Andrew Breitbart Was 43

I met Andrew through Cathy Seipp in 2002 and the last time I saw him was at her funeral in 2007.

During those five years, Andrew and I were at the same parties about 50 times and we had many conversations.

In late 2007, I gave up on making my living from blogging and our paths diverged. We occasionally stayed in touch online.

Mickey Kaus kept blogging that one day all of us would work for Andrew Breitbart.

(Andrew often said that “Mickey is smarter than all of us.”)

I interviewed Breitbart twice for my blog — in 2004 and in 2009.

There was no difference between Andrew’s public and private persona (except that in public he took the normal precautions to preserve important relationships).

Around 2004, he took me to dinner at the Magic Carpet and then we walked Pico Blvd and talked about our plans. He wanted to make a big impact on the world for conservative values. He was thinking about making a documentary. He wondered if we could do anything together.

We were pioneering bloggers who’d felt for years that we were the future of journalism. We’d tasted some success but wanted much more.

We were scruffy and disreputable and yearning for acclaim.

We were looking for our niche. “Blogger” was not sufficient.

Andrew badly wanted to be a pundit. I badly wanted out of porn. We both wanted mainstream success and respectability. We had inexhaustible appetites for attention and we were willing to brawl online to get it.

Breitbart was not satisfied with his present position at the Drudge Report, even though it allowed him to provide well for his family.

Andrew told me many things off-the-record (which leading conservative thinkers were gay, how the Drudge Report got many of its scoops, etc) and he appreciated that I always respected that status. He talked about the leading conservative intellectuals who’d push for play on DrudgeReport.com. He was careful about his relationship with Matt Drudge and wanted to make sure that I would never reveal anything that would damage that.

Trusting me with all sorts of damaging information, Andrew demonstrated a deep capacity for friendship. We only had positive interactions. When I heard about Andrew falling out with people I knew, I instinctively took Andrew’s side (though I knew he was tempestuous and a loose cannon).

The conservative blogger sometimes said to me that he wished he could be religious but that he had no natural inclination in that direction. We never talked about dying or the next life. He never displayed any concern about his health (though the well-being of his family was always a top priority).

Andrew made a bigger impact on the American body politic then he imagined during our dinner in 2004.

He would be thrilled at all the attention he’s received today (and over the past three years).

The second to last time I heard from Andrew was via AIM on Dec. 30, 2010. He said this Die Antwoord video was the freakiest thing he’d ever seen.

The last time I heard from Andrew was via AIM on Feb. 17, 2011. He was pushing the Pigford scandal.

What sticks in my mind about Andrew was how generous he was. For instance, he was always generous with his opinions. Our conversations were 90% Andrew and 10% me. That was fine as I didn’t know as many people as he did and didn’t have as much gossip.

I learned through blogging that my gift is not in advocacy, and so as I’ve aged, I’ve felt less and less need to share my opinions.

Andrew loved to talk and I loved to listen. He was far more successful than I was and I wanted to know more about how he did it.

I was not so much interested in his ideas as in his observations, particularly the gossipy ones. Andrew was more of an activist than an intellectual.

Though our political and cultural views were virtually identical, Andrew was far more partisan. Politics played the same role in Andrew’s life as religion did in mine. As I went to shul almost every day, Andrew went to political battle.

Because I agreed with him, it was easy for me to love Andrew. If I were a left-winger, however, it would be hard not to hate Andrew Breitbart.

We were both interested in and affected by the porn industry. Andrew had watched a great deal of Cinemax growing up and he respected a great set even when they were bestowed on political adversaries such as Susan Sarandon.

Behaviorally, Andrew was monogamous. Intellectually, he had to know.

His mission in life was to take down the left.

I never saw Andrew at peace. His life was always drama.

Andrew and I were sad about Cathy’s terminal lung cancer. It never occurred to either of us that we too could go in our 40s.

Here are some of my past references to Andrew on my blog:

February, 2002: “I chat with Andrew Breitbart, assistant to Matt Drudge. He’s listened to Dennis Prager almost daily since 1991, about the same length of time as me.”

February, 2005: “11pm. I walk out with Sandra Tsing Loh and Andrew Breitbart. Andrew insists that Sandra opens up the vodka bottle she won during the night’s festivities and they start taking shots on the street. The bouncer quite properly moves them along.”

April, 2005: “While locked in an intense discussion about “tumescence” with Andrew Breitbart (he didn’t know the meaning of the word), I found my hand smushing something soft and inviting. I looked over and noticed I was fondling Jackie’s breast in front of her fiance Antoine (the only white guy I’ve met with that name). Neither of them minded and neither did I.”

I believe the first time I had an extended conversation with Andrew was at a party I went to in 2002 at the Culver City apartment of Wired’s Noah Shachtman.

Our interaction that night set the template for our future — Andrew would hold forth and I would hold on.

I grew up an evangelical Seventh-Day Adventist and Andrew’s conversion fervor was familiar to me.

Noah writes today:

…But I knew a different Andrew Breitbart, the one before he started his eponymous series of conservative websites, before he co-founded the left-wing Huffington Post, and before became a best-selling author. In the middle of the 2000s, Breitbart was still the (largely) hidden hand behind the uber-popular Drudge Report. He was a partisan back then, a deep one. But he was more interested in shooting the shit with friends than in picking political fights.

Back then, Breitbart was at the center of a remarkable journalistic scene in Los Angeles, where every reporter — left-wing and right, two-bit porno-bloggers and high-powered Los Angeles Times columnists — all had a place. Zany, self-depreciating, unkempt, potty-mouthed and magnetic, Breitbart was impossible to dislike. He could talk to anybody, and he did. He loved cheesy ’80s music in inverse proportion to the bands’ quality. His poker playing was charmingly abysmal. His wife and enormous brood of kids were radiant. He saw himself as a high school nerd, about to wreak vengeance on the press’s popular kids with his new media plays. I felt not dissimilarly, at the time. We cemented a friendship there, even if it meant occasionally enduring some rant about Al Sharpton. It was one of the happiest periods of my life.

This article in BuzzFeed about Breitbart’s contributions to the Huffington post rings true to me:

“He taught us a lot of things early on,” Peretti said, recalling how Breitbart showed them key features of the media ecosystem. “He explained about looking at the British newspapers late at night because they would sometimes break news before the U.S. papers. He cared about getting links up seconds or minutes faster than other publications and was obsessive about that.”
Breitbart was also a font of ideas, not all of which made it into practice.
“He wanted every commenter to have to pay $1 to comment, and the dollar would go to charity but the user’s true identity would be authenticated through a credit card,” Peretti recalled, noting that the idea prefigures current attempts to authenticate identity online.
He also proposed “a phone number where celebrities could call in and leave voice blogs that would automatically appear on the site ,” Peretti recalled. “He wanted that built before launch, and launch was four days away.”
His creativity, as many who worked with him know, could be hard to contain.
“He was just incredibly difficult to have in the office – he was totally ADD and would jump from idea to idea. He would spend hours playing fantasy baseball during the day. He was incredibly good at fantasy baseball,” Peretti said, but then started talking to another Huffington Post employee about starting a fantasy baseball company amid the Huffington Post launch.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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