Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lyn Simmons previously unpublished interview, 2006; part 2 of 3

Lyn was Bill Finger’s companion in the 1960s and his second wife from 1968 to 1971. She was unknown to the comics world before I discovered her.

I interviewed her for Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman and am now posting many of those previously unpublished interviews. 

Part 1.


[first few words cut off but she was saying that she told her son Andrew] that you were going to give Bill the credit that he never got and deserved and Andy said that was great, ‘cause Bill was wonderful to my children.

When did you and Bill marry?

We married quite late, actually. We were together for, I don’t know, 13 years and then we married in 1968.

In Great Neck?

Yes. Then I came out here because of my son and Bill and I got divorced. But we were on the phone all the time and I feel that had he lived, we would’ve gotten together again.

When did you move out there and get divorced?

I moved out in ‘71 and that’s when I got divorced. He had a lot of problem about my moving out. I don’t think you need to know about that.

After you divorced, did he move back into Manhattan?


[asked about the article Lyn’s daughter Eve mentioned, she’ll send]

Did you know [Bill’s son] Freddie?

Yes I did. Freddie when he was little used to come out and visit in Roslyn. I had a house in Roslyn, Long Island. That’s where Bill moved when we were married. He was a sort of disturbed young boy.

His wife, I never met her, but I understand she was obese. Bill was rather short and slim and she had a lot of gay friends. I think they may have influenced Fred quite a bit. Bill was pretty upset about that. Bill had faults. He was not too good on the alimony. He was not too good with his deadlines. But he was the kindest man in the world, really. It just beset (?) by his own certain weaknesses. When I first met him and he came out to the house with a whole bunch of comic books, my kids went crazy. He had the early, not the Batman, the ones before that that he was writing. I forget the publisher but the Green Lantern. Bill had first editions that he was selling very happily for five or ten dollars and feeling he was making quite a profit. They probably sell for a couple thousand now.

Some of them would sell for five figures, if they’re in good condition.

Oh my god.

They’re very valuable. You know what else would go for a lot of money? Any memento from the Golden Age. So if Bill had any notes, I know that a lot of that stuff was thrown away, but all that stuff is highly collectible now.

Oh my god. I don’t have any of that.

Do you happen to remember Fred’s middle name?

His real name, his first name was Milton, and he hated that. He changed it to William. And everybody knew him by Bill.

Oh, you’re talking about Bill?

Whose middle name?


No, I don’t know.

And Bill’s real first name was Milton?

Yes, but don’t put that in. He didn’t like it. [she later gave permission]

So he was born as Milton William Finger?

No, he just changed it to William. I don’t know whether William was his middle name or he just changed it to William.

As long as anyone knew him, he was Bill.


Did he have a middle name?

I don’t know.

[said I’m hoping to find some of his Freddie
’s friends]

You haven’t found out where he is?

Well, he’s deceased. He passed away in the late ‘90s.

He died?

Yeah, he died.

Oh my lord. I knew nothing about him after I came out to California. … Was he married?

No, I believe he was gay and I heard he died of AIDS.

[asked if she might have any documents that would show Bill’s middle name]

No. If he had one. I didn’t have a middle name. I don’t think Bill did. We didn’t give middle names in those days. Maybe Freddie had one, I don’t know.

Bill was not in WWII?

No, he wasn’t.

Did he not get drafted?

I guess he didn’t. He didn’t get drafted. He had some problems, maybe some problems, I don’t know what it was. He never talked about it. One thing I wanted to tell you about. Bill and I were on the phone a lot in the years before he died and I was out here. One day I called him and he didn’t answer. I just had a feeling to call him late at night and there was no answer. I thought that’s very strange because he’s always in late at night. So next morning I phoned his friend Charlie who lived in the same building as Bill in New York. And I said take a look in at Bill, see if he’s okay, ‘cause I called last night, he wasn’t there. So Charlie looked in and a little while later he called me back. He said oh my god, you must be psychic, Bill is dead. He had died in his sleep on the couch sometime that night. That was quite amazing and I cried quite a bit.

So Charlie was the one who found him?

Yes. They brought up the manager of the building. My son was having operations and this was his third one that was coming up and I couldn’t go in for anything. He was very very sick, he almost died, so I had to stay with him. I don’t know what happened. His wife called me before this happened.

You mean his ex-wife Portia?

His ex-wife called me and she said that…wait, I may be getting mixed up here. I am getting mixed up. This was before I moved out to California. She was very mean. She called me about how sick Bill—she went to see him, he was sick, he had had something with his heart. I said I didn’t want to hear this, and so she said goodbye, and of course I visited him and he stayed with me when he recuperated, in Roslyn. He was alright but he had had a heart problem before.

You mean you came back from California to visit him?

No, this was before I left for California.

So you divorced and then you moved? You didn’t move first?

No, I moved first. We were in the process of getting the divorce and then I got the papers out here.

Then after ‘71—

We were in touch all the time.

Did you see him after that?


He never came out to visit?

No. Well, he had a kind of reluctance to travel. He had a kind of anxiety about traveling.

I’ve been told that he didn’t drive.

Yeah, he didn’t drive.


I don't know. He just never got a license and he never drove. He never had a car.

How did he get around in the suburbs, like when he lived in Great Neck?

Well, he took the train into work, which was walking distance from where I lived. Then I drove him around, everywhere.

And it never came up why he didn’t want to drive?

Well, no. (laughs) I think I did tell him to get driving lessons a couple times. And he said I will, I will, I will. And he didn’t.

His reluctance to travel, what did you think—

Some anxiety about it.

You mean like getting on a plane?

Yeah. Leaving his familiar spaces.

Did you ever talk to him about his Batman work and what he thought of his fans? Did he know that he had fans?

No, he never thought of that at all. Not at all. He was very humble, very unassuming. He was just doing comics. He said
I’m a hack writer.

So he wasn’t proud of his work?

Well, yes he was. He thought he did good work. But he said
I’m a hack writer.
Did he have aspirations that he was working toward?

No. Well, he may have. I don’t remember that.

He was just content to continue writing comics and not try something else?

Yeah. Well, he and Charlie wrote a movie and they did some television scripts, so he did something more.

Did you read his work before he sent it to the publisher?


And you gave him suggestions?


What did he like to do for fun?

He loved theater, which we went to. Ballet we both loved. He loved classical movie and he had a very complicated [stereo] setup that I wasn’t allowed to touch.

Was that in his workspace?

Yeah, and then it was up in my house. Actually, when he moved up, he didn’t move to Roslyn. He stayed there quite a bit. But he moved up to my Great Neck apartment. I had sold the house in Roslyn in 1964. And I was in an apartment in Great Neck.

So he never lived in Roslyn? He just visited.


And then he moved to Great Neck—

When he moved from New York he moved to Great Neck.

Did you have wedding photos?

No, we got married by a justice of the peace in Great Neck. We had no photos at all. We weren’t camera people. What he did for fun is we traveled, locally. We didn’t go abroad. We went to the Hamptons, we went to Cape Cod, we went to Maine.

Always by car?


He never left the Northeast his whole life?

No, he never did. [I later found out that at least once he made it at least as far as Texas]

Part 3.

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