Over the last couple of years I traded a good number of e-mails and phone calls with Andrew Breitbart, but I met him only twice. The second time was under almost surreal circumstances: I walked into a packed ballroom at a midtown Manhattan hotel expecting to see Anthony Weiner announce his resignation, and instead saw Andrew at the podium, taking questions from a frenzied gaggle about just what sort of pictures he may or may not have had in his possession, and may or may not release.
Later, when Weiner himself was at the podium, I caught up with Breitbart in a service corridor, where an assistant seemed to be handing him a new cell phone every thirty seconds. Between fielding calls, we chitchatted and I asked him if he had a few minutes to sit down for an on-the-record interview. As he took off briskly down the hall for his next act, he turned and cheerfully told me he was sorry but he didn’t. I sure as hell believed him.
The first time we met was about a year before, at a sports bar he had rented out in the Westwood section of Los Angeles. I was there to write a story about the meeting of a private group (to call it “secretive” would be unnecessarily conspiratorial) of Hollywood conservatives over which Breitbart was something of a den mother. Over beer and pizza, baseball and classic rock, we had a far-ranging conversation that lasted hours. Andrew spoke in fully-formed paragraphs — colons, serial commas, parenthesis, ellipses, the whole deal. His thoughts were always dense and far-reaching, but always coherent and compelling. He spoke of his privileged youth and his wasted adolescence. He spoke of his conservative conversion experience and his role in the conservative movement with an authority and insight that, odd as it may sound, reached beyond the autobiographical and into the realm of the historian. Wild-haired and wild-eyed, armed for combat in a crumpled polo shirt and cargo shorts, he presented the most unlikely personage of a conservative radical you’d ever see.
Intermittently, one of the group’s members — a carousel of bit actors, script doctors, producers, and musicians — would break away from their conversational clusters and join us in our booth. To a man and woman, they sung Andrew’s praises, thanked him for making them feel like conservatives (or “crunchy cons,” or even “moderates,” as many described themselves) weren’t alone in Hollywood. They simply loved the man. He returned their love, and their fierce loyalty. In fact, he returned their loyalty so fiercely that in the end, I found I couldn’t get him to sign off on printing sufficient meeting and membership details to have a story, and so I shelved it. But I’m nevertheless very happy to have been there.
And I can corroborate what John said, at least in small measure. In the few hours we spent together, Andrew was on the phone with his wife or one of his four children a half-dozen times or more — coordinating after-school pickups, extracurricular logistics, an impending trip, or just catching up on their respective days. It is to them, of course, that our prayers now turn. Rest peacefully, Andrew.