. Good to hear that she is happy and doing well. May the blessings be.