I was thinking of and missing my late friend Orson Bean. Bean was tragically hit and killed by car in Venice on February 7th in freak and horrible accident.
Bean was 91 years young. The Hollywood legend was a polished and classy renegade, regarded as much for is extemporaneous humor as for his controversial ideologies and outspoken convictions.
Orson Bean was a mentor to Andrew Breitbart—his late son-in-law. Indeed, while he leaned a bit right and I lean a bit left, we managed to meet happily somewhere in the middle. He enjoyed my self-deprecation and I enjoyed that he enjoyed myself deprecation. With his tongue-in-cheek praise he would invariably address me as “Doctor”. I would invariably, but with utmost sincerity address him as “Sir”, as I consider him to be, first and foremost, a sage.
I imagine Orson Bean was always wise beyond his years. Considering he had me beat by about 45 of them, it his hard to determine if having a head start had any influence on his wisdom, but I think not.
Orson and I once joked about my over-education. Like me, he thought the practicality of academic credentials and intellectualism was remote at best. While he spent as little time in school as possible, I became a career student. I think he appreciated my growing disregard and disrespect for too much schooling.
If you were lucky enough to meet the author, actor, comic and media personality, as I was, you’d find it hard to believe that he could be anything, but unassuming, affable and endearing.
Bean was a true and charming thespian. He was passionate about his work on stage and loved live audiences. And he was unapologetic and open when confessing that TV paid the bills. Along with his wife actress Alley Mills, Bean was quite active in the local theatre scene and still very much working and performing when he died.
At Johnny Carson’s request, he guest-hosted the Tonight Show with over 100 appearances. I wouldn’t be surprised if Carson was similarly in awe of his colleague’s extemporaneous humor.
I’d like to think he found me entertaining, if not eccentric in the most likable way. I remember smiling in response to an email in which he graciously and politely asked me how the ‘Missus’ was doing. Orson Bean always made me feel like a contemporary and that was such a great honor.