Actor Robin Williams died Monday morning at age 63. According to all media reports it was an apparent suicide.
Everyone is talking about him — and that alone says volumes about what an enormous loss this is. The fact that everyone has something to say about this comic genius shows what an impact he had on the lives of people, most who only knew him through his body of work. This news has everyone in shock. It is gut-wrenching and beyond sad. We all have Robin Williams moments that we remember in particular, whether it was a performance that made us laugh or one that made us cry or one that teetered on the edge between the two. Author and humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy and humor and hurt. Obviously, not a new theory but sheds light once again on someone laughing on the outside while masking their troubled inside.
What is amazing about the response online and everywhere, is not just the countless number of people who want to get together and express their feelings about him but how many different things they remember. He spanned decades and generations of fans. There’s the Robin Williams who made kids and families laugh with Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire and RV and the Robin Williams who inspired us to get up on desks and shout “O captain my captain” in Dead Poet’s Society. There’s the Robin Williams who made us laugh when we were adults with Good Morning Vietnam and Birdcage. And of course, Good Will Hunting, his Academy Award winning performance showed off his dramatic skills. His stand-up acts were like a whirlwind of comedy leaving one almost breathless watching his rapid fire humor.
It feels personal to us because he made something for everyone. He gave us so many choices. “He put 150 years of laughter into 63,” NPR’s Scott Simon tweeted.
My son Jeff was in the Marines for 20 years and saw Williams many times in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He told me he even got to meet him once. He said he considered it an honor to meet someone who thought so much of the troops that he would regularly go to the chow hall and eat with them. He said Williams knew who all the officers were but didn’t really want to hang with them. Jeff said he would ask the guys stuff like where they were from, about their families etc. Jeff added that he was truly interested in these guys and would just plop himself down in the middle of a bunch of guys eating and start talking. Williams didn’t stick around for a short time either, Jeff said “He would be around for a month going from base to base.” A great personal memory for my son about someone who we all wish would have stuck around longer.
(I don’t own many movies, I usually just wait around for them to come on cable etc. but I do own; http://amzn.to/1rpDluh The Birdcage. I’ve watched it more than I care to admit and even though I can by now recite the lines myself, I still laugh like crazy. I am an Amazon affiliate so I get a tiny percentage off of anything you purchase though my link.