Little Billy's Letters to famous and infamous people

Little Billy's Letters Cover In the 1990s Bill Geerhart was an unemployed, not-so aspiring screenwriter in his 30s. To pass the time, he channeled his inner child, 10-year-old Billy, and started writing letters to famous and infamous people and institutions. These letters, written in pencil on elementary school ruled paper, asked funny but relevant questions to politicians, serial killers, movie stars, lobbyists, CEOs, and celebrity lawyers.

Geerhart saved copies of his letters and the replies he got back. This week, Harper Collins published them in a book called Little Billy's Letters: An Incorrigible Inner Child's Correspondence with the Famous, Infamous, and Just Plain Bewildered. The publisher gave us permission to run some of our favorites. Enjoy!

Buy Little Billy's Letters on Amazon | Visit Harper Collins site for Little Billy's Letters

The National Hobo Association believes that "unlike tramps or bums, the hoboes are usually very resourceful, self reliant and appreciative people."




Susan Atkins is a convicted murderer former member of the Manson Family. When she died in prison in 2009, she was the longest-incarcerated female inmate in the California penal system, having been denied parole 18 times.





Robert Shapiro was a member of O.J. Simpson's "dream team" of defense lawyers.




The Catholic Church is the world's largest Christian church, with more than a billion members.




Caesars Palace is a hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.




  1. Wow, that first reply is pretty amazing (and who knew this organization was in my home state? Not me, I’ll tell you). It was a great read and I was glad to get a perspective on people who choose to roam and learn about their world, including having respect for other people, family and nature. What a wonderful answer for a child to receive.

  2. I don’t know who Buzz Potter is, but he really ought to be writing children’s books. I kind of feel like I could go be President now.

  3. Let me summarize the Caesars Palace letter:

    Blah Blah Blah Blah BET THE PASS LINE Blah Blah Blah Blah.

    He didn’t answer the question about the chips.

    1. You kiddin’ that was one of the best possible responses to him. He told the kid flat-out that gambling isn’t a way to make money and that the casinos always have the edge.

    2. I got a totally different read then you did. Seems he said the way to have money is to not play. That’s pretty bold for a casino to say.

  4. What an awesome world, where something like The National Hobo Association could exist, and that it would have such splendid letterhead! Kind of makes me want to give up computer programming and adopt the hobo lifestyle myself!

    1. There’s no reason you can’t do both. You could travel around the country programming wherever you find work.

  5. Wow. I love the hobo letter. That would be fantastic thing for a kid receive. (and points to the casino for their honesty)

  6. Wow. I was expecting to see the punk’ed recipients revealed as idiots, but all of them were kind and took the time to give heartfelt answers. I found the Susan Atkins one to be the most amazing—more than any performance for the media or parole board, her taking the time to write something like this really gives a glimpse into how a person can change.

  7. Somewhere a series of cigar boxes, each meticulously decorated with inlaid wood, are tied together with ribbon cables.

    It’s the server for the Hobo times.

    It’s starting to smoke as a group of poorly shaven men in ball caps look on in amazement.

  8. The more things change… Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci on SNL) did the same thing almost 40 years ago in the Laszlo Letters.

  9. Absolutely amazing. All of them were great responses to a kid. The Hobo and Atkins were fantastic.

    The lawyer’s looked like he had a good time writing it.

  10. This reminds me of Don Novello’s “Lazlo Letters”. Novello (aka Father Guido Sarducci) did this kind of Borat stuff back in the late 70s, but he didn’t shoot little fish in a bucket. He targeted Nixon and Agnew and McDonalds and totally got them. Very clever stuff.

  11. Oh, I almost forgot… Phil Hendrie does stuff like this but he does it live on the radio!

  12. “The publisher gave us permission to run some of our favorites.”

    And watch their sales shoot through the roof. Nice to see a publisher who gets it. I know I’m sticking this on my wishlist.

  13. that was simply amazing letters but the casino one is awesome.

    also how funny to hear shapiro of all people going on about dna evidence… hahahahaha.

  14. “…hopefully you will have a lot of fun before the casino’s mathematical edge claims your last bet”.

    Sing it, Brother John, sing it! Tell it like it really is!

    What a hoot. And yes, I’m gonna buy a copy.

  15. The hobo response is deep. What Mr. Buzz Potter is actually doing is mapping out a path for children to take that will invariably lead away from a life as an unemployed drifter – a.k.a. hobo. It’s quite charming.

  16. What a bunch of really sincere and lovely responses to a kind of dick-y joke. Just goes to show how beautiful people can be despite the cynicism and mocking of hipster types.

  17. I believe the artist Cameron Jamie did this in 1988 or 1989. He had an exhibition in Los Angeles shortly there-after of his letters and the responses he received from Mr. Tuna, the Koolaid thing, Mr. Clean and other famous mascots, as well as all the swag they sent him.
    either way, this is great.

  18. Okay – brand me as the cynic I admit to being, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn the letters and the responses were all written by the same person.

    1. @Terry,

      The tone isn’t really consistent enough in all of the letters, IMO (especially the rather underwhelming Catholic letter). I think it’s safe to let your guard down on this one.

      (I’ll admit that I want them to be real, particularly the reply from Susan Atkins.)

  19. Why is he addressed as “Master” Billy Geerhart in the Caesars Palace letter?

    ‘I’ and ‘A’ are too far apart on the keyboard for that to have been a typo.

    1. “…By the late 19th century, etiquette dictated that men be addressed as Mister, boys under 13 years old be addressed as Master, and from 13 to the age of maturity males not be accorded courtesy titles. However, in more recent times it is not uncommon for secondary school boys (and sometimes older primary school boys, but not, typically, younger) to be addressed as Mister, though some etiquette writers hold that the title Mr should not be used until the boy has left school. The title Master is much less frequently used than formerly, though it is sometimes still used as the written form of address for boys below some undefined age, often regarded as about 13 in formal correspondence, particularly invitations to formal events.[1]

      The current United Kingdom online passport application form offers “Mstr” as one of five standard alternative Titles, alongside “Mr”, “Mrs”, “Miss”, and “Ms”, but without any definition or explanation of who should use this.”

    2. Master is the proper way to address a male child. Since it is clear that this is a child and not an adult…. master is the proper title.

    3. It’s a bit old fashioned, but young boys would be referred to as Master by perhaps, the butler or the maid.

  20. @steve.kupf: It’s an old-fashioned way to formally address a young male, the flip-side of “Miss”. When I were a lad, birthday cards from my grandmother to me were addressed to “Master Paul Drye”.

  21. the punchline in the hobo letter is hilarious “I”m sure the people at 7-11 would be proud to hire you”

    and “astronaught” is great too.

  22. I think people keep hoping “Lazlo Toth” will be forgotten and they can clean up by doing it again.


    Stand up! Sit down! Fight! Fight! Fight!

  23. I think that several of the letter answerers–the Casino especially but one or two others as well–seem to have suspected that “Billy” was not necessarily “Billy.”

  24. Alright kiddies, this is a great fable in the making! Perhaps Myth Busters can do justice to the contrived answers.


  25. Artist Jeffrey Vallance did the letters to politicians as a teen in the 1970s. One odd bit was a donkey or elephant toy that was broken before Strom Thurmond could sign it AFAIR. Either the Senator or a staff member repaired the thing and sent it back.

    Still – cool reply letters.

  26. “You live in the greatest country on earth where little boys can grow up to be … an astronaught”
    What’s an astronaught? Someone who fakes moon landings?

  27. The Atkinson letter was very poignant and moving. I mean, wow.

    That letter and the Hobo one were fantastic.

  28. It’s funny..I was just teaching an ESL class this morning, about jobs. I had the whole board filled up with all sorts of jobs.

    And the last one I threw in, on a flight of fancy?

    “Hobo”. I showed them a Normal Rockwell painting of a hobo, and they just couldn’t stop laughing. needless to say, they forgot all the other jobs, and all left class saying “hobo hobo hobo” over and over again.

    Then I sit down, glance at BB, and here’s a post from the National Hobo Association.

    Spreading the good word of vagabonding far and wide :)

  29. Another worthy entry in this genre is P.S. My Bush Pig’s Name Is Boris by James C. Wade (out of print, unfortunately).

  30. Anyone else remember “The Henry Root Letters”, published around 1980? I think ‘little Billy’ has an advantage in that most people will respond to an apparently sincere enquiry from a kid. ‘Henry’, who’s letters were increasingly batty, often had to employ the I enclose a pound towards your fund, cause, etc. ploy in order to solicit a response.

    1. SteveT – Yes! I’m currently reading William Donaldson works, including the Henry Root letters, after becoming obssesed by “Brewers Dictionary of Rouges, Villans and Eccentrics”

      These replys are great, particularly the Hobo one which makes me well up – Buzz Potter you are one righteous dude.

      Also as seen previously on BB:

  31. Nobody else didn’t catch that spelling of astronaut as astronaught in the HOBO letter? Was it an honest mistake or a comment?

  32. Make sure to back up your pass line bet with odds! Come on Mr. Groom, don’t give him half the advice. Dollar Yo for the dealer.

  33. The Susan Atkins letter tugged the heartstrings, I admit. What she did back in 1969 was horrible to say the least but seeing her take the time to write a thoughtful, encouraging, humble, and very wise letter to try and help a kid stay in school like that was just kinda sweet. It doesn’t matter that Billy isn’t real. What matters is she cared sincerely. Again, what she did was horrible, but I feel more like she was a person who shared that sentiment now.

    It may be a comedy book for the most part but it actually revealed a very touching change in a human being.

  34. I love these letter I am buying the book,I can think of a list of people that will enjoy reading these, it’s incredible the things a person can come up with when you have nothing to do!

  35. Wow! Like many respondents, I was deeply touched by the Susan Atkins letter. I’ll be buying this book not only for myself but for several others who I know will enjoy it (Hey! There’s a good chunk of my Christmas shopping done, and it’s only March!)

    Thanks, Billy!

  36. I am surprised that attorney Shapiro doesn’t know that you can’t get DNA from saliva…

    1. “I am surprised that attorney Shapiro doesn’t know that you can’t get DNA from saliva…”

      … Except that you can. Look it up. ;) Though admittedly it’s not from the saliva itself, it’s from skin cells shed from the inside of your cheek, which are in the saliva. However, the fact remains that you can collect a saliva sample from a bite mark, edge of a cup, a cigarette butt, etc, and get DNA from it.

      Love the letters, surprisingly great replies from some. I particularly liked the casino one.

  37. The best is the one to Kourtney Kardashian asking if her boyfriend is a gigaglo and how to become one so he can wear cool clothes and drive cool cars.

  38. Wow, answers are varying from friendly to touching. Quite interesting. And many people who have never heard about “hobo” have now, in a pleasing positive way.

  39. Wow these are great. I see that the letters are dated around year 2000 so we won’t be seeing any more, but it was a good read. Thumbs up!

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