On Friday's edition of "The Five," one viewer wrote in and asked the group, "What's the coolest thing they own?"
I said, lamely, my car.
If I had been asked that question a few hours later, I would have given a different answer.
I would have said, "The letter I received (‘in the mail’) from Mr. Orson Bean."
Because he died Friday night, at the age of 91.
He was a tough son of a gun.
The letter itself offered me encouragement and praise for the work I was doing here and it meant everything to me.
Orson was a bona fide Hollywood legend. I could tell you everything -- his time in the service, the movies he starred in, the awards he received, his hosting and guesting "The Tonight Show" -- too many times to count. But that's what obituaries -- and the Wikipedia page they'll be lifted from -- are for (it's true).
He was a relentless, entertainment machine (like no other) and no one who met him didn't come away thinking they had just met someone from another world.
Me -- I'll tell a great story, because Orson told great stories.
When I came to L.A. for a Friends of Abe event (the Hollywood conservative underground group) maybe 10 or 12 years ago, my buddy Andrew Breitbart offered me a place to stay, which I assumed was at his own house. But instead, he drove me an hour or so to Venice, where he said, "You're gonna stay with my father-in-law, Orson." Which was weird -- until I realized how weird it really was.
Orson Bean walked out of his house to shake my hand and tell me how much he loved “Redeye,” the show I hosted on Fox News. At that time “Redeye” was an underground thing -- and will probably remain so, for that matter. But he watched the hell out of it. And proceeded to tell me so many jokes in rat-a-tat fashion that I realized I couldn't keep up with his brain (one inhabiting an eight-decades-old skull). The guy was sharp as a knife, and he could remember everything and tell amazing stories, despite enduring a pretty wild life (he even wrote a book on orgone therapy -- I'll leave you to search that one out).
He was deliriously happy, perhaps due to perceiving his own incredible luck -- a beautiful wife, a fantastic family, a horde of grandkids, an unbelievable career and a strong faith.
As we talked, I noticed that, taped on the front of his fridge, was a photograph of one of the planes flying into the Twin Towers on 9/11. He paused when he saw that I had noticed it, and became emotional, and told me why he had that there, and the purpose it served for him. Because I was so overwhelmed by the situation, I digested almost none of it.
Orson was a relentless, entertainment machine (like no other) and no one who met him didn't come away thinking they had just met someone from another world.
So, as it turns out that wasn't a great story at all. I can't even remember the best part.
Which means, in short, I'm certainly no Orson.
But neither are you. In fact, no one could be Orson -- but him.
Rest in peace.
If you'd like to know more about Orson Bean you can listen to my podcast with him from last year.