I hadn’t planned on writing my own memories of Andrew. I figured I would leave that up to those who had more entertaining stories or were closer to him than I was. But, as I broke down crying in the car earlier, thinking about Andrew, and how much he is missed, I felt compelled to write this post, for what it’s worth.
I remember when the Breitbart sites started. I was sitting in the living room of my Chelsea apartment in NY in 2009 and in awe of Big Hollywood. (Who of you recalls the old layout?) ‘What a neat idea,’ I thought. I sent Andrew a Facebook message and he sent me a Friend request. A few weeks later, he posted he was on a flight to NY. I sent him a message and invited him to meet at SoHo House that evening. Andrew replied, agreeing, but ultimately wasn’t able to make it. We wouldn’t meet until three years later.
The fall and winter of 2011 were easily the hardest ever of my personal life. In December, I decided to throw caution to the wind and (finally – after 8 years of sitting on the sidelines, talking myself out of it) make my long-imagined delve into conservative political writing. For years, others in the industry had found one reason or other to talk me out of it: “You should go work at a think-tank in D.C. for several years first before you write” or “Ann Coulter already has the ‘female conservative’ writer thing cornered, don’t bother, there’s no room for another” or “You’re too much of a party girl – conservatives won’t take you seriously!” or “You’re too nice, that industry is too cut-throat” or ““Well, it’s so saturated – why not just focus on your legal career instead and forget this pipe dream? How are you going to pay rent? How will you ever find a position in the legal field again once there are a bunch of conservative articles online? Once you do it, you can’t go back! Yikes!” The reasons were endless.
It was Andrew who found me. It was Andrew who believed in me and pushed me, when others had not.
When I contributed my first post on Big Hollywood, within hours, I had an email from Andrew. He asked for my number, hoping to speak. “Holy sh*t!”, I told my sister. “ANDREW FREAKIN’ BREITBART wants to chat and sent me his number!” (I still have the envelope, the only writing paper that was laying around, on which I scribbled his phone number with an orange marker.) Later that evening, my phone rang with the “310” area code. I remember going outside to gain the best cell phone reception, standing under the stars, and nervous beyond words. The first words out of his mouth were: “How did I not find you earlier? Where have you been?!” We spoke, laughed, traded stories, and shared political views – interrupting each other in excitement and agreement – for nearly two hours. “Forget being a lawyer,” he said, “your calling lies here.” I remember tearing up as he said this, knowing he was right, and I tear up, still, as I write this.
Andrew and I continued our friendship and only became better friends as the weeks progressed. We would randomly call or text one another, usually about some post or something happening on Twitter, to which we were both hopelessly addicted. One of the last texts I received from him was: “I’m in a Twitter war. Log on – need your girl power!” Through it all, even when tensions were high, I could tell Andrew thoroughly enjoyed his work and even respected his adversaries. (And yes, say what you will about Eric Boehlert – though I disagree his political views and those of his organization, he showed great empathy when Andrew passed, and for that I will always respect him and be grateful.)
I remember marveling at the degree to which Andrew interacted on Twitter. Let’s face it – he was about as high-profile a pundit as you get and, contrary to others who play it safe, Andrew would lay it all on the line, day in and day out. He would respond to anyone about anything – even those ‘eggshell’ Twitter accounts with only 10 followers. Andrew was the opposite of an elitist, nor was he concerned with preserving or safeguarding a certain image or currying favor. He was never overly careful about what he said or what he Tweeted.
During the spring, I remember once commenting: “It doesn’t feel like Twitter has woken up until @andrewbreitbart” logs on, to which he wryly replied shortly: “I’m logged on now.” It really didn’t feel like Twitter was alive until Andrew had come online. He was a force – not only in writing and on television but everywhere.
As my writing contributions continued, but as I still felt the pain of the troubles in my personal life, Andrew encouraged me. When I told him I didn’t think I was up for attending CPAC, and didn’t think I could make the effort to get on the flight, where we planned to finally meet in person, Andrew called me with a stern: “Shut the hell up. Get on a plane and come or I will personally come down there and set you straight.” I booked the flight the next day. And yes, finally meeting my friend and icon was as wonderful as one imagines. Anyone who’s been in Andrew’s presence knows the energy and life force he emanated. The man was the life of the party by simply walking into a room. He was that kind of guy.
When the morning of March 1, 2012 hit, I remember I’d woken up, showered, and stumbled over to my desktop, as usual. Drudge Report? Check. Next stop – Breitbart. Check. Except there was a memorial to Andrew on my screen that had been posted moments earlier. Was this some satirical play? Was Andrew playing a joke? I checked my phone. He’d texted me less than 12 hours ago. How could he be gone? This couldn’t be true.
The reality of it did not set in for several days, when I finally found myself sobbing uncontrollably in the middle of a McDonald’s drive-through window, with the employee wondering why I was shaking too much to even grab my coffee from her.
I won’t go on about the details of what Andrew meant to me as a friend, how soon he was gone from my personal and professional life. There are those who were closer to him – both personally and professionally – who can speak to that far more viscerally and poignantly than I can.
But I will tell you this – and this is the reason for my post, and what Andrew would, I know, want me to pass on to you. Andrew gave me a VOICE. When others failed to do so, he did. He believed, in fact, that ALL of us have a contribution to make and the ‘barriers to entry’ should not stand in our way. And that is what, to me, Andrew stood for and what he signified.
Andrew saved me, in more ways than one, with his belief in me. So as I write this, I feel the best ode to my friend is to pass on that encouragement, as he would want me to do.
There are many who will tell you your voice does not matter. “You didn’t go to a fancy school!,” “You’re still too young!”, “You’re too old!,” “You don’t articulate your views well!” There are a dozen reasons for you to not be heard. Andrew (and I) would say to that: “B.S.”
It does not matter who you are – conservative, liberal, young, “old,” formally educated or not, gay or straight, male or female, Muslim or Catholic or Jewish or Buddhist – you have a VOICE. Be heard. Start a blog, Tweet, comment on Facebook til the cows come home… whatever. Just be heard. Your voice is as important as anyone’s. Andrew’s egalitarian outlook – and his encouragement that we all speak up, without hesitance, without worry, without concern — is the most important lesson I took from him, and the one most worth passing on.
So, that is the message I pass onto you tonight. When you are full of self-doubt, when you wonder whether your opinion counts, when you worry “Darn, should I have Tweeted that?”, just remember Andrew’s fearlessness.
Speak up. Be heard.
I will always miss you, my friend. You lifted me up. I will do my best to do the same for others. You were a force, an inspiration, and an icon. You still are. And, yes, I know you’re looking down on me, saying: “Delgado, just shut the hell up about me and go fight with some liberals on Twitter.” Love ya and miss ya always, AB – may God bless and keep you.
A Delgado, March 1, 2013