My father, radio broadcaster Barry Farber, frequently had Orson Bean on his show, on WOR back in the day, and today I asked him for memories. He was very stricken by the news of Orson’s death. He always has a story ready about any given person, or guest, after 60 solid years on the radio.
For each person, famous or obscure, he remembers them for what they did that was either brave, human, comical, or all three. His Orson Bean memory was all of those. Born Dallas Frederick Burrows, he chose “Orson Bean,” he said, “…because it was funny.”
My father was on a segment where they all pretended to be J. Allen Hynek, astronomer and scientific advisor to the U.S. Air Force, who famously lived a life denying UFOs, but changed his mind finally. Speaking funny, this Hynek quote made me laugh out loud:
“In a 1985 interview, when asked what caused his change of opinion, Hynek responded, “Two things, really. One was the completely negative and unyielding attitude of the Air Force. They wouldn’t give UFOs the chance of existing, even if they were flying up and down the street in broad daylight. Everything had to have an explanation. I began to resent that, even though I basically felt the same way, because I still thought they weren’t going about it in the right way.”
Oddly enough, both of my parents were on To Tell The Truth. I can’t locate my mother’s episode, but here’s Barry’s:
“I got one vote, which was great,” my father recalled. “But I didn’t fool Orson.”
While we were at it, I asked him about Hynek, who he also had on his show a few times, and UFOs. “He did believed they existed, yes,” he said.
Bean’s son in law was of course Andrew Breitbart, who married his daughter Susannah. Breitbart credited Bean with disabusing him of his leftist mindset, when Bean urged him to listen to Rush Limbaugh.
This was my father’s Orson memory:
“Orson walked in to the Blue Angel, [very famous New York Nightclub] which opened in 1943.
“He walked right in to the office of the owner, and said: “’I think you ought to hire me to highlight the acts and introduce them. I’m a funny man. The owner, who was hostile, said, “Yeah? Say something funny.” And Orson said: “Bellybutton.” The man cracked up, and hired Orson.”