When we heard the tragic news of Robin Williams’ death on August 11 at age 63 – by suicide, no less – and from our father – we were stunned. It was like hearing about the death by heart attack last year of one of our most beloved actors, James Gandolfini. A blow was also struck this past February, when the world learned of Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s fatal heroine dose. But Williams‘ passing seemed to strike harder, as details kept surfacing and the notion that the manic genius was more often masking his colossal anguish than most knew. Somehow, our collective pain grew.
We’d been a fan of Williams since we’d seen him in the early days at San Francisco’s Holy City Zoo, knowing he was destined for greatness. (Anyone who ever saw him back in the day knew that!) As news of his death spread, it was all we could do to comfort ourselves by talking it out with friends, meditating on suicide and all its ramifications, then bingeing on YouTube clips from his many, many appearances for charities, for the troupes, for humankind.
This man worked like nobody else. Yes, he had to be ‘on,’ but even when he was off, he was probably more on than most of us could ever dream of being, ‘on’ meaning brilliant, audacious, hilarious and free-associating to places only an Einsteinian, Juilliard-trained brain could travel to. We loved him in so many movies, especially The Birdcage and that scene where he performs shout-outs to great dancer/choreographers: Fosse, Graham, Twyla, Kidd, Madonna.
No surprise he could move like that, as Williams, at one point, was also a mime. It’s curious, because Marcel Marceau, when he was alive, was often reviewed by dance critics by dint of his astonishing moves.
(We once interviewed Marceau – by phone from France – and, this is the honest truth – he wouldn’t stop talking. We absolutely couldn’t get him off that damn telephone!) Another incredibly thrilling dancer/comedian/songwriter/actor was, of course, Charlie Chaplin.
But we digress! Robin‘s on our mind now, and we could go on and on: about your comedy, your voices, your gifts, your generosity, your spirit…your soul. But not about your suicide. That’s just too fucking depressing. Anybody’s suicide, a subject with which we are, unfortunately, a tad too familiar. We merely want to say that Robin, you were a singular voice in a crowded, crazy world, and whatever was haunting you, we hope you’re at peace now. P.S. We’re looking forward to watching the Emmys, when there will be a tribute to Robin Williams. Also, we can’t help but hope that our Breaking Bad crush, Bryan Cranston, walks off with his fourth. And that the show, which we never watched when it was on but began our Netflix binge-fest after it ended, cleans up, as well. In the interim, we’ve got a slew of Robin‘s films lined up on our DVR, and will be watching them with gratitude knowing that he gave so much to so many during his relatively brief lifetime. (Cover photo, Wynn Miller)