Orson Bean was an American film, television, and stage actor, and a comedian, writer, and producer. He appeared frequently on televised game shows from the 1960s through the 1980s and was a long-time panelist on the television game show To Tell the Truth. Further, he was a favorite of Johnny Carson, appearing on The Tonight Show 128 times, with 91 of the appearances during Carson’s tenure as host. He was a veteran actor of stage, television and cinema, and a game show host.
Orson Bean was born in Burlington, Vermont, the son of Marian Ainsworth (née Pollard) and George Frederick Burrows. His father was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a fund-raiser for the Scottsboro Boys’ defense, and a 20-year member of the campus police of Harvard College. Among his other relatives was his third cousin twice removed, Calvin Coolidge, who was President of the United States when Bean was born. Bean graduated from the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in 1946, he then joined the US Army and was stationed in Japan for a year.
In 1952, Bean made a guest appearance on NBC Radio’s weekly hot-jazz series The Chamber Music Society of Lower Basin Street, which was his first big break. His vocal mannerisms were ideal for the mock-serious tone of the show, and he became the show’s master of ceremonies (“Dr. Orson Bean”) for its final season. Bean was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show (with both Jack Paar and Johnny Carson), and appeared on game shows originating from New York. Similarly, he was a regular panelist on To Tell the Truth in versions from the late 1950s through 1991. On July 5, 1965, his father appeared as a subject of the panel and he had to disqualify himself from participating. Further, he appeared on Super Password and Match Game, among other game shows. He hosted a pilot for a revamped version of Concentration in 1985. And was picked up later on in 1987 as Classic Concentration with Alex Trebek.
An admirer of Laurel and Hardy, Bean, in 1964, served as a founding member of The Sons of the Desert, the international organization devoted to sharing information about the lives of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy and studying and enjoying their films.
Since 1966 he helped found the 15th Street School in New York City. Likewise, a primary school using the radical democratic free school Summerhill as a model. Bean wrote an autobiographical account about his life-changing experience with the orgone therapy developed by Austrian-born psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich. Published in 1971, the account is titled Me and the Orgone: The True Story of One Man’s Sexual Awakening.
On February 7, 2020, while walking near Venice Boulevard and Shell Avenue, in Venice, Los Angeles, Bean was struck by two drivers. And that was with the second vehicle striking him fatally. “The car coming westbound did not see him. And clipped him and he went down,” said Los Angeles Police Department Captain Brian Wendling. “A second vehicle was coming up, was distracted by people trying. Similarly, to slow him down and then looked up. And then a second traffic collision occurred and that one was fatal.”
- Full Name: Dallas Frederick Burrows
- Date of Birth: July 22, 1928
- Birth Place: Burlington, Vermont, United States
- Date of Death: February 7, 2020
- Death Place: Venice, Los Angeles, California, United States
- Occupation: Actor, comedian, writer, producer
- Years active: since 1952–2020
- Spouse(s): Jacqueline de Sibour (m since 1956; div. 1962), Carolyn Maxwell (m since 1965; div. 1981), Alley Mills (m. 1993)
- Books: Me and the Orgone, Too Much is Not Enough, etc.
- Children: Susannah Bean, Ezekiel Bean, Michele Bean, Max Bean
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Reference Orson Bean