Orson Bean, the 91-year-old veteran actor-comedian and a mainstay of the Westside’s theater scene, was killed when he was hit by two cars Friday night while crossing Venice Boulevard on his way to see a play, according to police and friends of the actor.
Los Angeles police said he was on Venice Boulevard near the Pacific Resident Theatre outside a marked crosswalk around 7:30 p.m. when he was struck by a Honda Civic traveling west. He was hit a second time by a Toyota Prius. Both drivers remained on the scene.
Judith Borne, publicist for the theater, said Bean was on his way to meet his wife, Alley Mills, who was volunteering as an usher, to watch a production of Arthur Miller’s play “All My Sons.” He had parked on the opposite side of the street and was crossing alone.
“Many of us do this, including the audience,” Borne said. “The crosswalk is out of the way. Many people … just cross” the lanes.
Borne, who did not witness the incident but heard from others who were at the scene, said that after the first vehicle clipped Bean, he fell. Then a second car hit him and didn’t stop right away. Bean was dragged for about a quarter of a block, she said.
Marilyn Fox, the theater’s artistic director, was outside when the crash happened. She said Saturday she saw an “explosion” of debris and that Mills ran after a car. Someone went inside to tell others that Bean had been struck. Friday night’s performance, scheduled for 8 p.m., was canceled.
“There was no way we were going to have a show at that moment,” Fox said.
Paramedics responded and pronounced Bean dead at the scene. The coroner’s office set up a tent for Mills to be with him, Borne said.
By Saturday morning, well-wishers had set up an impromptu memorial with candles and flowers on the sidewalk near the site of the crash.
Bean, who began his entertainment career as a magician and stand-up comedian, appeared on and off Broadway over two decades in New York. He guest-starred on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and, later in his career, starred in “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman,” “Being John Malkovich” and “Desperate Housewives.”
He moved to Venice in 1984, where he lived on the canals and became involved in the theater scene, particularly with Pacific Resident Theatre, of which he was a longtime member.
Bean had recently wrapped up a run of a comedy called “Bad Habits,” with Mills, at the Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica. He had written a new play and was just starting rehearsals, said Sara Newman, who produced several of Bean’s shows.
“He was so full of life at 91,” Newman said, adding that he often greeted colleagues with a new joke — “usually raunchy” — and always had kind words for them.
“Orson was kind of like the grandfather of our theater,” said Alex Fernandez, who directed two of Bean’s autobiographical shows at the theater.
“To lose him is tragic enough, but the way it happened is just so shocking,” he said.
Bean’s death comes as new figures show that the number of people killed in car crashes in Los Angeles remains stubbornly high. In 2019, four years after Mayor Eric Garcetti launched the Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic deaths on city streets, 244 people died in collisions in Los Angeles, including 134 pedestrians and 19 cyclists.