Good Talk, Dad

The Birds and the Bees...and Other Conversations We Forgot to Have


By Bill Geist

By Willie Geist

Formats and Prices




$13.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 20, 2014. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

Bill Geist–the beloved, award-winning, long-time special correspondent for “CBS: Sunday Morning,” whose debut Little League Confidential was a New York Times bestseller in hardcover and paper–and Willie Geist, the Today Show host, popular member of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” and author of the best-selling American Freak Show–have begun an extended conversation between father and son on areas of mutual interest, agreement, and disagreement.

Told in a unique back-and-forth banter style, the hilarious father-son team will laugh together at the shared journey of their relationship. They’ll riff on fatherhood, religion, music, sports, summer camp disasters, driving lessons gone horribly wrong, being on TV, and their wonderfully odd family life. Think Big Russ and Me meets S*** My Dad Says, with humorous observations about professional wrestling as a worldview, raising a kid with television cameras in the kitchen, and anything and everything else that comes to their witty minds.

The Geists decided to write this book so their children and grandchildren would have a record of their unusual father-son relationship. The book is remarkably funny, as well as poignant and sincere, especially in light of Bill’s announcement that he’s been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. With its lighthearted look at the crazy things fathers and sons go through and the unique bond those experiences forge, the book is sure to be a must-have gift for Father’s Day.


Begin Reading

Table of Contents


Copyright Page

In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitute unlawful piracy and theft of the author's intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at Thank you for your support of the author's rights.



I was baptized at the age of nineteen. A group of us awaiting the Holy Sacrament lined up in front of the altar at Westside Presbyterian Church that Sunday morning, looking out at the congregation. Well, I was lined up. The rest of them were sleeping like little angels in their mothers' arms. I lurked there, all six feet four inches and two hundred pounds of me, a college goon among the babes. How young and innocent they were. How old and hung over I was. The people in the pews would have been well within their rights to assume I was the oddly brooding father of one of the kids, or perhaps an area photographer hired to capture the moment. Nope, I was there to be baptized alongside them.

It wasn't as if I had just found faith as an adult. We'd been attending church for some time—I'd even sung in the choir as a boy. It's just that my parents panicked one day when they realized I'd been in the church all those years without ever having been officially initiated. Better late than never, they thought—but they weren't the ones towering over the pastor as he came by with the holy water. Couldn't we have done this in a private ceremony before the service, as they do with the technical awards at the Oscars? In a ceremony earlier today, nineteen-year-old Willie Geist was given the sacrament of baptism.

The pastor blessed the babies and dabbed holy water on their heads, welcoming them into the church. When he got to me at the end of the line, he asked that I bend down so he could reach me. I recall a smirk crossing his face. There was a smattering of laughter in the chapel. The real blessing that day was that the Presbyterian Church doesn't require full aquatic submersion. Can you imagine that scene? Would they have rolled out an aboveground pool for me? Or why not just make it a dunk tank and let my friends take turns to complete the public humiliation? At least my parents were happy that day. They got clear Christian consciences as I got grownass-man baptized.

That's kind of how we Geists do things. We perform life's rites of passage a little differently, and we get around to them in our own time. It works for us, and usually makes for good family comedy. As a young boy, for example, every time I threw a penny into the fountain at Paramus Park Mall in New Jersey, I wished for a trip to Disney World. My parents knew full well about my life's dream to meet Mickey, Goofy, and the gang in Orlando. After years of some nonsense about how dreams couldn't be bought, my dad finally caved and made mine come true. Unfortunately that day came when I was thirteen and in the seventh grade. I had long ago accepted the harsh truth that the fountain next to Foot Locker was where children's dreams went to die.

By the time we finally became royal guests inside the Magic Kingdom, my Disney years were well behind me, but we went anyway because that's what families do, right? They go to Disney. My sister, Libby, was eight, so the trip could be justified as making her dreams come true. Just to be clear, mine drowned in a mall fountain in New Jersey.

Ask my dad today about the "Character Breakfast" on that Disney vacation and he will laugh with perverse delight. For the "Character Breakfast" you board a steamboat to nowhere (an homage to Mickey's work in Steamboat Willie, one assumes) for a morning of all-you-can-eat buffet and more-than-you-can-take Disney all-stars. Children shrieked gleefully as a parade of Disney characters danced one by one up to our table, posing for Polaroids and generally spreading the magic. All I could think about was the poor bastards in those hot costumes, having to get hyped up for another "Character Breakfast." My Dad looked at tall, lanky, thirteen-year-old me in that sea of Disney—about the same size as Goofy by then—and started laughing. I joined right in. Not quite how I'd dreamed it all those years ago.

A dad is supposed to take his kid to Disney World. He's supposed to get his kid baptized. Mine did… eventually. A dad is supposed to send his kid to camp, to teach him how to fish, to grill, and to drive stick. Mine did… kind of. A dad is supposed to talk to his son about "the birds and the bees," the value of a dollar, and responsible drinking. My dad and I had most of those talks. Well, some of them. OK, we didn't have a single one of those father-son talks.

My dad grew up in the middle of the stoic Midwest in a time and place where you didn't sit down and talk about your feelings a whole lot. I'm guessing 1950s Champaign, Illinois, wasn't a lucrative place to be a shrink. I never heard the fatherly phrase, "Sit down, Willie. Your mother and I would like to talk to you…" My relationship with my dad always has been based on laughter. We tend to avoid the other stuff. Even when it's big stuff. But that's what this book is for. We're going back to cover our father-son bases retroactively. Better late than never, right? Kind of like baptizing your kid when he's nineteen years old.

Chapter 1

The Birds and the Bees… of Which We Dared Not Speak


Sorry I never got around to having that talk with you about "the birds and the bees," Willie.

For openers, I didn't want you contradicting me. I worried that you knew more about this subject than I did. They'd begun teaching it in elementary school! And if the surveys were accurate, the practical field exercises began shortly thereafter.

Jody and Bill, June 27, 1970

Willie and Christina, May 24, 2003

On the other hand, how many fathers actually have the Talk? (I'd like to see a survey on that.) At what moment do you have it? At what age? Where? Should it involve an AV component?

I envisioned our Talk occurring naturally, maybe at a roughhewn picnic table in the woods with chipmunks scampering about, a pair of cooing lovebirds perched side by side on a tree branch and Bambi turning to look on. Very mellow, like a stool softener commercial. But we never went in the woods.

I'd heard of dads who just turned the whole thing over to their parish priests. But what do priests know? (Don't answer that!) And wouldn't it have felt awkward asking our local Catholic priest to provide you with sex education when we were Presbyterian?

And by the way, why "the birds and the bees"? There's the whole pollination thing with bees, I guess, what with your stamens and your pistils and all that. But birds? I've never seen robins screwing, have you? A little French-beaking, maybe…

Now you take dogs… a talk about "two dogs in the backyard and the bees," now that might make sense. Or "the bunnies and the bees." I must have figured the Big Talk wasn't necessary after we took that family vacation drive through X-rated Lion Country. Where to begin? What to say? I didn't want to be overly juvenile: "You see, Son, when a man and a woman fall in love and get married sometimes they sleep in the same bed and if it's a double or even queen-size they sometimes get too close and Dad's dipping sauce gets on Mom's Bloomin' Onion and they make a baby."

Nor did I want the Talk to be too advanced: "Now you may hear other kids on the playground—on the jungle gym or the big slide or wherever—refer to 'BDSM'… well, the B is for…"

Maybe I should be more direct: "You know that stork-delivering-the-baby story? It's bullshit."

My father never had the Talk with me. I would have hated that so much. We didn't do "talks." The closest thing to it was my mother's leaving an obtuse church pamphlet in my room when I was about fifteen (which was plenty early, as it turned out).

The pamphlet set forth the rules of sexual conduct. Sex was definitely restricted to a man and a woman. Only one each. Married. In a church. Intercourse was to be conducted in the missionary position, with the lights off. And not for fun! For family. If you could manage to avoid the act altogether, so much the better. (Hey, Mary and Joseph pulled it off.) Oh, and nothing with the suffix -job or -style. These rules were from GOD!

For the most part, kids learn about the birds and the bees from other kids. We did have a health class in school, where the subject was mentioned, along with all the other disgusting bodily functions. The teacher briefly mentioned the sex organs but never explained what they were for, exactly, and none of us had the intestines—large or small—to raise our hands and ask. All I knew was that, looking at the chart, boys had them and girls apparently did not.

Most of what I learned was from Mike, an eleven-year-old who lived next door and was just a bit older and wiser than the rest of the kids on our block. Mike told us that by peeking through the curtains he'd observed the pretty blonde high school girl who lived next door kissing her boyfriend. Mike said the guy was at the same time "rubbing" her.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"You know, like you pet Frosty," Mike explained, referring to my family's cat.

"Where was he rubbing her?" Tucker asked.

"In her driveway," Mike said.

"No, I mean…"

"All over," Mike said. "Mainly on her sweater."

"Why?" I asked.

"They say it makes girls hot," Mike said.

"Like when you rub two sticks together?" asked Richard, indeed a Boy Scout (First Class).

"Or like an Indian burn?" Tucker asked.

"I don't think so," Mike said.

"So is that good?" I asked.

"Yeah. When girls get hot they want to do sex," Mike explained.

A period of silent reflection ensued. "Nonsense," I thought. It sounded implausible at best to those of us too young to have the sap rising. Troy Donahue never rubbed Sandra Dee's sweater in A Summer Place.

Mike's father, a Shakespeare professor, had ten thousand books in their house, among them one published in England that set forth everything known to the Western world about sex. Sadly, no photographs. Not even a drawing.

Mike's parents weren't home so he pulled out the hefty tome, sat on the bed, and began leafing through it. Nothing under hot or rub, but after a half hour he came up with germane text under the heading Arousal. And damned if it didn't confirm Mike's farfetched explanation!

Still, I remained dubious that somehow the same technique used for polishing my old man's Buick would make girls want sex.

In future sessions the boys-on-the-block salon tackled subjects like dry-humping, the johnny-rubber machine in the Texaco men's room, and so-called blue balls—none of which were even so much as mentioned in Mike's big book. We were on our own.

I assume you and your buddies, Willie, were having similar conversations. But you were discreet in all things and at some point I sensed that the time for our Talk had come and gone. And let's face it, you didn't want to have it any more than I did.

P.S. I turned up some old notes I'd scrawled for our birds-and-bees talk, which would have gone something like this:

"OK. Birds usually fall in love in springtime. The boy birds start showing off for the girl birds, hoping the girls will pick them as their mates. (Just like male humans, who buy red convertibles, pump iron, buy Armani jackets, score touchdowns, join rock bands, etc.)

"The boy birds don their most colorful feathers. They sing their most complex songs, sometimes adding a little superfluous trilling and too much volume, like contestants on Star Search. They often make spectacular flights in death-defying air shows. Some even dance.

"When a female picks a male and they're ready to, say, couple… to produce baby birdies, many birds' reproductive organs swell to the point that all they have to do is touch each other to reproduce. (Keep this in mind.)

"Now bees, bees can have sex in midair! Remember when we saw those big military planes refueling in midair on TV? Like that.

"Boy bees are called drones, and they all want to screw the queen bee. She mates with a dozen or more of them and after they've screwed, the drones fall to the ground and die.

"Any questions?"

Willie Responds… Uncomfortably

Well, you've just made a compelling case for why we never had the Talk. You've also ruined my Outback Steakhouse experience forever—"Dad's dipping sauce gets on Mom's Bloomin' Onion"?! Jesus, our Talk would have been a disaster. Please don't ruin Red Lobster for me with a "garlic butter on Mom's shrimp scampi" analogy. Just stop.

I agree with you, Dad, that the potential damage done to the father-son relationship by a botched, awkward "talk" far outweighs the benefit of a young boy's having his old man teach him where babies come from. That's why God made health ed teachers. And by the way, even they don't want to have the Talk. When it comes time to explain the birds and the bees, the teacher pops in that Miracle of Life DVD, turns off the lights, and hides in the back of the room while middle schoolers giggle through the fertilization process. The lights come up, kids get a quick lesson on how to put a condom on a piece of farm-fresh produce, and they're sent out into the world. Done. Leave it to the professionals, I say. Same reason I don't change the oil in my car. It's not my area of expertise and it would only hurt the car in the long run.

I guess there was a part of me, though, expecting—not wanting, expecting—to have a talk at some point, no matter how brief or cryptic. Seemed like something fathers and sons did. But maybe it just happened that way in the movies. I was thinking we'd have a chat with a message like the one Laurence Fishburne's character "Furious" Styles delivered to his son Tre in the movie Boyz n the Hood:

FURIOUS: What do you know about sex?

TRE: I know a little bit.

FURIOUS: Oh yeah? What little bit is that?

TRE: I know, I take a girl, stick my thing in her, and nine months later a baby comes out.

FURIOUS: You think that's it?

TRE: Basically, yeah.

FURIOUS: Well, remember this: Any fool with a dick can make a baby, but only a real man can raise his children.

Aaaaand… scene. Concise, straightforward, and profane: everything a kid is looking for in the Talk with his pop. For the record, Boyz n the Hood remains among my top five movies in the history of American cinema. There was a time when I could recite every word of the screenplay from start to finish. If, God forbid, something had happened to you, Dad, I would have mourned appropriately, of course, and then petitioned Furious Styles to adopt me.

It's too late now, but if you and I had had the Talk all those years ago, with you as Furious and me as Tre, I imagine it would have gone something like this:

Int. night. Geist basement. Bill and Willie on the couch watch a Yankee game.

BILL: What do you know about sex?


BILL: Mattingly's swingin' a good bat, huh?

WILLIE: Yeah. Do we have any pretzels?


So, yes, the truth is, I didn't want that Talk any more than you did. What son would? Gross. Besides, there's something to be said for fumbling around in the dark during adolescent on-the-job training—it's part of the deal. You can't be Clooney right out of the gate. In fact, I learned everything I needed to know about sex from the love scenes in Top Gun (thank God Kelly McGillis invited Mav over to dinner that night) and Risky Business (although I never had a hooker over to the house while you and Mom were away for a week).

You see, kids, back in the day, we learned from movies that we lucked into seeing on HBO or Cinemax late at night. They weren't "on demand." We ran into them by chance. We also learned from nudie magazines. The kind with paper pages, that someone had to go buy somewhere. There was not an app to satisfy your peculiar taste in porn. Do you have any idea how hard we had to work just to see a naked woman, for God's sake?

Dad, you had written something for Playboy in the mid-1980s, and you had a couple copies on a shelf in your office at home. Madonna was on the cover. A lady without her clothes! And then more ladies without their clothes inside! For me and Tom Manzi, it was like finding the Dead Sea Scrolls. Now that I think about it, I'm sure you hadn't written a damn thing for that issue. You just had a couple of Playboys in your home office, ya old son of a bitch.

Today you don't even have to walk into a 7-Eleven to buy a pack of condoms anymore. A high school kid today misses out on that uneasy feeling of walking around for several minutes, getting a Gatorade and some Cool Ranch Doritos while he waits for the line to empty out so it's just him and the cashier when that Trojan transaction goes down. Now guys just click on and have an unmarked box holding a year's supply shipped overnight (to a third party's home, of course, so as to avoid Mom's detection). Sex used to be so much more humiliating.

Growing up a couple of decades ahead of the Information Revolution, I was flying blind. The first pseudo-romantic interaction I can remember with a girl was a platonic elementary school kiss with Laurie, our next-door neighbor on Gateway Road. If memory serves me, it was in her room. No idea how I worked my way upstairs into a girl's room at that age, but rest assured it would be a long time until I pulled it off again. Laurie was a great girl but I suspect that first kiss had more to do with proximity than anything else. A short commute through the garbage cans along the property line, and I was in. It was a one-time deal as I recall. A test drive for both of us, and we decided not to buy. Plus, who had time for fourth grade romance with all the WWF professional wrestling to be watched and reenacted in the yard? Love could wait. Hulk Hogan could not.

There was a romantic gap of a couple years until we moved across town in Ridgewood, New Jersey, to "the West Side." I was the new guy at George Washington Middle School. Now, either the girls at my elementary school back on the East Side were Quakers and I didn't realize it, or these West Side chicks had taken French kissing as part of their fifth grade curriculum. I was thrust into a sixth grade version of Eyes Wide Shut. Suddenly there were parties every weekend in big houses where people were spinning bottles and disappearing into closets in seven-minute increments. When you're eleven or twelve years old and you disappear into that closet, you're really making it up as you go. Like Heisman quarterback Johnny Manziel scrambling when a play breaks down—you just go on instinct and make something happen, and hope you don't fumble. Take what the defense gives you.

We paired off at these parties with girlfriends. Girlfriends! I was a couple of months removed from stealing girls' lunches and dunking them in the basketball hoop on the playground at Glen School and now I had to speak to them? Court them? Kiss them? This seems like a good time to issue a blanket apology to my sixth grade "girlfriend" Amanda. I realize now that spending six of our seven minutes in Heaven admiring the array of laundry detergents in the closet was perhaps not what you had in mind. You see, Amanda, no one ever gave me the Talk (thanks for taking the fall for me on this one, Dad).

Middle school is the spring training of young teen sex. You're just getting to know your teammates and learning to play the game the right way. High school, of course, is when things really get serious—the big leagues. Hormones. Booze. Cheerleaders. Cars. My freshman year, I briefly dated a girl named Christina Sharkey. She was beautiful, and smart, and really fun. I wrote her name on the towel that hung from the waist of my football uniform. People needed to know she was with me. I wrote the first letters of her name too big in permanent black marker, so the letters got smaller as they traveled down the shredded strip of bath towel from my mom's collection of linens.

The towel was impressive, sure, but I was a tall, skinny freshman with zits who bore a striking resemblance to Anthony Michael Hall in Sixteen Candles. After a while I just couldn't compete with the older, cooler guys. They had BMWs. I had a BMX.

A couple of years later, though, when Christina and I were juniors and those other dudes were off starting over again in college, we reconnected. We'd been good friends since sixth grade and by the fall of that junior year in high school I was ready to make my move. A group of us were gathered for a party at my best friend Mark's house on November 7, 1991. If that date sounds familiar, it's the one when Magic Johnson announced he had HIV. We huddled and watched.

Mark's room was on the third floor of his parents' house and he had a window out to the roof. We used to hoist cases of beer from the ground outside up to that roof with an elaborate series of pulleys—this to bypass the staircase, where his mother and father would have shut down our trafficking operation. Mark's dad, one of the all-time great guys, but a tough guy, occasionally performed unannounced sweeps of the third floor, looking for beer and women to expel. When we heard his voice, the beer went out on the roof behind the chimney. The girls were hustled into a crawl space. Bob Kossick was the Ness to our Capone.

On the night of November 7, 1991, Christina and I found ourselves talking out on the roof. As the night wore on, even without a "birds and bees" talk in the back of my mind or any sexual know-how beyond what a sweaty, silhouetted Tom Cruise had taught me in Top Gun, I made my move. I leaned over and kissed Christina Sharkey. It was time. Now, it was difficult to go much further, you see, because we were surrounded by our delinquent friends smoking Parliaments and drinking the warm Bud Light from behind the chimney. Everything worked out fine down the road. I mean, we do have those two grandkids of yours, Dad, so you know something went right.

A dozen years after the roof, I married Christina Sharkey. Mark was the best man. It's a fairy-tale romance story, really: two hearts brought together by Magic Johnson, huddled on a bed of asphalt shingles, enjoying fine beer and cigarettes purchased illegally with a United States Marine Corps ID belonging to Mark's older brother. Just the way Christina had dreamed it would happen.

The point of my telling you all this, Dad, is that things turned out pretty damned well without the Talk that neither of us really wanted to have. Now let's never talk about sex again. How about them Yankees?

Chapter 2

Letters from Gang Camp


I was never a camper, Willie.

Kids in my Midwestern, middle-class neighborhood didn't go to summer camps much, and when we did go, it was to a camp of the Vacation Bible School variety. I attended Boy Scout camp one summer and went home early, halfway through, on parents' visitation day. Another year I was enrolled in a day camp held in a public park that was operated, unbeknownst to us when we signed up, by a college fencing coach. It was thrust and parry all day long, baby, with only a lunch break from the lunging: hot dogs, cooked outdoors, because after all this was camp. There was also that YMCA day camp, which I don't believe had activities, just the complimentary gray T-shirt with maroon lettering: INDIAN DAY CAMP. Possibly a little plastic bead stringing.

Willie relaxes between gang fights at camp

Not much camping on your mother's side either. She recalls Camp Kosciusko in Indiana, a church camp where she and her fellow campers hiked into the woods and prayed a lot ("Lord, take me home"). She recalls it now, curiously, as "very stressful and constipating." She spent time one summer at Camp Fannie Bailey Olcott by the shore of Half Moon Lake in Minnesota, a camp that her mother had loved when she went there as a child. Jody was homesick and has PTSD flashbacks to cryogenic early-morning swims.

Your sister went to Camp Bernie about an hour away and wrote a letter home that made it sound as if we'd mistakenly dropped her at a black site for enemy combatants.

Dear Mom and Dad. I've had an OK time. First I started crying cause I missed you and then I got in a fight with Amy and everyone was on her side. And I don't like any of their food and I can't get any sleep around here. Mom call me. I'm not allowed to use the telephone. Say hello to Peaches [our cat] for me. Love, Libby

To make up for that trauma, the following summer we sent her, with a friend, to a picturesque horseback riding camp in upstate New York. You know how they say all little girls love horses. Nope.

Her horse Telstar (named after the communications satellite launched in 1962, probably around the birth date of the horse) had one foot in the glue factory. After Libby clicked and kicked her way through two weeks of camp with nary a trot or a canter, she threatened to eat Telstar if counselors didn't give her a new horse. She missed several meals swearing and crying as she tried to pull off her superglued riding boots.

I wanted you, Willie, to go to a real camp, up north someplace. A camp with crisp fresh air, mildly scented by great stands of pine trees punctuated with white birch, aside a lake of cool, but ultimately refreshing, shimmering pure water, with sailboats and one old wooden Chris-Craft, loons and the occasional moose, and evening song-provoking campfires after the flag was lowered. A camp you might fall in love with, returning year after year, becoming a counselor and making friends for life. And maybe a girls' camp across the lake within covert nocturnal canoeing distance. Was that too much to ask? A camp where you could imbibe the wonders of nature, where you would gain an appreciation for the great outdoors, and where lanyard-making was optional.


  • "A witty memoir."—Parade
  • "[D]elightful... it is lovely, loving and a must read."—Star-Ledger
  • "Affectionate and raucous."—Chicago Tribune
  • "An entertaining mutual memoir."—Tampa Bay Times
  • "I loved this book. It's no surprise the Geists have such broad appeal. I want them to be my dad and brother."—Jim Gaffigan, author of New York Times bestseller Dad Is Fat
  • "Bill and Willie are the wittiest duo I know. Their stories are hilarious. Reading this book made me feel like I grew up a Geist!"—Andy Cohen, host of Bravo's Watch What Happens: Live and author of New York Times bestseller Most Talkative

On Sale
May 20, 2014
Page Count
272 pages

Bill Geist

About the Author

Bill Geist is the New York Times bestselling author of nine books, including City Slickers, Little League Confidential, The Big Five-Oh, Fore! Play!, and Way Off the Road. Geist has won numerous Emmys and in 2011 was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for the hundreds of “singular, informative, entertaining” pieces he has done since joining CBS in 1987. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his service as a combat photographer in Vietnam in 1969. In 2018 he retired from CBS having battled Parkinson’s disease for twenty-five years. Geist lives in Riverside, Connecticut, with his wife, Jody. They have two children, Willie and Libby, and four grandchildren.

Learn more about this author

Willie Geist

About the Author

Willie Geist is the New York Times bestselling author ofAmerican Freak Show. He lives in New York City with his wife. They have two children.

Learn more about this author