I was a very close personal friend of Bill's wife Portia Finger and their son Freddie. I knew them from 1970 until they both passed around 1990. I knew through Portia her husband's involvement with Batman but many others neither understood nor believed her story. I am actually quite moved that the truth is out and although the Finger family is no longer with us to share this event, it is still wonderful that justice will lie with the written word. I am so proud to know that someone cared enough to write the truth!
It had been a while since I had “found” anyone “new” connected to Bill Finger—though technically this was him finding me. Either way, I was excited anew. And even though the book is out, I (of course) asked Dean if I could interview him.
In agreeing, Dean wrote “My only regret is that you did not come along 25 years ago when the Fingers could really have used you!”
How did you learn of my book on Bill Finger?
I learned of your book about Bill Finger listening to your NPR interview; I heard you speaking about Bill Finger about whom I thought no one knew anything!
What was your reaction upon learning that someone wrote a book on Bill?
Having been a close personal friend of his wife and son for almost 20 years, I was completely blown away (actually, I almost fell out of my loft bed!) by the news of a book about the real creator of Batman, Bill Finger.
Why did you reach out to me?
I knew through Portia the story of Bill being the original “ghost” writer of Batman and I wanted you to know that I could corroborate all the data I heard on the radio interview and to say what a great thing it was [for you] to have written this book. Being a lifelong theatre/dance artist, I know what it is like not to get credit for work one has created or even helped create in the early stages of a project. And because it [has been] more than 20 years since Portia and Freddie [have] graced our world, I thought it was fantastic that Bill the Boy Wonder had come along.
Did you ever meet Bill? When and how did you meet Portia?
I never met Bill; he and Portia had divorced by [the time] I met her in the summer of 1971 at the old Roosevelt Hospital in New York. I and a large group of professional-level dance students had just arrived from Chicago to make our fortunes in New York. One of our group, Bill Gatewood, happened to be recovering from a diabetic incident and Portia happened to be in the same hospital awaiting surgery for a stomach hernia. While visiting Bill [Gatewood], I met Portia, who had befriended Bill as he recovered. Soon Portia and many of our crowd were friends.
What was Portia like?
Portia was highly intelligent, literate, and liberally minded. She loved the fine arts: painting, sculpture, literature, and especially dance—and especially classical dance. [My group] were serious ballet performers (I performed for the American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, and National Ballet of Washington DC; my brother a choreographer and featured dancer for the Metropolitan Opera of New York).
Dean in 1977 (and in the air)
Being a lifelong resident of lower Manhattan, Portia was always concerned with state and city events and had a large circle of varied and interesting characters in her life.
She also was the first person of Jewish heritage to educate young naïfs as myself of the realities of the European Holocaust of WWII in a personal and firsthand account from someone who lost untold family members and was hip to all the political realities of those times. She was an avowed atheist who couldn’t possibly accept the notion of a caring God who could allow such profound atrocities to be carried out on so many innocent people. As we used to say in the old days, Portia was a really “heavy” person (and I don’t mean weight-wise); [she was] profoundly concerned with righteousness and justice in society with equal rights for all.
What did Portia tell you about Bill?
I think Portia felt it necessary to share Bill’s story with us. She told us how he had been the original ghostwriter (using her words here) of the series and that he, she, and Freddie had never up to that time received a penny of royalty or residuals from DC Comics. She described [Bill as] a brilliant and creative thinker but [one who] never stood up for himself and never demanded proper compensation for his work. She also told me personal information about Bill and her marriage which I will only say was difficult. Bill was not good with money, alcohol, or, quite honestly, fidelity.
Did Portia see a difference between Bill as a man/husband and Bill as a writer/creator?
I can only guess. My gut feeling is that she wouldn’t differentiate the two because I think she would have felt that what you are as a person is only going to reflect who and what you are as an artist.