He had us from the first “Nanu Nanu.” He grabbed hold of our hearts by way of our funny bones the first time we saw his performance, and he never let us go.
Robin Williams was a comic elf who literally brought joy to the world. It was amazing that so many hilarious characters were all the creations of this one hysterical man: Mork & Mindy’s Mork from Ork, Good Morning Vietnam‘s Adrian Cronauer, Mrs. Doubtfire’s Mrs. Doubtfire, the upbeat doctor in Patch Adams, the Genie from Aladdin, Mr. Keating from Dead Poet’s Society, and Armand Goldman in The Birdcage. I particularly recall him saying to a shy student in Dead Poets Society, “Are you a man or an amoeba?“ Need courage sometime? Think of that one. I always do. How about the advice he gave to a dancer as a nightclub choreographer in The Birdcage? “You do an eclectic celebration of the dance! You do Fosse, Fosse, Fosse! You do Martha Graham, Martha Graham, Martha Graham! Or Twyla, Twyla, Twyla! Or Michael Kidd, Michael Kidd, Michael Kidd, Michael Kidd! Or Madonna, Madonna, Madonna!… but you keep it all inside.” How about the look on his face as the troops passed by on their way into the combat zone in Good Morning Vietnam? Or the sad patient he cheered up and brought back to the land of the living by putting her into a pool full of noodles in Patch Adams?
My favorite story about Robin Williams is one that isn’t well known. One of my former bosses, Richard Kurtti, had lived in San Francisco. He and his wife saw Robin Williams and his wife in an indoor flea market. I have a feeling that Robin saw, in Richard, a kindred spirit, since he’s also a fun guy. For an hour they apparently all ran around the flea market, following one another, making faces, sneaking up on each other, peeking around corners of stalls, and having a grand old time, turning the place into a venue of impromptu street theater.
He also was a member of the USO, something I did not know until seeing the news this morning. He went all over the world, entertaining our troops. There’s a special place in the hearts of Americans for any entertainer who joins the USO. Robin Williams, larger than life even in this instance, didn’t stop at just performing in USO shows, however. He stuck around the bases after the shows were over, visiting the members of the armed forces who were on duty and couldn’t attend his show, as a result, going out of his way to make an effort to entertain them, too. He’s being called “The Bob Hope of Our Generation.”
I am so sorry to hear of the suicide of Robin Williams. This brilliant shining light of a man brought so much light and fun to the rest of us! This good man’s death is such a loss to the world. I just wholeheartedly wish that someone had found a pool full of noodles that could have cheered him up – in time.