Robin Williams – In memoriam


Robin Williams

July 21, 1951 – August 11, 2014


It is with the heaviest of hearts that I write this post today. Last night the world found out about a tragic and unexpected death: that of Robin Williams.

The news outlets and initial police report have said it was an apparent suicide by asphyxiation, which shocks us all a bit more since he seemed to be always happy, making everyone laugh with his jokes, spirit, energy and contagious laughter. He apparently had it all: a loving wife, a wonderful daughter, the affection his family and friends, the respect of his peers, the admiration of millions around the world, an outstandingly quick mind, a kind heart and fame and fortune. However, he struggled with alcoholism and cocaine addiction and suffered from depression. I am disheartened he had to battle such demons and I hope his spirit is now at peace.

It is not the first time I am compelled to write something on MVD about a public figure that has passed away, but it is certainly the saddest news of a celebrity passing that I have ever experienced. I think this and George Harrison´s death (when Lennon died I was 3) have hit me the hardest. There are tears in my eyes as I write this and all around the world there is a sense of grief. It is so strange how someone I never met can seem so familiar. I grew up watching him, he was a light when I was a child. I recognize and remember his voice, his hyper energy, his improve skills, I feel as if a close friend died with him, so surreal, maybe it only proves the fact that we are not separate, we are all part of a whole.

Yesterday I  was reminded of the Aria “Vesti la guibba” (Put on the costume) from the opera Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo. It is a devastating tribute to the “tragic clown”: smiling on the outside but crying on the inside.

“Act! While in delirium,
I no longer know what I say,
and what I do!
And yet it’s necessary… make an effort!
Bah! Are you a man?
You are a clown!

Put on your costume and powder your face.
People pay, and they want to laugh.
And if Harlequin shall steal your Columbina,
laugh, clown, and everyone will cheer!
Turn your distress and tears into jest,
your pain and sobbing into a funny face – Ah!

Laugh, clown,
at your broken love!
Laugh at the grief that poisons your heart!”

I have been online today and cannot begin to pick a favorite performance, a favorite quote or interview. He was simply a comedy genius. On my mind especially are his daughter Zelda (story of her name and Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg, with whom he did “Comic Relief” from 1986 to 2006 (I must also say I avidly watched every year). And his co stars in TV Series, specially in “Happy Days” and “Mork and Mindy”, his stand up comedy partners, and his partners and co-stars in unforgettable films such as “Good Morning Vietnam”, “The Adventures Of Baron Munchhausen”, “Dead´s Poet Society” (one of my favorite movies ever), “Awakenings“, “The Fisher King” (another personal favorite), “Hook” (another one…), “Aladdin“, “Toys“, “Mrs. Doubtfire“, “Being Human“, “Nine Months“, “Jumanji“, “The Birdcage”, “Jack“, “Deconstructing Harry“, “Good Will Hunting“, “What Dreams May Come” (very sad plot about a husband looking for his wife who committed suicide), “Patch Adams“, “Bicentennial Man“, “Night At The Museum” and many, many more.

I thought this “Life in pictures” was nice.

Since there are so many clips to chose from, I chose one clip from his unscripted interview in The Actor´s Studio. His interview lasted five hours and they did 2 shows on him (I have watched it all and it is HILARIOUS) so if you have the time, watch it. Here is the first 4:15 minutes of a once in a lifetime, un-containable, bigger than anything mind:

I have read some of the reactions to his death, but there are three tweets that I think sum up the general feeling at the moment:

Mindy Kaling
I am named after a character from a Robin Williams TV show when my parents still lived in Africa. He meant so much, to so many, so far away.
Rob Schneider
#RobinWilliams was simply the World’s most beloved comedian since Chaplin.
And of course, this tear jerking tweet by @TheAcademy
As a friend put it: “Mork has gone back to Ork”.
Wherever you are now Mr. Robin Williams, the world will always remember your mind, there is no way of measuring how many smiles you brought, how many lives you touched and how many people you cheered up. I will always be grateful to have witnessed your unique being. “Oh Captain my Captain”: you were pure love. May you rest in peace.
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8 thoughts on “Robin Williams – In memoriam

  1. I too am sad. Often when a celebrity passes you feel bad or a sense of loss but there was always a part of you that knew for a while that it was coming (Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Karen Carpenter, Biggie, Tupac etc) Then you get a shock to your system when a suicide occurs like Kurt Cobain, it makes you pause. It’ wasn’t expected, it was sudden you thought they had everything to live for: wealth, fame, power…I have even heard people exclaim “How can they be so selfish? they are cowards!!”
    Depression is a horrible affliction and as the horrible details of RW’s final minutes come to light in the press you wonder how a person who provided so much joy, could be suffering so much in side. It is a disease, one that we do not fully understand because of the many causes: chemical imbalance, genetic vulnerability, traumatic event, drugs etc… any one or a combination of these can attack a person from the inside out. You can’t always see it because as in the case of the “tragic clown” those with depression have become experts at hiding it. Even though we all wear masks to an extent in our daily lives, those suffering from depression are not just hiding part of themselves, they are suffering and it is a suffering that is often too hard too explain. All we can do now is make ourselves available to those that we love and those who may just need a friend. We may not be able to cure their pain, but if we can help them make it through one more day, maybe just maybe they will be one step closer to getting rid of that pain for good and living without the burden of unbearable sadness. A great talent will be missed and the entertainment industry has lost one of its dearest lights.

    1. Yes, as always your comments are spot on.
      I read something another jammer sent, that I thought was interesting:
      Written by Peter Coyote
      “Robin William’s Last Gift
      Robin and I were friends. Not intimate, because he was very shy when he was not performing. Still, I spent many birthdays and holidays at his home with Marsha and the children, and he showed up at my 70th birthday to say “Hello” and wound up mesmerizing my relatives with a fifteen minute set that pulverized the audience.
      When I heard that he had died, I put my own sorrow aside for a later time. I’m a Zen Buddhist priest and my vows instruct me to try to help others. So this little letter is meant in that spirit.
      Normally when you are gifted with a huge talent of some kind, it’s like having a magnificent bicep. People will say, “Wow, that’s fantastic” and they tell you, truthfully, that it can change your life, take you to unimaginable realms. It can and often does. The Zen perspective is a little different. We might say, “Well, that’s a great bicep, you don’t have to do anything to it. Let’s work at bringing the rest of your body up to that level.”
      Robin’s gift could be likened to fastest thoroughbred race-horse on earth. It had unbeatable endurance, nimbleness, and a huge heart. However, it had never been fully trained. Sometimes Robin would ride it like a kayaker tearing down white-water, skimming on the edge of control. We would marvel at his courage, his daring, and his brilliance. But at other times, the horse went where he wanted, and Robin could only hang on for dear life.
      In the final analysis, what failed Robin was his greatest gift—his imagination. Clutching the horse he could no longer think of a single thing to do to change his life or make himself feel better, and he stepped off the edge of the saddle. Had the horse been trained, it might have reminded him that there is always something we can do. We can take a walk until the feeling passes. We can find someone else suffering and help them, taking the attention off our own. Or, finally, we can learn to muster our courage and simply sit still with what we are thinking are insoluble problems, becoming as intimate with them as we can, facing them until we get over our fear. They may even be insoluble, but that does not mean that there is nothing we can do.
      Our great-hearted friend will be back as the rain, as the cry of a Raven as the wind. He, you and I have never for one moment not been a part of all it. But we would be doing his life and memory a dis-service if we did not extract some wisdom from his choice, which, if we ponder deeply enough, will turn out to be his last gift. He would beg us to pay attention if he could.”

  2. I will be honest, I for the longest time didn’t really understand severe depression. Now, let me clarify, I know its real. As a nurse, I see patients daily suffering from it, I have just never felt the deep, gut wrenching despair. Fate decided I needed to view this disease up close and personal, (or she just gave me a much needed smack upside the head) let me tell you, its a learning experience. I used to be of the opinion that suicide was selfish, but I know now that the despair, suffering and pain is so overwhelming you can’t see any other way out, you can’t think about how it will affect others you’re not mentally able to. I agree with lovemusic, while we can’t take depression away, we can be there, support, love and talk. Right now, in my house, we just take one day at a time and cherish those days.
    Robin Williams was a brilliant man who shared his gift for laughter with all. He was truly a rare soul, with a talent that knew no bounds. He will be sorely missed.

    1. It is SO REAL and I would dare say very common these days…
      I think love and communication help.

      I think he will always be missed! 🙁

    1. thank you for that podcast…
      I loved it…
      2 ideas struck me the most
      1. when he is described as having outstanding mental ability but a heavy heart and 2. when he said that RW could hit your brain and then stay there.
      I have subscribed to wtfpod, will check it out regularly.

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