Bill Fielding and Georgina Simplot met at college in 1953. Not only did they hit it off in every way but they were in all of the same classes, all English-based subjects. Georgina wanted to be a journalist. Bill pretended that he didn’t know what he wanted to be. All the while, at night after his studies, Bill spent as many hours as he could writing a book of beat poetry.
When they finished college, Bill and Georgina went their separate ways, not knowing where the other was. Bills parents were bohemians so when he told them that he didn’t want to go to university, they were cool with it. “It’s too restrictive,” Bill said….and I’m not going to learn anything new on the beat poetry front. Not in 1953″ He was right
Bill wanted to go to New York where the beat movement was starting to happen. He packed his rucksack with 2 sets of black clothes (beat artists generally wore black) and his typewriter in its hard case. His parents gave Bill the money that they had saved for university. Bill made his way to New York and found a one bedroom apartment. For 3 months Bill barely left his apartment until he completed his first book. Bill decided to call it “Words To Ponder.”
He spent the next 3 weeks approaching publishers that focused on beat poetry with no luck. He kept persevering as he began to write another book of beat poetry. He began to visit venues that had open mic facilities. Bill had no intention of reciting poetry, he just wanted to get fresh angles on the beat scene. He had no luck. The poetry was rubbish. “Why haven’t I been published?” he asked himself.
His dream was to become a reality some 18 months later.
One afternoon the phone rang. It was Georgina! Bill was over the moon, as was Georgina. They spoke for almost 2 hours. Bill gave her directions and she visited the next day. Bill told her about his publishing woes. Georgina told him that she had been working in New York for the last 18 months and had made some high profile contacts. She asked Bill if he had a manuscript spare. He did. “Give me a copy and I’ll get back to you in 3 days,” she said. Bill was confused.
3 days later Georgina returned with the manuscript, threw in on the table and said, “Bookmans Press have had 3 journalists read your book and they’re going to publish you .” Bill thought she was joking until he saw the look on Georginas face. He was ecstatic. He jumped up, embraced her then backed off as if embarrassed…..which he momentarily was. Georgina rather enjoyed it but she was much less reserved than Bill.
When “Words To Ponder” was published it sold better than expected. By now it was 1954, beat poetry was becoming mainstream and was now being enjoyed by not only the beat poets and bohemians but also the middle and upper classes. Bill was asked by a small newspaper if they could interview him. Bill agreed. Throughout the interview, Bill had a bad feeling. The wrong questions were being asked and the journalist didn’t seem particularly interested. Sure enough, Bill read the interview. It was terrible and he was even misquoted 4 times.
Georgina read the interview and was furious. “He hasn’t even read the entire book. The misquotes are only misquotes because they’re in the wrong place. It’s obvious he’s not a literary journalist,” she said. As Georgina turned to leave she said, “Leave it with me, Bill. I’ll fix this….big time. It may take some time but I’ll get something sorted.” Again, Bill was confused.
Three weeks late Georgina visited Bill. She said, “I have a proposal.” Bill jokingly replied, “I accept.” Georgina blushed. She went on to say that they could have a house party at her place to officially launch his book. “With my contacts,” she said, “I can get authors, lawyers, Doctors, Councillors and so forth. All high profile people. It would be great publicity.” With Bills bad press experience he was reluctant but Georgina talked him around. “Give me a week to get it organised,” said Georgina. Over the following week, Bill had mixed emotions.
The following week, Georgina rang Bill full of beans. “The official launch of “Words To Ponder” is a goer,” she sprouted. “Everyone who’s anyone will be there. It will be the BEST piece of promotion that you’ll get.” Bill was thankful. The event was to be held at Georginas house. Bill didn’t know where she lived so she went to Bills and Bill followed her to her house. It was a mansion. Georgina really had hit the big time in journalism.
Bill skulked in the back door but Georgina grabbed Bill by the arm and introduced him to everyone. Bill was pleased to see beat poets mixing with bohemians, middle class and upper class. There were no class distinctions here. By 1955, Beat poetry was almost mainstream. He was also pleasantly that everyone had a copy of his book and wanted it signed. In addition, unlike his first interview, the crowd all asked relevant questions. Suddenly the journalist who interview Bill cheerfully approached him and asked if he could interview him. Bill rather sternly said, “I’d rather not.” Georgina jumped in and said, “Bill has an interview booked with me.” The journalist skulked off like a do with its tail between its legs. Bill said, with a smirk, “So when are you going to interview me?” Georgina said, “Well we’ve met and talked to everyone here. It’s only 2pm. How about now?” Bill said “Sure.”
On the way back to Bills place, George stopped in at a bottle shop and grabbed a bottle of whiskey. They sat on the couch and opened the bottle of whiskey. Georgina started the tape running straight away and mumbled, “Now I can get inside your head.” Bill said, “Inside my head? I doubt it.” Alcohol aside, this interview felt different. More comfortable. Just as she left Georgina almost forgot to take a photograph. As they sat there talking, off-tape, Georgina said, “If I didn’t know any better, Bill Fielding, I’d say you’re trying to chat me up.” Bill replied, “If I didn’t know any better, Georgina Simplot, I’d say you’re letting me.” Georgina blushed and coyly said “Maybe.” Bill replied, “No ‘maybe’ about it.” Georgina asked how Bill knew that she liked him. “I’ve known since college,” he said. Georgina said, “That long? Why didn’t you say anything?” Bill said, “Shy.”
Georgina then asked Bill if he would like to go out with her. Bill said, “Of course I would….but you’re too good for the likes of me.” Georgina said, “Don’t be silly. You live in a different world. A world that I want to know about. A world that doesn’t have the constraints of conventional journalism.
Georgina took her tape recorder and told Bill she’d be back in a week. A week later Georgina arrived wielding a newspaper. It was a ‘rush’ from a copy of her interview with Bill. Bill read it and was ecstatic. “You’ve even read the book,” Bill said. It shows. Georgina said “3 times.” There was better to come. The newspaper was The Tribune, New Yorks primary paper for featuring beat poetry. Georgina had not only landed him an interview with The Tribune but it was a full-page spread in the arts section. Georgina said, “Between your house party and this story, you’re the talk of the town.
Bill wasn’t so keen on being the talk of the town as he was recognised everywhere he went. Despite this he always remained polite. With Bill and Georgina now going out together, between Georginas contacts and Bills fame they were stopped and questioned everywhere. Geoorgina didn’t mind but bill felt awkward. They would go to art displays, photographic display, pottery exhibitions and so forth. Georgina soaked it all up.She used to take a pen and paper as she had decided to write a book of beat poetry herself. She had enough money to quit her job and work on her book. Bill was thrilled for her.
Despite his shyness, Bill would always make a point of talking to the artist and discuss one or two of their pieces. He always offered constructive criticism. Bill gauged an artist by their response to his constructive criticism. No matter how the artist reacted, Bill could always tell if the artist didn’t like being criticised. A sure sign of a bad artist.
Bill and Georgina didn’t live together but saw each other ever day and were out 2-3 times a week. Bill released his second book in 1956 and it sold like wildfire. Georgina had another house party to celebrate it. It was a huge afternoon. He went out to the porch for a cigarette and spotted 2 young girls, about 16, looking very shy. As he moved towards them they moved back, Bill hurried towards them and said, “What are you ladies doing here?” One of them said that they bought his book last year and wanted him to sign it, dedicate it to us and maybe get a photo. Bill said, “Last year? Goodness me. Why didn’t you look me up in the phone book and pop around?” One of the girls said, “We didn’t want to intrude.”
Bill signed and dedicated the books to them. He then grabbed Georgina, walked around the girls, put his arms around them and had a photo taken. The girls were thrilled….but there was more. Bill was enthralled at how much the girls knew. “Do you write?” he asked. They both said they did but college English was a bit restrictive. Bill asked if they had any of their own work. They both said, “Yes.” Bill then said, “How about you bring your own material around at 2pm tomorrow and I’ll have a look?” The girls were awestruck.
When the girls arrived, Georgina had already left a photo each for them with Bill. Bill made them a coffee and lit a cigarette. “You don’t smoke, do you?” They said “No.” Bill replied, “Good. Filthy habit.” Bill read their documents seriously as the girls sat nervously. He sat the last document down. “Well, ladies. I’ve just read the next generation of beat poetry. You should be proud of yourselves. When you get enough for a book, bring it to me. I have a friend who can help.” He added, “If you need help or just want a coffee, drop on by. I’m here 99% of the time,” and laughed.
In 1957 Georginas book was published. It went down a storm and unlike the shy Bill, she jumped at the opportunity to have a poetry recital. She began with a book signing followed by a 60 minute recital taken from her book. Bill could never do this.
As Bill and Georgina continued writing beat poetry, it was on the decline. In 1970 the 2 young girls presented at Bills with manuscripts for his perusal. He read them and two things stood out. The girls were moving with the commercial times of poetry and it was obvious that they were attending university, where the poetic form was restricted. He showed Georgina the scripts. She thought the same us Bill. She did, however, say, “These will sell like hotcakes.
True enough both girls works were picked up by a publisher. They flew off the bookshelves. Bill told the girls what he thought. They appeared awkward but Bill said, “Don’t worry about it. You’re moving with the times.” The girls were heartened by this. Over the next 3 years thee girls writing became more and more conventional. By 1960 both girls were millionaires.
Bill and Georgina continued to work on their beat poetry. Sales dropped but Bill wasn’t in it for that and Georgina had plenty of money behind her. Their books were reduced to being available in small bookshops for sale while the others were to be found in coffee shops, airport lounges and hairdressers for light reading.
The important thing was that they were together and happy. They would also have royalties coming in for their books….
….and they helped keep beat poetry alive.