February 8, 2020

"Believing America’s generals were planning an imminent coup d’état, Mr. Bean abandoned his thriving career and moved his family to Australia in 1970."

"He became a disciple of the Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich and wrote a book about his psychosexual theories, 'Me and the Orgone.' (The orgone was a pseudoscientific theory about a universal life force.) When the book appeared in 1971, Mr. Bean returned to America with his wife and four children and for years led a nomadic life as an aging hippie and 'househusband,' casting off material possessions in a quest for self-realization. 'We were so sure we didn’t want to be possessed by things and so intent on not having them that we gave away almost everything we owned,' he wrote in a 1977 Op-Ed in The Times. 'We entered what I now call our late hippie stage. We tossed the kids into the van, bummed around the country, sponging on our friends and putting the kids in school wherever we happened to light.' In his dropout years, as he recalled in a memoir, he experimented with psychedelic drugs, communal sex and other excursions into self-discovery. His peripatetic family collected driftwood and books, and at night read aloud to one another."

From "Orson Bean, Free-Spirited Actor of Stage and Screen, Dies at 91/The television, stage and film comedian starred on Broadway, was blacklisted as a suspected Communist, founded a progressive school and moved to Australia before returning to the U.S." (NYT).

If you remember Orson Bean, it is probably not for his hippie phase. As the NYT puts it, he is "remembered for early panel shows, which, in contrast to the culture of greed, noise and kitsch of modern game shows, were low key, relatively witty and sophisticated." You know, stuff like this:



He also acted in plenty of of movies and TV shows, notably the "Mr. Bevis" episode in the first season of "Twilight Zone." Clip:



Another distinction: Orson Bean was the father-in-law of Andrew Breitbart.

ADDED: Bean did not die of old age. He was struck by a car as he crossed the street in Los Angeles.

And this is interesting, from 2014, 3 years after the death of Andrew Breitbart, "Orson Bean on God, America, and Yesterday's Hollywood that Embraced Both" (Breitbard):
Bean said Breitbart resonated with so many people because he was fighting to right that culture, which he said is decaying, with optimism and joy. And he did it in an unconventionally fresh and unique way that warranted Breitbart’s name to be a trademarked, one-of-a-kind brand. Bean said it was Breitbart’s larger-than-life spirit that makes people come up to him to this day with tears in their eyes, saying, “you’re Andrew Breitbart’s father-in-law!”

Breitbart, who once was a fierce liberal, may never have been a conservative or built the foundation for his media empire had he not seen a Rush Limbaugh book in Bean’s library.

“Take it home and read it, Andrew,” Bean recalled telling his son-in-law.

And the rest is history.

76 comments:

TJM said...

Orson Bean was a funny, charming man. I remember him fondly, mostly from his game show appearances. May he rest in peace

RoseAnne said...

Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman

Quaestor said...

Orson Bean was a "free spirit". He also sponged on his friends.

Right.

My dog had some upper intestinal free spirits until I gave him ivermectin.

GatorNavy said...

An interesting life lived by an interesting man who was blacklisted because of a, quote, cute communist girlfriend to being the father in law to Andrew Breitbart.

tcrosse said...

His dad was a founding member of the ACLU and a campus cop at Harvard.

gilbar said...

so?
In 1970, he believed that THE GENERALS were planning an Imminent COUP, and fled to Auz
where he wrote a book, that had book sales
SO!
in 1971, he came back to the United States; where he lived the rest of his life

we're supposed to believe this?
In 1970, a Coup is SO IMMINENT, that you Have To flee the country
THE VERY NEXT FUCKING YEAR, you come back on a book tour?
Anybody think of Anything different in 1971, than in 1970?
Any body?
I call malarkey!

Meade said...

“Anybody think of Anything different in 1971, than in 1970?
Any body?”

Yo.

Maillard Reactionary said...

Another 60's-70's crackpot, apparently. Dime a dozen. Not impressed, but RIP anyway.

Rory said...

He guest starred in an excellent episode of Two and a Half Men.

Rusty said...

Quaestor said...
"Orson Bean was a "free spirit". He also sponged on his friends."

Like Thoreau?

Howard said...

My parents adored Orsen Bean. I'm happy he died doing what he loved most. Strolling the Venice Beach canals.

MadisonMan said...

I did always like him on Game Shows. Great name.
When I saw the twitter notification that he died in a traffic incident, I assumed it was him driving and having a medical emergency while behind the wheel. Sorry to learn he was struck down as a pedestrian. I assume that's how I'll die if I keep walking around Madison. The drivers (and bicyclists) in this town are horrible.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Howard said...

Luckily, he had sponge-worthy friends

Third Coast said...

Bean was actually transitioning to the conservative side of things as he aged. He did a national weekend radio talk show (which apparently even the internet doesn't mention) for several years that was quite entertaining. Seemed like a good guy with a great sense of humor.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

His other son-in-law is Dennis Miller. What a family!

traditionalguy said...

Brietbart has become the Drudge Report for Trump lovers, especially since Drudge joined the other side. And Rush Limbaugh was the first in that tall tree.

rcocean said...

I remember him from some Game show he was always on. OR maybe it was some TV talk show my Mother watched like Mike Douglas or Merv Griffith. I remember everyone acted like he was super smart and intellectual. If he was witty, it went over my very small head.

And let me translate NYTese: "suspected of being a communist" = A communist who publicly denied being one. I thought it was pretty well established that Bean was a Communist and then left the party.

rcocean said...

Here's Bean on the Blacklist:

The blacklist of people on the left grew out of a defacto blacklist of people on the right within the industry,” recalls Orson. “There was communist directors, members of The Party, who only would cast you if you were also a member of The Party, or they were trying to woo you as a member of The Party. A lot of rightwing actors…were really furious at them. So when the Cold War happened…these rightwing actors, who had been seething for years about the way the communists were infiltrating the Hollywood business and were infiltrating the unions too, took their revenge. I don’t think that story’s ever been written because it’s not attractive for the Left.”

Mark said...

for years led a nomadic life as an aging hippie and 'househusband,' casting off material possessions in a quest for self-realization. . . . 'we gave away almost everything we owned . . . We entered what I now call our late hippie stage. We tossed the kids into the van, bummed around the country, sponging on our friends and putting the kids in school wherever we happened to light.'

In other words, he abused and neglected his kids.

wild chicken said...

I read that Orgone book, back in the day, when I thought I had a lot of problems.

n.n said...

Polygamy. Shard spouse. Friendship with benefits. Sexual-religious/moral progress.

The classical progressive sects had some ideas about shared solutions and public smoothing functions that were worth considering. The fascists came next. The socialists made a great leap. Contemporary progressive liberals march forward in their steps. Wasn't he a fan of the most revered leader Mao? The preeminent communist leader of the Hitler, Stalin progression? Maybe it was someone else. h/t NYT style guide

RIP, Mr. Bean.

Mark said...

Bean had to have been fairly instantly memorable as an actor because I distinctly remember him, but looking at his listings on IMDb, I do not remember any of these specific shows/movies.

Otto said...

After a series of posts this morning whose theme was -"whoas my 60 liberalism is dead" Ann goes down 60 Liberalism's memory lane. Poor Ann, all that is left is story telling, there was never any substance. Trump exposed that.

Rob said...

He was a frequent guest on Johnny Carson. Bean would talk about the deadly Gaboon viper, “which bites you on the gaboon.”

gilbar said...

I have to admit, I Always Did find Mr Bean really funny, in a weird way
The Good News Is:
Now, he has his own you tube channel!
https://www.youtube.com/user/MrBean

Char Char Binks, Esq. said...

Michael Caine spelled his own name wrong! The last contestant was the only one who remembered to put a period after his name.

David Begley said...

No idea Bean was a communal sex guy.

Char Char Binks, Esq. said...

Bean died doing what he loved most — getting hit by a car.

Wilbur said...

Here's an interview with him, on an interesting website: http://classicshowbiz.blogspot.com/search?q=orson+bean

Jupiter said...

I read that orgone book too. I had a couple friends who were way into Wilhelm Reich and his "orgone energy", which he claimed was a "life energy", flowing all through us and the rest of the world all the time. If you looked at the horizon, you could see the orgone energy rising up from the Earth into the sky. Which is true. At least, you see something that appears to be rising up from the Earth into the sky, although I suspect it is an optical illusion of some kind. We built an "orgone accumulator", basically a wooden box lined with aluminum foil, as I recall, out in the Vermont woods in the Winter. Really beautiful, sitting out there in the moonlight, on top of 12 feet of snow. I don't remember what we were high on, probably just weed. Then my friend suggested it would work better if we took our clothes off. Didn't see that coming. He didn't press the issue. Interesting guy, I wonder what's become of him.

Temujin said...

Wow...
What an interesting life. I well remember Orson Bean, though I did not know why he dropped out and completely missed his late-stage hippie years. That he and Andrew Breitbart ended up in family is something I had forgotten.

Very interesting life, even his end.

Jupiter said...

Are those Commie-scum lawyers from Chicago still suing Breitbart's widow for that evil black bitch from Georgia?

Don said...

Wasn’t he a regular on Hollywood Squares?

AllenS said...

English built Austin Healey 3000 in the bottom picture. Bought one in 1968 after I was discharged from the Army. Restored it, and sold the car about 4 years ago. Cool car.

rehajm said...

Yup. The talk shows and the game shows. *Tattletales. He had a light air that made him a staple on Merv and Mike and Dinah.

*Tattletales plays On Game Show Network. It runs at a breakfast place I frequent. The show stayed amazingly fresh...

AllenS said...

I bought a used 1966 in 1968, would be more accurate.

tcrosse said...

A regular parlor trick he did on TV in the 1950's was to turn a newspaper into a paper eucalyptus tree.

Rory said...

"Tattletales plays On Game Show Network. It runs at a breakfast place I frequent. The show stayed amazingly fresh..."

"To Tell the Truth" where Bean was often a panelist, remains a remarkably tight little show.

Ann Althouse said...

"A regular parlor trick he did on TV in the 1950's was to turn a newspaper into a paper eucalyptus tree."

I remember guys turning newspapers into "trees" like that in the 1950s.

Can Of Cheese for Hunter said...

"Believing America’s generals were planning an imminent coup d’état"

?

Orly said...

At least the driver of the car that hit Orson stopped and tried to help.

John Borell said...

No idea who he was. But my thought was typical hippie, leftist, bumming off working people.

“ We tossed the kids into the van, bummed around the country, sponging on our friends and putting the kids in school wherever we happened to light.”

David Blaska said...

Orson Bean also played the disappointingly young psychiatrist expert witness in "Anatomy of a Murder."

Wince said...

Some of Orson Bean's best work was on "To Tell the Truth", when he started drawing a clever image of the theme of the guest on his card integrated with the number of his pick.

Danno said...

I suppose you could possibly attribute being hit by a car as related to old age, assuming the accident wasn't some freak thing.

Jupiter said...

His book was pretty weird. All this stuff about "psychic armor", which was some kind of muscle spasm he was getting, that his psychiatrist (a Reichian) was attributing to his organism tensing up in fear of something or other. The psychic armor blocks the flow of orgone energy, and so naturally that can't be good.

Scott said...

Orson Bean's One Man Show, performed when he was an old guy.

Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William said...

I remember him more for his name than for any particular role...Apparently some of the kids turned out okay. From the bare facts, it does look like they endured some chaos.....It's very rare for a free spirit from the entertainment industry to embrace Rush Limbaugh. A free spirit who believed in free enterprise. Who knew such things were even possible. He was definitely a one off.

Lurker21 said...

"Member of the Communist Party" is a tricky concept. Like a lot of people, Bean attended meetings. His story was that he was dating a sympathizer. I wonder when that was, because when Orson came of age in the late '40s, communism was much less popular than it had been in the '30s. He was put on a blacklist, but continued to work. I don't think he was ever actually a party member.

His father was a founder, or at least an early member of the ACLU. That may account for a lot in Orson's journey through life.

Mark said...

I see that there is another actor who apparently just died -- Kevin Conway.

Like many others, he is one of those people who I could have sworn died years ago.

MayBee said...

Andrew Breitbart's father in law.

Tina Trent said...

In order to get all the way to going to CP meetings, you would have already gone a long way into the American Stalinist movement. And that movement required extraordinary loyalty, professed ideological purity, and a willingness to commit to treason against America. Not just anyone was allowed in. You had to pledge literal fealty to Stalin. And nobody didn't know what Stalin was doing, except very stupid and very brainwashed people, who are in no way always the same people.

Interesting how many of us have read the Orgone book. I did. Looking back on the pervy psychedelic sex hippy movement, it was all wealthy academicians and their wealthy pals. It's easy to "give away your material possessions" when you've got a personal banker holding your trust fund and to "drop out" of society if you had tenure.

Meanwhile, the other Mr. Bean has been cancel cultured by the current commies.

dreams said...

I think it was on The Tonight Show that an older Orson Bean told the story of a person on the elevator with him asking "weren't you Orson Bean?"

Michael said...

I heard Bean on some late night local radio talk show in the 80s. He talked at length about some book by some Czech dissident named Vaclav Havel titled The Power Of The Powerless. Took me several weeks to find some mail order catalog that had it.

That book changed how I view the world.

Thank you Orson. Rest in peace.

tcrosse said...

Orson Bean did a YouTube series on
The Art of Telling Jokes

Darrell said...

Bean did not die of old age. He was struck by a car as he crossed the street in Los Angeles

He was struck by two cars. After being hit, a second car was coming and the bystanders tried to warn the driver but that caused the driver to panic and roll over Bean.

Darrell said...

I always like Bean. He appeared to be an interesting and funny guy who keep popping up on afternoon talk shows like Merv Griffin. Some of his best stories were about his relative Calvin Coolidge, who was President when Bean was born. He was fascinated with him and tried to learn as much as he could through family and CC's friends. Bean used to talk fondly about Coolidge's small government conservatism, so I never took him as a hard-core Lefty.

Howard said...

Love Kevin Conway. He had way more miles than his 77-years. He played the father of the century in Oz.

Bill Peschel said...

Orson had some interesting comments on the blacklist:

"The blacklist of people on the left grew out of a defacto blacklist of people on the right within the industry,” recalls Orson. “There was communist directors, members of The Party, who only would cast you if you were also a member of The Party, or they were trying to woo you as a member of The Party. A lot of rightwing actors…were really furious at them. So when the Cold War happened…these rightwing actors, who had been seething for years about the way the communists were infiltrating the Hollywood business and were infiltrating the unions too, took their revenge. I don’t think that story’s ever been written because it’s not attractive for the Left.”

In an interview with Kliph Nesteroff, he added a few details:

Kliph Nesteroff: At the time Bud Collyer was very involved in AFTRA.

Orson Bean: Yeah and he would have been on the far right. Prior to the Hollywood Ten, the left dominated Hollywood and blacklisted right wing people too... well, not the famous ones like Adolph Menjou or Charles Colburn, but a lot of people were cast in movies because they were members of the party or being wooed by communists.

If you look at the cast lists of some of the film noir with Edward Dmytryk, it's all communists. A lot of my friends were communists. We didn't think anything of it, but there was a rage that built up amongst the right wingers. I got caught up in that. The blacklist never affected Broadway, however, because it was sponsors who did the blacklisting - not the networks.

Kliph Nesteroff: You did a Broadway show called "Men of Distinction" and in the cast - as an actor - was Martin Ritt.

Orson Bean: Marty Ritt... did he get blacklisted or not?

Kliph Nesteroff: He was one of the more high-profile people that was blacklisted, yeah.

Orson Bean: The blacklist was a protection racket. The networks had to pay fifty bucks a head to clear people and they would have to do it week after week. If someone was a series regular they had to pay to clear them again the next week. So they didn't want the blacklist, but it was Campbell's Soup and people like that who did the blacklist. The reason the blacklist never took hold on Broadway was because there were no sponsors. So Marty Ritt could work...

Roughcoat said...

I remember Bean on the Tonight Show or Dick Cavett arguing with Bruno Bettelheim about elementary school education. People would that Bettelheim was an expert who knew what he was talking about and Bean was an amateur. This was before Bettelheim had been exposed as a fraud and fabulist and a son-of-bitch.

Bill Peschel said...

I remember Orson from the game show, his distinctive voice, and his wit. Shame to see him go like this.

Tom T. said...

"His father was a founder, or at least an early member of the ACLU.”

Bean wrote of the house being "full of causes" as he grew up, but then his mother committed suicide when he was 16.

At the time of his death, he was married to the Mom from the Wonder Years, which makes an odd counterpoint to his own hippie phase.

Roughcoat said...

The Coens' "Hail, Caesar" hilariously skewers 1950s Hollywood commies.

effinayright said...

Roughcoat said...
I remember Bean on the Tonight Show or Dick Cavett arguing with Bruno Bettelheim about elementary school education. People would that Bettelheim was an expert who knew what he was talking about and Bean was an amateur. This was before Bettelheim had been exposed as a fraud and fabulist and a son-of-bitch.
****************

Yes. Bettelheim used to smack around autistic child patients--and thus was referred to derisively as "Brutal Bettelheim".

See: https://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2018/04/11/the-horrible-truth-about-bruno-bettelheim-revealed-in-letters-to-the-editor

Theranter said...

Scott @10:44, that was a great watch, thank you.

rcocean said...

"If you look at the cast lists of some of the film noir with Edward Dmytryk, it's all communists. A lot of my friends were communists."

Or you can look at "body and soul" 1947. Director, Producer, Writer - all communists.
And almost every actor a communist, (Ann Revere, Lloyd Gorough, Canada Lee, etc.) except for Lille Palmer and John Garfield who were accused of being Communists. If Palmer and Garfield weren't communists, they constantly worked with Communists, had communist friends and relatives, and never criticized the Communists, until they had to.

Bilwick said...

I remember Bean on WFB's "Firing Line" show circa 1975. Bean joked that he was probably the only guy in history who had been blacklisted twice: once in the Fifties, when he was suspected of Communist sympathies; and again in the Sixties or early Seventies, when he "came out" as a conservative. (Later, as a libertarian.) He liked to joke that "a 'liberal' is someone who will fight to the death for your right to agree with him."

loudogblog said...

Orson Bean was also a contributor to Mad magazine in 1957 and 1958.

jameswhy said...

Orson Bean and I are both descendants of Annie Pollard, said to be the first European woman to set foot in what became Boston. She was a 10 year old in the Bradford party of Puritans who came over in 1640 and settled at the foot of Tre Mont, or Three Hills. She eventually married Pollard, ran a tavern on the edge of Boston Commons and had like 13 kids who lived. Pollard died young and Annie ran the tavern for 50 years, died at age 105 and had 125 relatives at her funeral. Orson's family went up to Vermont, mine to southern NH. We always talked about Cousin Orson when he was on TV when we were kids.

Josephbleau said...

“Anybody think of Anything different in 1971, than in 1970?
Any body?”

I don’t think he moved away to avoid the draft, he would have been 41 years old then. But I don’t really know how it worked.

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Lurker21 said...

When Bean's generation reached middle age in the 60s, they could have the most outrageous ideas and yet not really stand out, because they'd had the same upbringing and gone through the same experiences as other people - the Depression, the War, the Cold War, postwar prosperity.

You came from the same place and spoke the same language, even the things you said were different. Or so it seems from the perspective of today, when people live very different lives and are born and live in different cultural "bubbles" separate and opposed to each other.

People could really hate each other in the 70s, but it seems that the generation gap overshadowed those political differences. If you were over forty, you could be on the side of "the kids," but still you did have the same background and formative experiences as those in your own generation who you opposed - different experiences from those of the young radicals or drop-outs.

And people went through changes in Bean's day. He was very different in one decade than he was in the next. Today people stay in their tribe and there doesn't seem to be as much change from one era to the next. Maybe the big change in Bean's lifetime was the transition from scarcity to abundance and the other changes in style and attitude grew out of that. Now that we are living in abundance (more or less) people don't go through such wrenching transformations.

zefal said...

He and his wife tell a ghost story on Tattletales. They were renting a house {in Australia} and his wife saw a black entity but didn't say anything because she didn't believe what she had seen. She needed to go to the bathroom (they were in bed by this time) and asked Orson to go with her and wait by the door whereupon Orson sees the black entity. They vacated the house the next day.

zefal said...

BTW they lived in Australia for four years and not one.