It’s a bit of a sad day. Like most of you, I heard the news of Comic and Actor Robin Williams who allegedly commited suicide early yesterday morning. This is very sad, as Williams had continued to get help to try to deal with his demons. Sadly, he lost the battle, and the world has suffered yet another loss of a great entertainer. I wanted to write a bit about him, and to share a couple of things from my personal experiences with him, over the years. Thus, a special DESKTOP JUKEBOX to remember him.
I had the chance to participate in the Robin Williams’ film called JACK back in 1996 (Can’t believe it’s been THAT many years) as an extra during the opening costume party scene. I was casted as the Quasimoto and this required me to drive up to Marin County (for those who are overseas, this is North of San Francisco above the Golden Gate Bridge) on a few separate days to get fitted for the costume, and to also allow the make up man to create a latex fitting for my face to droop my left eye. I follow directions and drove up to an old school (not sure it was still in use) where they were filming the classroom scenes for the movie. (Jennifer Lopez played the school teacher..yeh…J.Lo….but that’s another story for another time). I was sent to the “make up trailer”, where half my face was soon covered with plaster to make a mold for the latex piece. While my plaster was drying, Robin came in and sat in the chair next to me to get a makeup “touch up”. As I looked over, he was very much in thought, as he was thinking about his lines for the upcoming scene he was about ready to go film. We did say a quick “hello”, and after a quick touch up, Robin turned to me as he walked out and said, “Hope the surgery’s a success!!”. Of course I laughed and the make up guy had to remind me to stay still, so I wouldn’t crack the plaster before it dried!!
During the time I was doing security at Bimbo’s, one of the owners of the club, had become engaged, and later married one of Robin’s nieces. Robin had come to the club a few times over the years, but he began dropping by a little more often, and because I worked the back door of the club, Robin had to go through me to get in. When he did show up, I would greet him, and invite him in, and walk him through the kitchen and into the back of the house, and sit him down at a table. I always found him to be polite, and very gentle, and after the first couple of times where I let him in, he got to where he could trust me. What this meant is that he didn’t jump into one of his personalities and start joking around with me. I told him one night, “Just relax and I’ll take care of you”. I would walk him in without any fanfare and seat him so he could simply enjoy the show. He would usually leave just before the show was over, and would work his way back through the kitchen and out the back door. But he would always stop, shake my hand, and thank me for letting him in.
About a year or so after JACK, I finally mustered up a little nerve and told him about being an extra in the film. (For those who may know…the opening scene with the costume party was also filmed at BIMBO’s). I went on to tell him that I had been the Quasimoto, and also told him about meeting him briefly as I described above, when I was covered with plaster in the dressing room. I also mentioned to him the comment he had made about the surgery. He looked at me a moment, pondered what I had told him, and confessed, “Sorry I don’t remember…” but then quickly added, “…was the surgery successful? Did you become a Man or a Woman??” We looked at each other and chuckled and he was out the door!! I realized he had somewhat insulted me, but it was funny anyway, and to have Robin make a joke like this about me, well, I’m grateful to have had the experience.
I will further admit…I had gotten to a point with Robin, where I didn’t find him to be that funny anymore. It wasn’t that he wasn’t funny, but when you’ve followed a comedian for so many years, I suppose you get tired of his mannerisms and a bit used to what you might expect him to say. Yes, Robin would still make me laugh, but I found some of his stuff to be a bit redundant and sometimes recycled. I suppose, when you’ve been a comedian for as many years as he’d been, you would have a tendancy to still pull some tried and tested things out of your back log of one liners. Either way, I still loved hearing what he had to say, and would still listen to him, when he appeared on Jay Leno or David Letterman, or when he and Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg did their COMIC RELIEF shows. (COMIC RELIEF has raised over 50 Million for the Homeless Community). The interview he did on the ACTOR’S STUDIO is also one of my faves by him, and quite funny, and on youtube. If you can, search it out. Quite good.
But I will also admit, I loved it when he started doing the serious movie roles. Sure, some of them did have bits of comedy (Think GOOD MORNING VIETNAM and MRS. DOUBTFIRE..which are both funny and serious) and some were dark and stretches for him (Think ONE HOUR PHOTO…and his scary character Sy…I love his character, but found the ending of the movie to be a bit lame and predictable). Other great performances to me, include THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON (Remember? He was the Russian Saxaphone Player who defects in Bloomingdale’s in New York City!!), DEAD POETS SOCIETY, PATCH ADAMS and of course AWAKENINGS (where he starred with Robert Deniro!). I would recommend giving these films another look if you haven’t recently, and really seeing how brilliant an actor Robin was. I’ve added the clip from GOOD WILL HUNTING, which they say, helped him win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor that year (whenever it was!)
Check this out:
Robin is brilliant, and convincing….and I admit, he really brought a tear to my eye the first time I saw this in the theatre. And to make it more interesting…I read an article where Matt Damon said that when they did the scene…Robin had been so funny between takes, that it was almost impossible to keep from laughing, when the scene got all serious. At times you can almost see it in his face, to not start laughing!! Anyway, check it out…it’s wonderful and most of you will remember it, when you see it.
If you would prefer to laugh a bit…My good friend Wayne Tonkin sent this performance of Robin Williams to me a few years back, with Robin doing stand up some years ago (probably about 6-8 years ago) and talking about how and why the Scottish invented Golf. Yes…golf. I will warn you, there is a bit of swearing in it, so don’t play it at work or in front of the kids….But classic Robin….I’m laughing just thinking about it!!
Check this out:
A few weeks ago, another close personal friend and I had mentioned Robin in an exchange of emails. He went on to say something about Robin’s personal relationship with Jonathan Winters (who also had demons). I’d like to think, that the two of them are now sitting on a cloud above, and making everyone laugh. Perhaps the laughter will produce some rain. I know it’s produced many a tear for many over the years.
And lastly, last night when I was driving home from work I noticed the full moon, coming up over the eastern horizon, and the San Leandro hills. All I could think about is what Williams said on one of his early HBO Specials…and doing it in the voice of someone doing Shakespeare…”The Moon, it hangs like a testicle in the sky!!” I’ll probably think about this every time I see a full moon now!
We will all miss him. May he rest in peace, and be blessed for blessing so many by making them laugh!!
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A “Bubba Lou” Enterprise.
main image © Annie Leibovitz