Four-Foot-Tall Hooker Dies at 40, Drawing Huge Headlines

By Will Godfrey 10/21/11

"Little Bit,"  a much-beloved former prostitute who led a colony of recovering drug addicts, couldn't escape her own dark past.

Little Bit of Love Photo via

A four foot tall former streetwalker—well-known in San Francisco by the name "Little Bit"—was celebrated in a lengthy and respectful San Francisco Chronicle obituary following her death last month. Though she was  addicted to heroin and crack for decades, the "raspy-voiced", diminutive, much-beloved local character, whose real name was Susan Beach, cleaned up and moved successfully into supportive housing a year ago, along with her partner and her two pet rats. Since then she has emerged as the self-proclaimed leader of "Homeless Island," a colony of street kids and drug addicts who had set up shop on a traffic triangle in the city. But her previous long-term drug abuse sadly caught up with her when she died from kidney failure last month at the age of 40. Her story echoes the words of an expert who spoke at the Vancouver Missing Women inquiry yesterday. Thomas Kerr, co-director of the Addiction and Urban Health Research Initiative at the British Colombia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, cited a 2007 study that found 63% of sex-trade workers said they would quit sex work if they quit using drugs: "They said they would forgo the activity if they didn't need the money for drugs." He added that many street sex workers are robbed by men who assume they're carrying money and drugs. The inquiry is investigating problems in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, the scene of numerous assaults, disappearances and murders in recent years. A 1998 survey of San Francisco's prostitutes found 75% reported a drug abuse problem and 27% an alcohol abuse problem, with the duration of these problems ranging from three months to 30 years. “I know what I could do if I could shake the dope,” Little Bit told the San Francisco Chronicle when she was still on the street in 2003. “I could really do something with myself. But it’s so damn hard. Real hard.”

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.