RIP, Andrew Breitbart, the Ultimate Happy Warrior
Today is the first anniversary of the death of the ultimate happy warrior, Andrew Breitbart. I met and interviewed Andrew on several occasions from 2005 until his death last year at age 43, which was the very definition of the phrase "untimely passing." Last year, shortly after he passed away, I dusted off the cassette tape of the first interview I had with Andrew, recorded a couple of weeks after meeting him for the first time at the PJM launch in Manhattan on November of 2005. We discussed his first book, Hollywood Interrupted, for quotes and background material for an article on Tinseltown's woes that I was writing for Tech Central Station. What follows below is the post I wrote last year, when I originally ran that interview.
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Early on in Chris K. Daley's new e-book, Becoming Breitbart: The Impact of a New Media Revolutionary, there's a great quote from Mickey Kaus, on the power that Andrew Breitbart had quickly acquired, very early in his career:
In retrospect hitching his star to Drudge was a brilliant decision. This was hardly a given in 1995. Political blogger Mickey Kaus, someone who understood the power of the Internet, recalled, “I first met Breitbart when he showed up at a panel I was on at UCLA. He told me he was the guy who posted items for Matt Drudge, and I immediately realized he was the most powerful person in the room. Nobody could understand why I was sucking up to the crazed hippie kid in shorts.”
The power of Drudge Report comes from the large audience it has generated. By 2007 it was regularly attracting over three million unique visits. The average visitor spent an incredible one hour and six minutes on the site, an eternity in Internet terms. The average visitor went to the site 20 times a month. The Washington Post, a popular link for Drudge, noted in 2006 that its “largest driver of traffic is Matt Drudge.”
And not coincidentally along the way, as a headline at Andrew's Big Journalism site gloats, "Newspapers [have become] America’s Fastest Shrinking Industry."
Flash-forward to the fall of 2004, and Andrew's behind-the-scenes power was very much in evidence, this time changing the face of television news. As Scott Johnson of Power Line noted at the start of the month:
I learned in the course of [my week-long visit to Israel in 2007 with Breitbart] that it was Andrew who changed my life in 2004, linking to our “Sixty-First Minute” post early that afternoon with the screaming siren on Drudge. He confided that Matt Drudge did not like blogs, but that he (Andrew) was a fan. On September 9, 2004, he was following the action online. Thank you, Andrew. Thanks for everything.
But along the way, Breitbart also took detours into other ventures, such as helping to build the architecture of the Huffington Post, and co-writing, with Mark Ebner, their 2004 book Hollywood Interrupted. As I mention in the podcast below, I met Andrew in person for the first time the week of November 14th 2005, during the launch week of PJ Media in New York. After we both had returned to California, on November 28, 2005, I interviewed him by telephone for an article I was working on for Tech Central Station, now called Ideas In Action TV.com, about Hollywood’s box office woes, which was published a week later and titled, a la Woody Allen, "Hollywood Ending."
I loved Hollywood, Interrupted, and I was certainly aware of Andrew's backstage work at the Drudge Report and the celebrity-oriented Huffington Post. So I definitely wanted to get his take on how the movie industry, a medium that we both loved, had been utterly transformed, and not necessarily for the better, since its golden era of the 1930s through the mid-1960s.
This interview was originally recorded onto a cheap mono tape recorder, originally for the purpose of pulling quotes for my Tech Central Station article. And while I’ve done a considerable amount of restoration work (employing both extensive amounts of Izotope's RX audio restoration software and the noise gate plug-in built into Cakewalk's Sonar program), it’s still much cruder sounding than the podcasts and radio shows I’ve produced for PJ Media in the years since. But with Andrew’s passing, I thought it would be worth sharing. So apologies for the sound quality, but I think hearing Andrew riffing on the topic of how the Hollywood of old became, as he would say, Interrupted, is well worth listening to.
There are several observations that Andrew makes here that have withstood the test of time. Early on, there's a grimly hilarious remark by Andrew concerning his ailing grandmother, who emitted a piercing primal scream of terror, whenever anyone attempted to change the TV channel from her beloved CBS, the only channel she apparently ever watched, in sharp contrast to today's world of hundreds of cable and satellite channels and millions of Websites and blogs. At about 17 minutes into the interview, he mentions the punitive liberalism and growing nihilism of Hollywood's product, the latter of which being a topic I discussed extensively with Thomas Hibbs last month, the author of the definitive look at Hollywood nihilism, Shows About Nothing. And two minutes later, Andrew makes a great observation on the popularity of today's show-biz-oriented reality TV shows as a sort of payback by the American people for today's drug-addled screw-up stars abandoning the glamour they maintained during Hollywood's earlier era. Near the end of the interview, you can sort of hear the Big Hollywood Website starting to coalesce in Andrew's mind; a topic he and I would discuss a few years later on PJM's Sirius-XM radio show in 2009.
A transcript of this interview, which I originally typed up in 2005 as raw material for my Tech Central Station article, and thus paraphrases some of Andrew's more stream of consciousness remarks, follows on the next page.
Click below to listen to the podcast:
Since in the past, a few people have complained of difficulties with the Flash player above and/or downloading the audio, use the video player below, or click here to be taken to YouTube, for an audio-only YouTube clip. Between one of those versions, you should find a format that plays on your system.