Clara's boyfriend, Rafe, is a charlatan who owns a coffee house called the Pit and manages to live on credit because folks tend to regard beatniks as quaint and don't hold them to the standards of the real world. Pretending to be one of the beats, Rafe is actually looking to exploit them.
Into Clara's life comes Junior, an Ivy Leaguer who used to live in the neighborhood. Junior claims to be doing research on beatnik poets, but, by the end of the first act, it's revealed that Junior is actually "Rexall," a celebrated beatnik poet who assembles his verse by mixing lines from Alice in Wonderland, Silas Marner, Finnegan's Wake, and Mickey Spillane.
Looking to use Clara's money to refinance the Pit, Rafe sells Clara a supposedly valuable painting that he himself painted. Rafe gets Clara to transform herself into a beatnik and read poetry at the Pit. When she's made over and becomes an attraction at the Pit, Rafe tries to sell her to Madison Avenue executives and to turn the Pit into a tourist trap. At the end, Junior gets Clara away from Rafe and his fraudulent world. The central joke of Beg, Borrow or Steal was that button-down Junior was actually a beat while Rafe, who seemed to be part of the beat culture, was, at heart, a conformist interested in the commercial exploitation of the beats.