Robin Williams lowers the curtain on iconic life
So now Robin Williams, long an iconic figure in pop culture, television, movies, and of course, stand-up comedy has joined a different group of iconic personages: those who died too soon, and at their own hand.
Going back at least as far as Socrates (while state-ordered, still a suicide), and on to Cleopatra and her lover, Mark Antony, Vincent Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, Freddie Prinze, Michael Hutchence (front man of INXS), Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, well-loved actor Brian Keith (Family Affair and Cocoon), Hunter S. Thompson (gonzo journalism creator, and certainly a kindred spirit of Williams’), Heath Ledger, who had reportedly won the Joker role over Williams, and very recently, Philip Seymour Hoffman, well-respected and honored actor of many characters; all of these deaths of celebrities surely shocked and surprised the public at the time they occurred.
Why would artists so accomplished and successful not be buoyed by their talent and the loving feedback of the public, to say nothing of their financial success, above the despair that could drag them down to taking their own lives, taking themselves away from all of us?
Even among the brightest, funniest, most exhilarating stars of the last thirty-five years, Williams was always something extra special. Comedy legends such as his idol Jonathan Winters, his friends Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, would share the stage, yet lean back and stare at the manic, almost-out-of-control antics of the hyper-clown that was Robin.
In addition to his world-wide fame and involvements with charities in many places, Williams had several strong ties to America’s Finest City. He made major donations, and was an intense supporter of the Challenged Athlete’s Foundation, based in San Diego. He also began the professional part of his stand-up career at La Jolla’s Comedy Store in the early 1970’s. This morning, the marquee in front of the Comedy Store displays the sentiment: “RIP Robin Williams”.
Returning to stand-up and to San Diego in 1986, Robin had his mentor and collaborator Jonathan Winters at his side. He also came here to entertain troops at the USO before they headed to Kuwait and the first Gulf War. Later, in 2003, Williams entered and finished a triathlon in support of the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
Gone too soon doesn’t even cover it today. Today, for the first time ever, Robin Williams didn’t make me laugh. But, remembering all the many times he did will always be a comfort for all of us who loved him for his energy, his intelligence, and his burning desire to hear us all be happy. Goodbye, Mork; so long, Popeye. We’ll miss you a lot.