Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Alvin Schwartz previously unpublished interview, 6/6/06; part 2 of 3

Part 1.

Let me go back to Bill [Finger]’s home for a minute. Did you ever go over there when he was working and see what his workspace looked like?

Oh, yeah, I’ve been in Bill’s place many times.

What was it like?

Ordinaire. Pretty plain. It wasn’t sloppy or anything. He kept his files meticulously. Enormous files.

Was that like a filing cabinet?

Yes, he had it all in—well, you’ve heard about his famous gimmick book?


All that stuff was sort of pulled together. I’m trying to remember whether it was in book form or files or what. But in general, Bill was a neat man, personally. He was tidy. He was not very sloppy. He was always well dressed, clean.

Did he have a special place that he would work in his house?

Can’t tell you that. Most of the time, we were just talking and walking just back and forth if we took the typewriters.

Remingtons, right?

So he sets the typewriter anywhere, on a table or with a chair.

Was Bill Jewish?


Was that important to him?

Um…I didn’t get the feeling that it was any more than it was so important to me at that time. [sic]

So it wasn’t a factor in his life really?

No, not that I know of.

Were you in touch with Bill for his whole life?

I was in touch with Bill up until he married this dingbat, this bimbo. He was always looking for a romance. He was always in love with somebody who wouldn’t look at him. He married Portia, he wasn’t happy with her, but Portia took care of him and she was the real man of the family. She ran things. I don’t know what the hell he would’ve done without her. She was a good woman. She was not that attractive. She was fat and she was bossy and she had to be.

Bill remarried someone?

He remarried later on. I discovered—I was by this time long gone from comics but I kept in touch with Bill. I was [unintelligible] big stuff in the market research world. I’ve left comics—I figured this is not a place to make a living. I was miserable working for Mort Weisinger. Comics were down very much at that time. I sort of jumped into something else, maybe even using my comics skills. [talks about his successful career in advertising]

At that time, you did not stay in touch with Bill?

As a matter of fact I did stay in touch with Bill. I visited. Now when I moved to Canada in 1968, I didn’t see Bill for some—I had seen Bill at his apartment and Jerry Robinson was always hanging around. And this bimbo that Bill had married was making passes at me. And I know she was making passes at Jerry. She was making passes at any man who walked into that place. Bill didn’t know it. What are you going to do, tell him? Now I have very uncomfortable feelings about what Jerry was doing there. Now by the way I want to say that Jerry’s artwork is something I’ve always admired. Jerry as a person I really don’t know so I don’t have too much to say. He was there quite frequently toward the last—when I left to go to Canada. Well, I’m still in Canada. I came back after eight years and the first person I wanted to see was Bill. I knew right away he probably couldn’t be married to that bimbo anymore so I called Portia. And Portia said “Didn’t you know that Bill has been dead for the last x number of years?” I think five years, she said. Now I knew Bill was having heart problems. I knew about the first attack. I knew about his chicken soup, which was his idea to cure—he couldn’t drink strong coffee. I didn’t drink at work but a lot of us did.

What did you say about chicken soup? I didn’t get that.

Bill regarded chicken soup as the best picker-upper. [He ate?] loads of it. He had to be careful with his heart. I was there at the time of the first heart attack, but I was not there—I missed his—I didn’t know about his death because we didn’t correspond.

Was the chicken soup just after his heart attack?

No, he’d always sort of gone into that. He wasn’t a drinker. He didn’t do it the way most of the other guys did.

You were actually with him when he had his first attack?

No, I was not. He told me about it in detail but I wasn’t there.

Was Bill living in Manhattan when he died?


Do you know anything about his funeral? Did people go?

I don’t know anything about it because all I got was from Portia. I had a double shock. When I called Bill I found out he was dead.

Do you know where Bill is buried?

I have no idea. [None of those things?] was I involved in.

Do you have any photos of him?

No I don’t.

Do you know if anybody does?


[then talks about how he lived in two worlds, literary and comic book, says the people in that essay he wrote where he and Bill were plotting a Plastic Man story were his friends, not Bill’s]

Was Bill jealous of that?

No, Bill wasn’t jealous of that. We didn’t discuss it much. He himself was always interested in literature, but he never got involved in that world and he wasn’t writing anything that would lead him into it. But I lived in these two different worlds. But Bill’s world was pretty much the comic book world. Bill and I tried to do some other things. We worked on The Mark Trail Show. I have an old script that Bill and I did. That was a radio show.

Do you have anything else of Bill’s as a memento?

All I have is that. It’s on the shelf looking at me.

If there was one thing that you would want conveyed in a book about Bill, what would it be?

I don’t think I can boil it down to that. That’s a journalistic—I would have many things to say in many different ways. I can’t answer that. How do you sum up somebody you cared about, have partial relationship with? Bill in a way was my connection with the comic book world although I didn’t get into comics through Bill. In fact, I met Bill because I had a friend who was in comics who lived in the same apartment house and we all were friends together. Got to know each other. It became a gathering place. And that was John Small who was an artist who worked for Fairy Tale Parade. He’s the one who actually got me into comics.

Was that in Greenwich Village?

That was in Greenwich Village.

Are there any anecdotes about Bill particularly that stick out in your mind fondly?

I think I’ve given them to you.

Anything that you haven’t said? A little moment in passing that defines him in another way?

Well, I remember the fact that when he did come out to visit when he was in this terrible condition, he had Freddie with him. Portia had to do something and he had to look after Freddie. And we went out on an expedition. We took our kids, and every once in a while we had to stop, tie Freddie’s shoelaces, and pull up his pants. And Freddie was about six or seven at this time. And Bill—it wasn’t that he wasn’t paying attention to him. He just wasn’t fatherly enough to think of these things, he didn’t know about being a father. And so Portia had taken over the entire role. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about him. He did.

Part 3.

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