During my visit with Francis "Smilby" Smith, I got to pore over his wonderful collection of illustrated books and rare periodicals. It was especially exciting to hold magazines in my hands I had seen only in books or as scans off the web. But there was one issue in particular I was disappointed to have missed...until I took a trip to the loo, and there she was hanging on the wall, staring right back at me with those piercing eyes. The situation was not without some irony. Francis was a staff artist for Playboy and one of his perks was a free lifetime subscription. There were decades of them stacked upstairs. Yet there wasn't a lone issue of Playboy to be found in his bathroom (and no, I wasn't looking). Francis was also a personal friend of Alberto Vargas, but it wasn't one of his girls who was confronting me. It was a Bolles girl and it was that one. The one who moved beyond the merely provocative and who had ventured deep into the territory of transgressivness. In her time she would be labeled as nothing short of pornographic; the argument would still be made by some yet today. Of course none of this was lost on Francis and here's what he had to say about her in Stolen Sweets:
"An exceptionally fine but curiously disturbing image that, facially at least, has more than a touch of Lolita about it. The conflicting images--modesty and a steady open gaze--combine with the setting--a sense of a forbidden something suddenly illuminated from the depths of a cavern--to give this cover a strangely charged eroticism."
I must admit that when first coming across this cover in Francis' book some years ago, I was unsure whether Bolles had painted her or not. Aside from being unsigned and appearing on an obscure 'smoosh' mag, it just seemed to be to be too much in all aspects. Too nude, too young and even too painterly. There were of course, several signature statements that eventually gave Bolles up as her creator, but why he put so much into a painting that may have paid him as little as $60 and could have gotten him tossed into the slammer is an equation I still haven't worked out.