Most of us have read over Kimberly Bell's wacky, disturbing revelations from a San Francisco courtroom by now. Playboy writer Steve Pond first nabbed an interview with her in 2007, and she was far more candid in the magazine than she was in her shrunken-testes-laden testimony at Bonds's trial.
When Kimberly Bell stepped off the plane at San Jose International Airport in May 2003, she was feeling more than a little nervous. Delayed 20 minutes by a late flight from Phoenix, she still had to rent a car and drive almost an hour to San Francisco, and her boyfriend, Barry Bonds, didn't like it when she was late. Plus he had been angry and moody lately, leaving menacing phone messages and dropping chilling threats into their conversations. As she rode up in the elevator of the San Francisco hotel where he was waiting, her heart was racing.
"I had barely pushed the door open," she remembers, "before he grabbed me by the throat, choking me. He held me against the wall and pressed himself against me. And he's huge. He whispered in my ear, ‘You ever pull some fucking shit like that again, I'll kill you.'"
How did it go so wrong? Bell considers that question and others like it frequently these days. Why did she fall for Bonds on a summer afternoon in 1994? What happened to turn the romance into rage? And why won't he tell the truth about her, about steroids, about anything?
When Kimberly arrives at Playboy Studio West for her photo shoot, she's carrying a scrapbook filled with clips, transcripts and letters that tell a story. It's not just a story of a romance gone bad but one of drug abuse and betrayal, one that has brought Major League Baseball to its knees. She turns a few pages and stops at a 1993 magazine cover featuring a slim, smiling Barry Bonds. "This is how sweet and nice he looked when I met him, which is nothing like how he looks today," she says. "I mean, nothing. It's not even the same person."
The Barry Bonds that Kimberly met in 1994 was lean, charismatic and irresistible. She met him after a game, saw him the next day at a barbecue, and that was it. They drove away in his Porsche at 100 miles an hour. She was young and single, and he was divorcing his first wife. Their relationship was physical from the start. They would make love in the afternoon, and if he hit a home run that night, she'd wonder if he did it for her. That's not to say the National League's seven-time most valuable player was an MVP in the bedroom. "For the record," she says, "he's incredibly selfish in bed, just like he is on the baseball diamond." She pauses and chooses her words carefully. "I don't know if I should say this, but when you're dealing with someone who's that selfish, with that kind of ego, you learn to exaggerate your reactions to make him feel better." In other words, she faked it. Barry's sexual tastes, she says, were pedestrian. "He was pretty generic in that respect, pretty average in all ways," she says. "I don't mean that to make fun of anything, but his needs were really simple, really basic. Which made them not hard to fulfill."
Outside the bedroom, however, the San Francisco Giants' star player was a charmer. Bonds cooked Kimberly dinner and made her a mix CD of sappy love songs — Mariah Carey and Kenny G. It wasn't just about sex, Kimberly says. They found in each other something each wanted, needed perhaps. "I needed to feel loved," she says. "And if he needed an ego boost, he got one every time he saw me." He had his moods, but she was okay with that. "He could be very macho, and women had their place," she says. "But I always figured he had PMS, like a woman. He's grouchy right now, but give him 10 minutes and he'll be fine."