Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Real Live Bolles Girl!

From time to time on this blog I’ve remarked how Bolles’ girls were unique; a creation arising out of his imagination, rather than a realistic depiction of an actual model.  In fact, many of his covers were based on cartoon sketches he would dash off several at a time, rather than a one-on-one session with a model.  By contrast, the work of many other pinup artists exhibits a mirror like fidelity between the completed product work and the model.  The best known case would be Gil Elvgren. When you compare the photographs of his models with the finished work you can’t miss the remarkable match between the model and final painting. The late Francis Smith, Playboy cartoonist and author of the book, Stolen Sweets once told me that if an Elvgren model had her garter on crooked, then that's how he painted it. 
 Earl Moran is a another example of a pinup artist whose work closely followed the lines of the model, but you can’t blame him considering one of his favorite models was a young beauty named Norma Jean Dougherty, who later went by Marilyn Monroe. And George Petty was so particular about getting a model’s pose just right that he once resorted to strapping her foot to a board.  

Even in the case of Bolles you can occasionally see an obvious connection between the composition in the painting and the model’s pose, the difference is you’d never mistake the face of model for the girl on the cover. But I have found a few glaring exceptions to this and in fact there was one movie star that Bolles took a real shine to. So who do you think she was? Some of the likely contenders would include Jean Harlow, Alice Faye or the lesser known but widely photographed, Toby Wing.  None of them, as lovely as they were, got the part.  The role of the Bolles girl went to another blonde bombshell, Mary Carlisle, a smoldering screen presence. Her name was Mary Carlisle. First noticed by a Hollywood executive at the tender age of 14 she went on to become a Wampus Baby Star in 1932, a title given to young up and comers, not toddlers. Mary lived up to the 'acclaim' and would star in many Hollywood movies alongside the likes of Bing Crosby, Jack Benny and Lionel Barrymore.

Over the years I’ve found at least three Bolles covers which were directly worked from photos of Mary, though it took me a while to identify her. With looks like Mary's it was no surprise to learn she was a huge favorite of the reigning Hollywood photographers of the era, including Clarence Bull and George Hurrell, who dated her for a time. But what I had no idea of until just recently was that Mary is still with us, and going strong at the age of 101!  Take a look at this recent video of her being feted with some classic piano tunes and you’ll see she is as glamorous and lively as ever. With the gracious assistance of her agent Darin, I was able to send Mary some side by side examples showing how Enoch’s art was directly inspired by her.  You can imagine how thrilled I was to receive one of them back, personally autographed by Mary!  And what a coincidence that the contemporary pinup model, Mala Mostroberte used a Bollescover that itself was inspired by Mary for one of her own fabulous interpretations of the Bolles girl.

If you'd like to see more of Mary, be sure to check out her Facebook page. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Find that Wine!

When I walked past this wall of wines my spidey sense kicked in. The one I wrote about in a recent blog post.  It's my super power. It's the only one I have. I'm very proud of it. 

Take a closer look.  Can you spot what interested me?

I've pulled it off the rack. Now you can tell why it attracted my attention.  She's definitely a Bolles girl. Not a complete swipe but clearly inspired from a particular cover image.

 Here's a side by side comparison of the cover and the label.  As far as these go I think the artist did a nice job personalizing the image while keeping the Bolles vibe. It seems to me very much an homage.

And there's more.  One of my best Bolles pals sent me this label he found just this week. I'm not entirely sure whether this is an actual label or a "Bolles fan-tasy", but I like it none-the-less.

I can vouch that the final example is an actual label, and that's because I provided the vintner with the scan of the Bolles girl for the label. They promised me a case of it in return for my trouble (and more important, pledged to put Bolles' signature on the label) but alas the wine never arrived.  And so I can't remark as to whether the wine would be too dry or sugary for your palate, but that label sure is sweet.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

World Belly Dance Day: May 9

If there was ever a day made for our man Bolles, this would be it.  The feature cover today is an extra special image from 1932. There's a lot to enjoy here: a terrific costume and that big shimmy coming our way, her blazing red hair and most special, that animated jazz band behind the girl.  The only thing missing is her belly button, but that was a total no-no, not only on the cover. Even inside the pages of the magazine navels were routinely plucked from the photos of the "Hollywood hopefuls". 
That wasn't the case with the covers Bolles did for the so-called "under the counter" pulps, as you our no-nonsense Mata makes plainly clear.  But then again, these magazines were not intended for consumption by the general public, and the venders who sold them were at
considerable risk of harassment from the decency leagues or even a trip to the slammer, courtesy of the vice cops.   Bolles was certainly no fool and you'll never find his signature on any of this work, so he was free to paint to his heart's content, lucky for us!



Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bolles and the Grandmother Cell

It happened again. Just last week. I was on vacation in San Francisco, strolling down a very crowded Fisherman's Warf when that familiar tickle started crawling around inside my head. I'm not sure what part of the brain it originates from but there must be a group of neurons that have been assigned the job of spotting all things Bolles. Years ago a psychologist (Barlow, 1972, Gross, 2002) described the phenomenon as the Grandmother cell; a single neuron or group of neurons (Quiroga, 2008) that only fire when your grandmother, and only your grandmother, emters your visual field. The theory has been contested (e.g., Bowers, 2010)  but in one manner or another I am convinced that by training or habit I've managed to hard-wire a batch of brain cells to work just for Bolles. I wasn't even in this art gallery where this Bolles inspired piece (not an original, alas) was hanging, just passing by outside. But somehow before I knew why (Libet, 1985) I had backtracked a few steps and there she was. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this has happened before. Several years ago in the middle of Stockholm my spidey sense for Bolles starting tingling and there was another repurposed Bolles girl. Now if I could only fine-tune those brain cells so they would only home in on the real thing and not copies!

Barlow H.B.,(1972). Single units and sensation: a neuron doctrine for perceptual
psychology. Perception, 1, 371-394.
Bowers, J. (2010). More on grandmother cells and the biological implausibility of PDP models of cognition: A reply to Plaut and McClelland (2010) and Quian Quiroga and Kreiman (2010). Psychological Review, 117, 300-306.
   Gross C.G. (2002). Genealogy of the "Grandmother Cell". Neuroscientist, 8(5):512–518.
    Libet, B.(1985). Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of conscious will in voluntary action. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences 8: 529–566.
   Quiroga, R. et al (2008) Sparse but not ‘Grandmother-cell’ coding in the medial temporal lobe. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(3).



Monday, March 23, 2015

March 23: National Puppy Day!

No, don't get the wrong idea!  Bolles loved animals.  Although if frequency of appearance means anything he was nearly as fond of using turtles for props as puppies.  All this got me to thinking and so I took an informal survey of animal appearances on his covers.  Keep in mind that there are over 560.

What animal do you think won this Enoch's personal popularity contest?


Bird: 5
Puppy/dog: 4
Horse: 2
Fish: 2
Snake: 2
Polar Bear: 2 (one deceased)
Turtle: 2
Monkey: 2
Insect: 2
Lion: 1
Elephant: 1
Stingray: 1
Crocodile: 1
Shark: 1 (technically not a fish)
Squirrel: 1 (non pinup)
Rabbit: 1

That our fine feathered friends came in first should be no surprise. Bolles was a life-long bird watcher. Many of Bolles' letters are filled with his careful observations of bird behavior and migration. Continuing with this theme the next cover art survey will deal with a more serious matter, namely how much cigarette smoking went on, so stay tuned.  And also coming soon, a post about a real Bolles girl, a famous Hollywood starlet of the 1930s Bolles used for inspiration and who is still going strong at 102. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

World Bartender Day: February 24

Is she shaking up a Tornado or a Hurricane?  Either way our Bolls girl is displaying some serious mixology chops, though you're probably not focusing on her skills with the Boston shaker. This punchy cover hails from 1934, the year Bolles returned to Spicy Stories after it had undergone a change in ownership. 
Cast your eyes more closely on that shock of lilac crinoline. Doesn't it look like our man Enoch has hidden a message in it, not that I've had any luck decoding it. I'm reminded of the longstanding rumor that if you fold the covers of some pulp magazine just so, they end up revealing something extra. Not that Bolles' covers aren't already extra special.