Grieving for Robin Williams

August 12, 2014 at 9:36 pm

Robin_WilliamsPart of me feels that I have no business writing the words that follow, for he was not family to me nor did I know the man personally. What I can say is that my entire life was influenced, enriched and made all the better for Robin Williams having shared his talents and his kindness with the world in his own unique way.

As a child, like many in that particular time period, I was entertained by afternoon reruns of television shows like Gilligan’s Island, the Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and Laverne and Shirley, however, it was the show Happy Days that I most looked forward to each afternoon. When one particular episode of Happy Days featured an “alien” guest character on the show it left me in multiple fits of laughter so overwhelming that I actually feared passing out from the exertions. Of course, that alien character was “Mork from Ork” played by Robin Williams and was later the base character for the 1978 spinoff series “Mork and Mindy.”

I remember my reaction seeing a commercial announcing the premiere for the Mork and Mindy show and the excitement I felt because the “funny alien guy” was coming back to television. Unfortunately, the show came on in prime time and, at the ripe old age of ten, this meant it would be airing after my bedtime. It became a bit of an issue in the Weinberger household as I would sneak out of my room and into the kitchen to watch the show on the transistor radio-sized television we owned with the volume turned down to an absolute minimum. Several groundings and loss of television privileges resulted from being caught by my parents, not because they heard the t.v., but because I couldn’t keep my laughter muffled enough to prevent being overheard.

I became a fan of Mork and Mindy as child and my love of Robin Williams grew exponentially when I managed to acquire a cassette tape of his standup album, “Reality…What a Concept”. I say “acquired” because I managed to get a copy from Warehouse Records despite the fact that the language was, perhaps, too “adult” for someone only ten or eleven years old at the time. Regardless of the colorful words being thrown at my virgin ears, I once again found myself laughing with that same uncontrollable abandon that I had when I first witnessed the Mork character on Happy Days.

Movies and additional stand up concerts followed and I loved Robin in them all. I especially remember a period in 1986, due to the miracle that was the VHS recorder, where my family was “treated” to my constant quoting from the HBO special, “Robin Williams… A Night At The Met.” I must have played and replayed that tape at least one hundred times over the course of that year before it accidentally burned up in the device from overuse.

As an adult I had the privilege of attending the first Andre Agassi for Children concert where Robin made a special appearance onstage. His act that night was only about ten or fifteen minutes, but once again I nearly fell out of my seat laughing while watching the man do his magic on that stage. Speaking of charity, what should not be overlooked about Robin Williams was all of the philanthropic efforts for which he also toiled. I mentioned the Andre Agassi for Children foundation, but his more prominent work for other charities, such as the Comic Relief Organization, the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital as well as the multitude of times the man flew overseas to entertain the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, are a testament to what kind of man Robin was off screen.

We have all been touched by Robin Williams in some way, after all, he was an actor of Oscar winning caliber and a comedian who achieved the pinnacle of the mountain top of that art form. Off the stage and screen it would seem that everyone who had the honor of knowing or working with him would say that he was the sweetest and warmest of human beings who brought joy wherever he went. Apparently that was just who he was.

I guess in life we all have our heroes, some we know and some we wish we knew. In my life my father is, first and foremost, my hero and so my heart goes out to Robin’s children who lost their father on Monday. To the rest of his family, loved ones and friends I offer my condolences, wish them strength, and sincerely hope that they can find peace and remember only joy when they think of their loved one.

As I mentioned at the start of this, perhaps it can be construed as selfish for me to express the loss that I feel as well but, by his actions, Robin Williams became one of my heroes. I hope no one is offended by my expressing my own grief at his loss, but I am a part of a generation shaped by the presence of a Robin Williams being so prominently on display for the last 36 years and, I suppose, it now falls upon all of us who remember him to endeavor that the world not remain the darker, sadder place, which it currently seems, without him.

 

Michael Weinberger