Susie Breitbart, the widow of Breitbart News founder Andrew Breitbart, talked to Greg Gutfeld of Fox News on “The One with Greg Gutfeld” about her husband’s storied career in an interview last week.
Gutfeld began with a story of his own: how he met first met Andrew Breitbart while writing for the Huffington Post, which Andrew helped launch and edit. It was when Andrew encouraged Gutfeld to follow his own instincts (as opposed to micromanaging his talent) that the Fox News personality realized that Breitbart had “major balls.”
“I remember that, and I remember hearing about you long before I met you because he was fascinated with what you were doing, and what you were writing,” Susie Breitbart said with a chuckle. “He loved your style, he loved your humor and your insight. He was, I think at that time, also really trying to own who he was, and become his own person, and no longer be in the shadows of people like Matt Drudge and Arianna Huffington.”
“The way you described him saying ‘Can you change that?’ and then calling you back and saying ‘no, wait, keep it the way it is,’ I think that was him sort of coming into his own at the same time and going, ‘Let’s own this, let’s be who we are,’” she told Gutfeld.
Gutfeld credited Andrew Breitbart with writing half of his best jokes.
“I would send a piece that would be like, let’s say 1500 words. It would come back 3000 words because he added so many jokes, and some of them were so absurd and surreal and like from another planet that it would take a while to understand what he was doing. Then I would edit it out and I would go, ‘No, wait, I can’t edit this out, it’s too good!” Gutfeld reminisced.
“He used to call those your double secret blog posts,” Susie Breitbart said. “You were kind of sneaking in through a back door of the Huffington Post and writing things you weren’t really supposed to.”
Gutfeld compared the “unusual group of friends” around Andrew and Susie to the eclectic cast of a “1970s talk show.”
“That was a really interesting group,” Susie agreed. “I can’t remember who initially formed that group. I want to say I think it was Dale Launer, a screenwriter. He wrote My Cousin Vinny, among other things. That group was just an eclectic group of writers and journalists, and not necessarily politically like-minded people. Andrew was always just fascinated with storytellers, loved being around all types of people.”
Gutfeld recalled his surprise at learning Susie’s father is prolific actor Orson Bean, “who was for me kind of a Sixties and Seventies legend because he was on everything.”
“He was!” she agreed. “To some people my dad was a household name, and some people had never heard of him. He’s so many things to so many different people, because he has done so much. He’s a raconteur, most notably. He hosted The Tonight Show over a hundred times when Johnny Carson was absent, or he was a guest on The Tonight Show within those appearances. He’s been on Broadway, television, movies. He often gets recognized, and it kind of spans across various generations.”
“When we were growing up, game shows were huge, and they’re making a comeback, a lot of them,” she said, remembering her father’s many appearances on classic shows. “The Match Game, Tattletales – which he did with my mom, Caroline, which was like a couples’ game show. He did To Tell the Truth, and I think Hollywood Squares, all of those were a huge part of my growing up too.”
Gutfeld recalled visiting Orson Bean’s house and discovering he kept a news clipping about the 9/11 terror attack pinned to his refrigerator door, because he said it was something that should be remembered every day. Susie Bean Breitbart said she believes the clipping holds that position on her father’s refrigerator to this very day.
She hastened to add that her father is hardly a brooding man.
“He just finished doing a one-man show about his life. His life was very heavy and tragic as a child. Throughout the show, he would tell some really, really tragic story – and then follow it up immediately with a magic trick and a joke, to sort of lighten the mood,” she said. “You can watch his one-man show, it’s on YouTube. That’s his style.”
Susie said she was never a political person herself, although her father and later her husband became major political presences.
“I always had my opinions, of course, but I was a registered independent from the first time I was old enough to vote. The first time I did vote was for H. Ross Perot, because Andrew and I were just kind of fascinated, and amused, and just trying to figure it all out,” she recalled.
“At that time Andrew was becoming increasingly obsessed with the Clarence Thomas hearings, and politics became more prominent in his life. He became more interested in all of that,” she said.
“I was never political in the way he was. He started to be aware of the effect it was having. He would think, ‘Susie never signed up for this,’ because as he became more of a public figure people would approach us and say things at dinner parties, and at schools. It’s not something I had really been prepared for,” said Susie Breitbart.
“I think I always knew that Andrew was going to make a name for himself. When we met and started dating, he was a waiter. I looked at him and I said, ‘This guy’s going to do something.’ He wanted to be a comedy writer, so I figured it was going to be that. He always was very funny. I never figured it would be this, but actually it doesn’t surprise me. It was only a matter of, ‘What’s he going to do next? What’s he going to be?’ Because it was going to be something,” she said.
Gutfeld recalled that politics was almost never the topic of discussion when he hung around with the fun-loving Andrew Breitbart. “He wasn’t angry,” he said.
“I remember we all went on the National Review cruise together, and you and Andrew were both panelists, but other than the work you were doing there and the reason we were there, it was really just a vacation with friends. He was a lighthearted person. He could talk to anyone about anything. It didn’t have to be politics,” she said.
“At some point that became difficult to navigate sometimes. I came home to our first apartment, when we first started dating, to find Jehovah’s Witnesses trying to get out, because they were literally trapped in there. He was so fascinated with exploring people, and stories, and ideas. He could talk to anyone about anything, and he knew something about everything,” she said.
Of course, politics came to dominate Andrew Breitbart’s later career, becoming “the reason people wanted to talk to him in some instances.”
Gutfeld remembered Andrew’s particularly strong feelings about 80s New Wave music.
“He had this Friday night Twitter DJ thing that he would do with 80s music,” Susie said. “I’m still not on Twitter, so I wasn’t able to really follow it when it was happening, but he loved it. He was obsessed with New Wave, British pop.”
Gutfeld asked for Susie’s take on the most under-appreciated facet of Andrew’s personality.
“I think because he considered himself to be somewhat of a warrior, people assume that he was an instigator,” she observed. “He really wasn’t a fight-picker. He liked people to a fault. It was pretty easy to ingratiate yourself to Andrew. He was someone who felt that he needed to stand up for what was right, and stand up to bullies. There was this very intense warrior-like side of him, but the side that people didn’t really get to see when he became more of a public figure was that he was such a lighthearted, funny, crazy, smart, sensitive guy.”
“There is some of that out there,” she added. “He went on your show Red Eye, and I think tweaked his nipples after snorting a powdered form of red wine or something.”
“That’s true!” Gutfeld laughed.
“That’s out there, but I don’t think most people are Googling ‘Breitbart’ along with the terms ‘goofy, lighthearted, silly.’ They’re more Googling ‘controversy, Trump,’ you know,” said Susie.
Gutfeld recalled how Andrew was once thrown off his game before a Red Eye appearance because he was worried his daughter was mad at him for leaving a slumber party early.
“That was a bigger deal to him than anything,” Gutfeld said. “And he always used to say that he was so lucky he was married to you. He would say to me, ‘I can’t believe she married me.’ Because we would sit and commiserate over stuff, and he would say that. He would just laugh and go, ‘How did I get this lucky?’”
Gutfeld laughed as he recalled the great downside to Andrew’s easy affection for people: “He would introduce you to somebody that is not a good person, but he was so forgiving… he took in stray dogs, you know what I mean?”
“He did,” Susie agreed. “My dad always says about his wife Alley when he’s ready to leave a party, he says, ‘She has a character flaw: She likes people.’ Andrew and I had to develop a kind of shorthand at some point that meant – me looking at him which said, ‘I love you, but I’m ready to go home. I’ll be taking the car, and you can take a taxi in three hours when you’re done talking to this guy.’”
“And sometimes that guy would come home with him, and he would stay at our house for a weekend,” she added. “I’m not kidding. He would bring people home, and just the way he opens my dad’s guest house to you…”
“Yes! I was one of those stray dogs!” Gutfeld cried.
“Sometimes we got lucky and the stray dog was Greg Gutfeld. Sometimes it wasn’t so lucky,” said Susie.
“He was really interested in just exploring people’s character and personalities. Sometimes he would delve in without really vetting the situation, I would say. He was a nice person, too. He didn’t want to turn people away, I suppose,” she said.
Susie Breitbart said writing has been part of her healing process.
“Initially I started writing for my kids, because I want them to remember who he was as a person. It’s so easy, I think of my own childhood so I can conjure up stories when I’m asked, like what was it like growing up with my dad, or whatever,” she recalled.
“Really I feel like most of the time I’m just culling through like a shoebox full of Polaroid pictures, and I have to really make myself remember. So I want to put down these stories on paper for my kids, and I want to collect stories from other people who had personal interactions with Andrew, because I don’t want them to just see the biased tidbits that are out there on the Internet, that really only capture his persona,” she said.
“They don’t necessarily capture who he was, this whole other side of him,” she maintained. “He was this intense, and thoughtful, and intelligent person – but he was also, like you said, a goofball. I think you referred to him recently as just a big hairy dad. And he was that! He was so many things. He was such a good friend to so many people, and so many people who disagreed with him. He was all of those things. I want them to remember that.”