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The Billy Letters

What better mentor for a 10-year-old than Charles Manson? Little Billy seeks life advice, and America's most notorious killers are happy to oblige
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SPECIAL DELIVERY Geerhart as an actual 10-year-old; the original envelope he received from pen pal Charles Manson
In the late '90s, pop-culture historian Bill Geerhart had a little too much time on his hands and a surfeit of stamps. So, for his own entertainment, the then-unemployed thirtysomething launched a letter-writing campaign to some of the most powerful and infamous figures in the country, posing as a curious 10-year-old named Billy. To his surprise, replies soon started pouring in. Everyone from Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (on tree-fort diplomacy) to Oprah Winfrey, Mister Rogers, Janet Reno, and members of the Supreme Court had words of wisdom for Billy. ("I like the Egg McMuffin," wrote Justice Clarence Thomas when asked about his favorite McDonald's food. "Actually, I like almost everything there.") Responding to Billy's idea for a "Hustler for kids," Larry Flynt wrote back encouraging the fourth grader to "Hang in there. You'll be 18 before you know it."
As it turns out, no group hates to disappoint a child more than convicted killers, all of whom responded promptly to Billy's questions about dropping out of school. Their letters, published here for the first time, range from criminally insane to downright sensible, offering snapshots of the personalities behind some of America's most hideous crimes. Recently, Radar asked Billy to follow up with his mentors as a college student. (Click here to skip ahead and read Billy's correspondence with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Larry Flynt, and other non-murderous celebrities)


Charles Manson
Résumé:
As leader of the L.A.-based cult known as The Family, America's most notorious psycho masterminded the slayings of Hollywood starlet Sharon Tate, her unborn baby, and four of her friends at the home she shared with her husband, director Roman Polanski, in 1969. The following night, Manson and his disciples murdered supermarket mogul Leno LaBianca and his wife at their Los Feliz residence, misspelling "Helter Skelter" in blood on their fridge. (Manson preached that the Beatles' song was a prophecy about an imminent race war.) A resident of Corcoran State Prison in California, he has received more mail than any other prisoner in U.S. history.
Notable Quote: "Just to forgit I didn't take your money when I had all your credit cards locked up in my dreams."

Little Billy's original letter:


Manson's first response:

To: Billy
From: Charles Manson
Received: December 15, 1998

Find out why the L.A. Times hasn't sent my newspaper —Charles Manson.
P.S. O-yes HI BILLY
Easy easy EASSY


(Manson also attached the mysterious picture of a barn, above.)

I bet you don't remember this —you dont [sic] even know where its [sic] at. HAHA. I got you there.
Charles Manson
Easy BILLY


Little Billy's follow-up letter in 2007:

Manson's response:


To: Billy
From: Charles Manson
Received: January 7, 2008


Hay Lo Soul,
Good To Too Two 2 here from you. I thought things got so good for you that you just 4 GOT WHAT you could of remembered or could remember what you don't forgit. Where is your mind—must you watch TV all day to go to night school to be a D.A. JUST to forgit I didn't take your money when I had ALL your credit cards locked up in [continued on second page] my dreams—Rife with Con Va Lution due 2 subjewgashen. My spelling got better—see when you go to school you learn to spell—oh well I'm just playing clown words to say I didn't forgit Hellbilly—Bill we always had good days + I'm glad your gonna be a D.A. Be one who works for justice + not one who wants to win win + and don't care if people didn't do rong—anyway be as good as you are when you git a job + don't let the job make you bad you make the JOB good.
Easy Charles Manson


Letter Marginalia:
You even typing now—Cool. A HILLBILLY that can type—FAR OUT.
I know if you payed what you owe you would be brok brok in like broak ones a panter brock + that they is a crook



Image and video hosting by TinyPicRichard Ramirez aka the Night Stalker
Résumé:
The devilishly handsome Satan-worshiping rapist and serial killer terrorized Los Angeles in 1985, racking up more than 25 victims. Known for nocturnal home invasions and occasional impotence, Ramirez was an equal-opportunity madman, using guns, knives, and blunt objects to slay single women, couples, teenagers, and senior citizens. He currently sits on death row in California's San Quentin State Prison, though he managed to marry his number one fan, fellow crazy person Doreen Lioy, in 1988.

Notable Quote: "Send some girls in bikinis."

Little Billy's original letter:


Ramirez's first response (on personalized stationary):

To: Billy
From: Richard Ramirez
Received: January 21, 1999

Billy,
Greetings. Got your letter. What school do you go to? Who's your friend? You should stay in school. Send pictures.
Richard



Billy's follow-up letter in 2008:

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Ramirez's response:

To: Billy
From: Richard Ramirez
Received: February 22, 2008

Bill,
Greetings. Received your letter. Glad to hear my letter to you in '99 made a difference. When do you graduate? Yeah, get me a subscription to Radar Magazine. What is it about? Know any Asian girls willing to correspond? Send pictures. You can photocopy 5 on 1 page or send 'em singular. Nothing scenic though. Send some of girls in bikinis. Do you go clubbing? Seen any good movies? Saw 3:10 to Yuma the other day. It was an OK Western. Didn't do too good at the box office though. Do you have family? I'm youngest of five. That's all for now. Take it E/Z write when you get a chance.
Your friend,
Richard



Ted Kacynzski aka the Unabomber Résumé: Until his arrest in 1996, Kaczynski sent out 16 mail bombs in 18 years, killing three and injuring 23, and was the target of one of the most extensive investigations in FBI history. His 35,000-word manifesto on the evils of industrialized society, which he forced newspapers to publish on the threat of more violence, was remarkably free of spelling and grammatical mistakes. He's now doing life in Colorado's Federal Supermax prison, where he has apparently been too busy to follow up with Billy a second time.
Notable Quote: "I can't advise you about whether to drop out of school, because I don't know anything about you."

Little Billy's original letter to Ted Kacynzski:


Kacynzski's response:


Larry Flynt
In 2001, Little Billy sought the council of Hustler magazine's founder and publisher, Larry Flynt. The first-amendment activist took the time to respond to Billy's query: How soon is too soon for a Hustler magazine subscription?
Notable Quote: "You should read the Sears & Roebuck catalog."

Little Billy's original letter:


Larry Flynt's response:


Arnold Schwarzenegger
In 2004, Little Billy reached out to California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: How should he deal with an unfair punitive response? After all, he had only given one of his female classmates an appreciative pinch on the tush. If the Governator could relate, he didn't let on.

Little Billy's original letter:






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