So this is what it’s like, losing a hero. Today, I read the news that my hero and friend, Andrew Breitbart, had died. He was 43.
Slumped in my chair, struggling to catch my breath, I scanned the news story on his website BigHollywood.com. I sat at my desk in Copenhagen — inside a Creative Suite stuffed with 8 sweet Danish art directors and copywriters, and 1 thin-skinned American — and I cried. A lot. I’ve never cried over the loss of a 'public figure’ ever before.
If I had been alive, I doubt I would have been one of those secretaries fixing her mascara, watching the funeral of Marilyn Monroe on TV. Perhaps I would have cried over the assassination of President Kennedy. But I don't really know. I fancy myself "tough." When Lady Diana died, I was sad, but I did not go into mourning. Those events felt removed from me. Today, I mourn. Deeply. I feel shock, sadness, bottomless heartache for his four kids and his committed sidekick and wife, Susie. And so today, I blog. Because Andrew was a blogger. And he would have wanted it this way.
So I want to tell anyone who stumbles upon this blog a few special things about Andrew.
He was a passionate lover of music. He would tweet for hours about his favorite obscure 80s British rock bands whom I didn’t know, but people far cooler than I did. His favorite group was "The the."
I remember chatting with Andrew on iChat right before he was to go on Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld, the brilliant late-night show. We discussed me writing for him one day, for his site BigHollywood.com.
There has only been one person who could lure me back to California for what would be "The Job of My Life," and he died this morning. As we chatted, Andrew politely excused himself to go on air, then returned to his keyboard 15 minutes later. Full of gusto, back on task.
You see, gestures like that mean everything. Because I am a nobody and Andrew was a Big somebody. But he gave this lil' nobody who used to "work and write for Governor Schwazenegger" his precious time. And little did we know, how precious his time would be.
No one was more plugged into pop culture than Andrew. The Internet was his playground. He started the Huffington Post with Arianna Huffington, back when Arianna was a conservative married to a gay Republican oil-magnate/aspiring politico. Before that, Andrew worked with Matt Drudge, creating and building up the incredible Drudge Report — one of the first of its kind and today, one of the most trusted, most visited news-aggregate sites on the Web.
Andrew was deeply linked to Hollywood. It's where he was born and raised. He was adopted by nice, middle-class Jewish parents who ran a restaurant. Next door lived his best friend (and current business partner) Larry Solov, also adopted. I learned a lot about Andrew reading his book Righteous Indignation — and how his path from Hollywood smart-aleck to conservative pundit was a winding, hilarious road. He lost friends along the way. And made new ones. He was loyal. He was kind.
Andrew kept the secrets of many dear celebrity friends who were too afraid to come 'out of the closet' as Republicans (that whole fear of reprisal and job loss is a drag). Andrew had the good sense to "marry up" as he put it. He was married to Susie Bean, the daughter of actor Orson Bean, whom I "knew" from high school. You see, I spent 4 consecutive high-school homecomings at home, curled up on the sofa watching Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, and Orson was a star on that fine show. So when I learned Andrew had such illustrious Hollywood ties, I loved him even more.
Unlike most father/son-in-law relationships, Orson and Andrew were best friends. Andrew even convinced him to be a guest blogger on his site, BigHollywood.com — a safe-haven for those in the Industry of the neo/conservative/libertarian persuasion.
Back in 2009, when Twitter was rife with fumbling tweeters like myself, my comment referencing Andrew was the first Tweet he ever favorited. I wear that badge with pride. Here’s what I wrote:
Though Andrew grew up in Hollywood and was once a default leftie (like me), he experienced a revelation that pushed him to the other side. When he made the decision to go public as a loud-mouthed blogger and media critic (and boy, was he ever! He declared war on the 'media complex' for their outrageous bias) he assumed the role with fearlessness. It was rumored that he worked 20 hours a day, and he did so with unflinching commitment. He never missed a beat, or some malarkey "news story" to seize on.
He persisted and never veered. From far away, it seemed Andrew could expertly manage being pulled in a thousand directions. He was omnipotent. He zigged while other zagged, always remaining two steps ahead of 'the story' as he buzzed around the globe and the Web. He blogged from the sky, flying in and out of piddily club meetings in podunk towns across the USA, just to help. He was brave and generous, with an unflappable work ethic.
Andrew had grace and an egalitarian approach to people. He passionately made it a point to be accessible to people. All people, real people. I hope people can appreciate today what a rare gift that is. Anybody could talk to Andrew, instant-message him, chat with him, spar with him, of all political beliefs.
His brand of humor was dry and hilarious. And though he had fun, he remained deeply committed to "the fight." To helping dispel the ridiculousness, the hypocrisy and the myths bandied about by a media biased against conservative truths. He loathed that the left controlled the Culture. He was a warrior for the truth. Hated hypocrisy (don't I know that feeling?). He fought for honesty and transparency among our elected officials, and went to great lengths to expose the shenanigans that slithered by us, unreported by the press. Nobody else was doing that.
He gave me my talking points.
I would turn to Andrew for his response on most everything, with the exception of make-up and shoe advice. Any issue, tragedy or triumph, I needed to know where he stood. Like right now, I need Andrew Breitbart to help me make sense of the death of Andrew Breitbart.
Through him, I learned that it was okay to speak up about my politics. I never would have done it in my post-Schwarzenegger life (spent in the welfare-state of Denmark) had it not been for Andrew. He was my rock 'n roll Republican. Unbuttoned and crass, he leveled words like 'cocksucker' at hysterical NY Times journalists; gently swearing as he sipped beer from a plastic cup, while giving speeches to struggling young conservatives.
He assured me that I could be proud to be a conservative — that it didn’t make me *lame.* Laaaame. There’s nothing worse. Or a selfish, greedy asshole — I learned I'm not that either. Or boring - or not a true creative. You see, I'm a "creative" at heart, I've been told. I wear Wayfarers and orange lipstick, and I work in advertising. I try to pretend I'm not a screeching hipster, while reconciling that my blood runs red.
Andrew's close circles were Artists and Creatives in Hollywood. Closet conservatives. His and their street-cred meant a lot to me, because I have an insecure streak. He was the safe place for Republicans in Hollywood to fall.
Andrew had a tough exterior but a soft, loyal interior. A fellow UCLA'er (Adryana) knew him too, and she described him as "misunderstood." He was vilified by left-wing stalwarts. But he was okay with that; and maybe even enjoyed it. The bark was bigger than the bite. "I sleep well at night," he said.
Andrew was a friend to all conservs, moderates and political-searchers of all colors, stripes and religions. He served on the board of GOProud, the gay Republican caucus. It was because of him that I hitched my wagon to the "marginalized Republican," which is why I am today, a dues-paying member of the National Black Republican Association and GOProud. I am neither black nor gay, but I stand with those whom others believe should *not* be in the Grand Ol' Party. Andrew was MY kind of conservative, and what makes me so sad is that there is no one to take his place.
No one. There is a gaping hole in my heart and the rock 'n roll neo-con movement.
Why did I love Andrew Breitbart? For selfish reasons. Because it’s not always easy, being me. Each article he wrote, each news-show he visited, each TeaParty rally he attended in TinyTown USA, each war he waged against hypocrisy was a comforting nod to me that he was on The Job. He was looking after me and my kind. And America. And freedom. He would never let us down. He gleefully carried the weight of the world on his shrugging shoulders.
Andrew’s best friend Larry Solov wrote the announcement of his death: "We have lost a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a dear friend, a patriot and a happy warrior. Andrew lived boldly, so that we more timid souls would dare to live freely and fully, and fight for the fragile liberty he showed us how to love."
I was once a timid soul made less timorous thanks to his outstanding efforts. Andrew, you brilliant muckraker-You, may you Rest in Peace. All I have left to say is: Thank you for looking out for me.